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Virginia Journal of Education

Ten Minutes With...Karen Settles

Reading Specialist, Oscar Smith Middle School
Local Assn.:  Chesapeake Education Association     
Years worked in education: 18

What is a typical school day like for you?  I usually arrive around 7:15 in the morning and my day begins with hall duty at 7:50. I’m known as the enforcer. Some students try to avoid me, as I surely will be scoping out attire as they come in from the bus ramp. After announcements, I conduct a Professional Learning Community or team meeting with the reading department, followed by a similar meeting with the seventh and eighth grade teams. After that, I teach a 90-minute block of READ 180 to seventh graders. I typically eat lunch from 12:30-1:00. Part of the afternoon is spent performing reading specialist duties, often consisting of administering any of several diagnostic reading tests to students. Further testing may be needed to determine if students qualify for a read aloud on the Standards of Learning tests. Additionally, I’m a resource option during sixth grade core plus.  Finally, I close the day with the afternoon announcements, wishing everyone a "fabulous afternoon."

What do you like about your job? I love everything about my job.  Although my reading specialist duties are important, I enjoy being with my READ 180 students. The students spend 20 minutes in whole group, and 20 minutes each in small group, instructional software, and independent reading, before completing a 10 minute wrap-up. In the beginning of the year, using instructional software on the computer is their favorite place activity. I enjoying watching the transformation of my reluctant readers, as they reach the point where independent reading is their favorite and they are begging me for more time.

What is hard about your job?  The most challenging thing about my job is watching students make it to middle school still reading on a first- or second-grade reading level.  As a reading department, we work very hard to see these students jump two to five grade levels during a school year. Unfortunately, that's not reported in the newspaper. What the paper does report is that we fail because of SOL test scores.  You be the judge—there are other ways to measure student achievement!

What are some of the most fun and unusual things that have happened on the job?  Last year I was a finalist for the Hilton Honors Teacher Trek Grant. Although I didn’t win, our school received a donation on my behalf. The money was used to help with our school-wide read aloud program. We read All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall. It was exciting to see her come from Cleveland, Ohio to visit with our students. We had a tie-guessing contest, door decorating contest, and an action-packed Books Alive Night, which is an annual and highly anticipated event. The students, faculty, parents and community enjoyed visiting five locations from the novel. There is nothing more fun than to watch a book come to life for students and adults alike.
How has being an Association member been helpful to you?  I’ve been an Association member for my entire career, and I’ve been a building rep and attended several VEA conventions. In recent years, I have increased my participation, and have been on committees, served as a board member and local secretary, attended two Reggie Smith Organizing Schools, and am currently a trainer with VEA’s Office of Teaching and Learning and the Office of Field Support, Organizing and Minority Engagement. My Association has helped to develop me as a leader, provided me with awesome professional development, and inspired me to further my education. This fall, I began to work on my Ed. S. in leadership/education. Our Association is more than "paying your fees if you need a lawyer." I encourage others to let the Association work for them.



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