Lead to Read initiative grows staff at the Stern Center

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Fri, 06/26/2020 - 1:34pm -- Denise Sortor

The Stern Center for Language and Learning is adding staff members to accommodate expansion of its Lead to Read literacy initiative in Vermont schools and across North America. An innovative professional learning program for educators, Lead to Read combines an online course in the science of reading with virtual coaching for teachers throughout the school year to boost reading outcomes for children.

Lead to Read stems from a strong research base showing that when teachers deepen their knowledge about the science of reading, they strengthen their literacy teaching practices and better equip all children to grow into strong readers and writers by the end of third grade. The need for this type of work has been in the national spotlight recently as the number of children with proficient reading skills trends downward, with only 35% of U.S. fourth graders at or above proficient on a national reading assessment (NAEP, 2019). Recent data also reveal widening achievement gaps along socio-economic and racial lines, with white children and children who do not qualify for free or reduced-price lunch outperforming historically marginalized populations, including children of color and children living in poverty. Now entering its third year, the Lead to Read initiative has reached more than 100 Vermont educators and is now garnering interest from school leaders in Canada and several other states.

Directed by Jennifer White, Ph.D., Lead to Read’s staff now includes Melissa Hough, Ed.D., Implementation Director, plus two Structured Literacy Coaches, Anika Paaren-Sdano, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Keenan, M.Ed.

Dr. Hough was a national LETRS presenter prior to joining the Stern Center. She has extensive experience as a literacy consultant and as a professional learning provider. She also is a former assistant superintendent for curriculum, assessment, and instruction (pre-K-12) who earned a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Maine, where she specialized in literacy.

Dr. Paaren-Sdano is a former classroom educator, professional learning provider, and coach. She is certified in Orton-Gillingham at the Associate Level and has spent the past several years developing effective and supportive coaching relationships with teachers across disciplines, using school and student achievement data to open conversations on evolving instructional practices. Dr. Paaren-Sdano earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum & Literacy Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education, and a B.A. in Psychology.

Elizabeth Keenan was a special educator for over a decade and served as Director of the Middle School Hale Learning Center at Thayer Academy, where she oversaw academic support for students with language-based learning differences in grades 6-8. She also founded her own educational consulting business to support administrators, teachers, and support staff in independent schools. Like Dr. Paaren-Sdano, Ms. Keenan is certified in Orton-Gillingham at the Associate Level. She earned an M.Ed. from Boston University, and a B.A. in Psychology.

The Stern Center for Language and Learning is a nonprofit educational resource in Williston, VT dedicated to enriching the lives of learners. For 36 years the organization has recognized that all great minds don’t think alike, and its staff helps children and adults reach their academic, social, and professional goals. The Stern Center provides research-based learning evaluations and customized instruction for a wide range of clients, including those with learning disabilities, dyslexia, language disorders, social learning challenges, autism, attention deficit disorders, and learning differences. Its staff also designs and delivers customized professional learning programs and systems change using current research and trends in education. Through the Cynthia K. Hoehl Institute for Excellence, the Stern Center works with school districts, schools, and individual educators to advance early literacy, oral language, reading, written language, social cognition, executive functioning, and math. Scholarships are available. More information is at www.sterncenter.org.