A sound team effort has been in place over the past two years while the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District has been in the process of implementing a new Phonics curriculum in Grades K-2.
The goal from the very beginning was to build a program based on the science related to how our brains learn to read. The new district curriculum guides Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District classroom teachers to implement both systematic and explicit Phonics instruction.
This effort is spearheaded by Candy Mulligan, who is the school district’s K-4 Supervisor of Language Arts. She is joined on this team by two school district Literacy Coaches and Elementary Teaching Specialists.
The Literacy Coaches are Paula Discenza and Liz Duffy and the seven Primary Elementary Teaching Specialists are Jackie Ciurleo, Mary Beth Duffin Hickey, Kelly Erd, Stacie Griswold, Monica Hammond, Susan Harwick and Faith Nardella.
This dedicated group is guided by Annemarie Mattia, who is the school district’s Director of Elementary Education.
‘’Our K-2 teachers have worked tirelessly over the past two years to implement this curriculum,’’ Ms. Mulligan said.
Ms. Mulligan continued to explain.
"This shift has been quite transformative for both teachers and students. Phonics is not an area that is typically a strong focus in our undergraduate Elementary Education programs. Teachers are learning skills not that they never learned explicitly as students themselves. It's been really exciting to see the light bulbs go off as our teachers learn new things, and it's been even more exciting to watch students applying their Phonics knowledge as readers and writers."
She also stated that professional development in Bridgewater-Raritan is not only for classroom teachers. So to ensure that all teachers have the support that they need, Ms. Mulligan has organized an ongoing professional learning for the Literacy Coaches and Teaching Specialists.
This group met for a professional development session on Friday, October 20, at the Wade Administration Building, the headquarters of the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.
The group participated in an online course that is entitled ‘’Shifting the Balance,’’ which is instructed by Jan Burkins and Kari Yates. They are co-authors of the book ‘’Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of reading Into the Balanced Literacy Classroom.’’
‘’Together, our instructional leaders are engaging in ongoing discourse about subtle shifts in thinking that will help our youngest readers and writers,’ Ms. Mulligan explained.
Ms. Mulligan summed up what was another successful professional development session.
"This professional opportunity has helped us all to ensure that we have created a Phonics curriculum that is providing students with the instruction they need. Our Elementary Teaching Specialists and our Coaches are in classrooms with teachers and students all the time. It is so critical that they have this time to come together to challenge their own learning and thinking, and it helps to ensure consistent curriculum delivery across our seven primary buildings," Ms. Mulligan said.