Meet Ms. Elisha!
As she stands in snow or rain with her flip flops at the crosswalk, you can’t miss her kind smile and warm heart in the mornings. Ms. Elisha brings a sweet and calming presence into the school. A quiet, encouraging reminder and a lot of support go along way in the classrooms of Renaissance. We are so blessed to have her!
Elisha is native to Colorado. She grew up in Strasburg and continues to live there now. She and her husband, Tom, have been married for eleven years and together they have two kiddos. She makes the daily hour-long commute one way each day with her two children (Braden who is eight and in second grade and Emmy who is six and in first grade) because she wants them to have what the other students have in the unique experience at Renaissance. “There is something special here. The work we do, the programming, and the ability to get in there early and help students is not something you find everywhere. I moved from a school across the street from where I live to come to Castle Rock and teach at Renaissance. While it is not always fun driving that drive each day, it is worth it.”
Elisha completed her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education at the University of Northern Colorado. She continued her education by receiving her Master’s Degree and certification in Reading Recovery as well as holding a license in Special Education from Regis University. She has received her Reading Recovery certification through the Douglas County School District.
“As our Literacy Interventionist, my job is to work with teachers providing the support in literacy in the classroom, in small groups and in one-on-one settings.” As the only person designated in our school to provide that support to students struggling with literacy, she is responsible for the Read Acts/or Read Plans for the students who need the extra support. She collaborates with the teachers, creates goals, tracks data, facilitates in testing and ensures the needs of the students are being met within the school.
While she works with the writing aspect as well, her primary focus is to help with reading. It is increasingly difficult for a classroom teacher to meet the needs of all the students in the classroom on their own; Elisha can help break the classroom down into groups based on ability level and work with each group on the specific skills that need help. She can also pull the individuals who need a little more support and provide that, thus boosting the amount of reading intervention time each struggling student receives. She isn’t just here for the struggling students. Part of her job is to help in facilitating the implementation of any new literacy curriculum with classroom teachers. She helps problem solve with teachers while setting goals for students. By starting the literacy programming that we have at Renaissance at the Kindergarten level and up, providing early intervention, our “fail-rate” is extremely low. Elisha credits that to Ms. Deborah and the early intervention model that is so important in our school. Instead of waiting for a child to show a significant need and waiting for that student to fail before intervention, Elisha can increase the support early on, seeing the student flourish rather than fail. The “I can’t read” attitude is dissolved and is replaced with the “I’m a reader” belief. Reading is the cornerstone of all education. It is hard to be successful in school or in life without a firm foundation in reading and that is what is being built when Ms. Elisha is at work.
Ms. Deborah was excited to share the important role that Elisha serves at our school: “Elisha is our Literacy Interventionist. This looks like some of her hours dedicated to Reading Recovery-an intensive 20 week intervention for first graders in reading and writing. Reading Recovery is the intervention that District funds in other schools, but not Renaissance. Years ago, the school identified the need to have Reading Recovery as an intervention at Renaissance and initiated the year long rigorous training certification for Elisha to ensure that students at Renaissance had access to this intervention and a literacy specialist with this level of expertise. In addition to Reading Recovery, Elisha co-teaches literacy with the second and third grade teachers. This framework of collaboration allows Elisha to provide on-going support beyond first grade and address the literacy deficits of incoming students to Renaissance. The framework provides embedded staff development to classroom teachers as they work with, and alongside, Elisha.”
Further Deborah added: “Elisha works with students in all grades at Renaissance and monitors the progress of the reading success of all students from a school-wide lens. She covers the extensive responsibilities of the state READ Act, and all the paperwork and compliance issues that come with any state mandates. Early intervention is about designing systems to support students early, before they experience failure. Differentiation is about knowing where kids are on the learning continuum and providing the instruction that matches that next step for them. Clearly, everyone isn't ready for the same instruction on the same day. As a school, we've prioritized spending our budget dollars on a literacy specialist. Renaissance has never received an allocation from the district for our interventionists. The district uses 3rd grade data to determine which schools receive additional literacy support funded by the district, rather than the school. As a result of our successful model for early intervention, we do not have failing data in our third grade to qualify for district support. The process for assessing student needs (perhaps a faulty model?) for additional support at District level is out of the control of the school. At the school level, we have used site-based school dollars, in collaboration with school fundraised dollars, to provide the expertise of Elisha to our students.”
Elisha said, “It is because of our programming we have fewer students on READ plans. We are able to get into the classrooms, spend time with the kids and are able to be intentional with what we are doing in order to keep our fail rates low. We are extremely successful and as we continue to learn more, we realign our way of teaching with the student’s needs and continue to see more confident, strong and capable readers than ever before.” As a parent you can see the value in this work as you volunteer in the various classrooms.
Elisha’s expertise provides a safe environment where students can take risks and learn to be readers. She has students pop into her office all the time whether on a READ plan or not and is asked to help them with a part of their learning. “It does not always feel good to do that in front of peers.” Elisha stated. “Knowing I am providing that type of learning environment within the walls of the school is very rewarding.”
Amanda and Elisha have multiple roles and are crucial to the success of our students. They are interventionists first and foremost, putting serving kids face-to-face, as their number one priority. Their roles are layered with paperwork and mandates from the state, which in other schools, becomes the primary allocation of their time. It looks different at Renaissance. They put serving kids first. Their positive attitudes and expertise in their fields complete a well-rounded education.
Please participate generously in our fundraising efforts so that we can keep both these worthy woman in our school. When you see them in the hallways, please express your appreciation for all they do for our REMS students!