Volunteers honored for One to One Reading coaching

Pictured: One to One Reading directors from the Northern Kentucky Education Council hosted a training for the district's volunteer coaches in August 2023. 

Durango School District welcomed 44 volunteer reading coaches in six elementary schools during the 2023/24 school year. It was a successful first year of the One to One Reading program, which provides weekly visits with first- through third-grade students to increase their reading proficiency. During the last weeks of the school year, coaches across the district will be honored at special celebrations with treats, notes, photos, hugs from their students, and gratitude from school staff.

Reading on grade level by third grade is a determining factor of a child's future academic success. One to One Reading coaches help students and teachers by: 

  • Practicing skills to move students toward grade-level reading proficiency
  • Improving reading attitudes, self-efficacy and motivation to read
  • Providing opportunities for students to practice and gain self-confidence
  • Creating connections with a caring adult outside of the school system
Riverview Elementary School Principal Lindsay Neiman said: "Not only did the One on One Reading program help with building relationships with our students and community members, it also positively impacted our students' reading proficiency." Neiman said six out of seven Riverview students in the program made "above average" to "well above average" growth, and all shifted a tier of proficiency according to DIBELS at the end of the year. "This is a huge celebration!" said Neiman.

One to One Trainings were held in August 2023 and January 2024 for the 44 community volunteers, many of whom are older adults and have a background or interest in education. More volunteers are needed for the 2024/25 school year. No previous teaching experience is necessary. Email [email protected] for information.

“I am a believer in volunteerism, public service and helping my community; and I knew we had others in our community that felt the same way,” said Donna Gulec, volunteer coordinator for the program. “(Superintendent) Dr. Cheser opened the door to this wonderful opportunity, and I ran with it. I thought that if we had an army of volunteers, we could make a difference in these kids’ lives, and I believe we are doing just that.” 

Florida Mesa Elementary Principal Shannon Morris said she was grateful for the support of the coaches this year. "We have loved having them at Florida Mesa," she said. "The One to One Reading coaches build relationships with students who are reluctant readers. Their support transforms these students by giving them confidence and igniting a lifelong love for reading and learning."

Gulec said the coaches are “amazing – from all walks of life and all ages.” The coaches themselves were enthusiastic about their experience supporting and connecting with young students.

Jean Hamilton: 

When we enter the classroom (there are three of us who coach at the same time) our students pop up from what they are doing and are always looking forward to the time we spend with them. One little girl, not in the program, stated that she wished she had a One to One coach. My young student the other day said, "Friday is my favorite day of the week." I asked if that was because the weekend was coming up? He said, no "it was because we got to spend time together reading." Wow! My student was already a strong reader, but he was lacking confidence in the words he was reading. I think we are making a difference for our students, but I know that I look forward to connecting with my students each week and reading more challenging books together!

Sheila Casey: 

I look forward to coaching my little first-grader at Needham School every week. She is truly a joy to coach and very sweet and caring. I love planning our time together and bringing new books to share from the library. She is very artistic and creative, so each week when she reads and finishes her lessons, she makes a bookmark for a family member or a friend. I get lots of hugs, and it’s wonderful to be a part of this program. Peyton has improved her reading skills, and each week we review the challenging words from the prior week. She started out at Scholastic A and now is at Scholastic C. She’s very good at sounding out challenging words which is a great improvement from the beginning of the school year. Having access to the library at Needham is a great resource, and her teacher is very supportive. She is very proud of herself with how she’s improving her reading skills and word recognition. I give her lots of praise. She’s a real sweetheart.

Connie Marriott:  

Everything about my tutoring experience has been positive! I am a retired teacher who has missed my students and teaching. Tutoring has helped fill that void! I look forward to seeing my little student and she seems happy to see me. I am encouraged by her progress. Her confidence about reading has improved greatly and she is eager to read aloud to me. We both work hard in our respective roles: he as the learner and me as the coach. He went from reading picture books to reading chapter books. He loves it when he makes progress, and insists that I tell his teacher when he gets a really hard word that, at his age, nobody expects him to get. 

Veronica Cortes:

My experience as a One to One reading coach has been so positive. I have gotten to work with a second-grade boy who is enthusiastic about dinosaurs. He loves reading and learning everything he can about them. He is a good reader and has improved in his vocabulary and sight-reading skills. But perhaps just as important, he loves sharing what he has learned and has written a book about his dream job as a paleontologist. His book will be shared with his classmates. I am impressed by the technology available to enable an early reader to write a book by dictating it into a computer. Very exciting. I have loved getting to work with this young student.