Title I Reading Specialist Lynne E. Piotrowski doesn't have a classroom at Sheridan Elementary School.
But that's OK, because instead, she has the opportunity to work with students in first-, second-, fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms in an inclusive setting, giving reading support to those who need it and after-school encouragement to those who want it.
During a recent school visit, Piotrowski was a "team teacher" for second-graders in Susan Maeulen's classroom, discussing the books, "A Chair for Always" and "A Chair for Mother" by Vera B. Williams.
Sheridan Elementary School Title 1 Reading Specialist Lynne E. Piotrowski explains why the chair she is sitting in is special to her to students in Susan Maeulen’s second-grade class. The chair was used in conjunction with a unit of study about the books “A Chair for Always” and “A Chair for Mother” by Vera B. Williams.
She worked with the whole class for parts of the lesson before breaking into a smaller group of target students she worked with to help them reach grade-level expectations and achievements.
As a Title I reading specialist, Piotrowski's job is to make sure each student reaches his or her reading potential. She works together with teachers, students and parents to build reading skills and help develop a passion for reading. Title I is a federal program that provides support to schools with a high percentage of children from economically disadvantaged families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.
"It provides remediation to kids who need additional support," Piotrowski said. "It supplements the curriculum, not supplants it ... it gets kids to grade-level learning or beyond."
Piotrowski said her job at Sheridan looks different each year because she follows the needs of the students.
She said achievement, especially reading achievement, is of paramount importance, and the expectations are higher in each grade level than ever before.
"Having the bar set high is not only a good thing, it's crucial," she said. "I am constantly goal-setting with the kids."
She also works with Paula Moore, another reading specialist who works with students in third, fourth and fifth grades.
Part of her lesson is encouraging children to connect with a story. During her visit in Maeulen's class, Piotrowski brought in a chair from home to emphasize the theme of the book, "A Chair for Mother."
"Take 2 minutes to 'think, pair and share' about the chair," she told the class. "What are you thinking as readers?"
Richona Santiago said the large papasan chair reminded her of the soft, oversized chair that was featured in the book.
After watching a short video clip on the class Smartboard about how Williams was inspired to write her books, the class compared and contrasted themes by Williams and another writer they recently studied, Patricia Polacco, author of "Thunder Cake," "Keeping Quilt" and "My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother."
Piotrowski then moved the 23 students to the back of the room, where she explained why her reading chair was special to her.
As she read the book, "A Chair for Always," to the students in a soft, calm voice, she showed the pages to the children and asked them questions, encouraging them to think about what they are reading.
The students then partnered with each other to discuss passages from the book before reading the poem "My Chair" by David Harrison.
When the students were done reading, Piotrowski met with five students for additional work. The students used the Smartboard to dissect the word "caterpillar" into more manageable parts.
"Now you have the parts required to figure it out," Piotrowski explained.
Later that day, she also worked with a fifth-grade group of students in Brenda Watkins's and Justin Marnon's class.
"I'm just so proud of them - they have all demonstrated, via formative assessments, that they are now on grade-level text in regards to comprehension," she said.
"She is stellar," Watkins said about Piotrowski's teaching methods. "These students have had a lot of growth."
Fifth-graders Ernie Welch, Jasmine Bilby, Gabriel Overdorf, Samantha Reeder, Chade Martin and Piper McStay were reading the book, "A Perfect Pet" by John Parsons and Kelvin Hucker.
After reading a poem Piotrowski selected, the students explained how the characters in the book and poem were similar.
The students also encountered new words that they were exploring, such as exhilarated.
"I was exhilarated when I received the MVP softball trophy," Reeder said.
"Moving was exhilarating for me," Martin said about her family's recent relocation.
"I was exhilarated when I got a new Xbox," McStay said.
"I'm exhilarated because I'm about to go to Knoebels soon," Welch said.
"I am exhilarated about these students being on grade level," Piotrowski exclaimed.
Another word, tolerate, caused lots of laughs among the group.
"I tolerate my siblings," Bilby said.
"I tolerate my new baby brother always crying," Overdorf said.
Piotrowski used the new vocabulary words to point out positive aspects of each student.
"You are all exceptional," she said. "Exceptional also means extraordinary."
Piotrowski just finished her 22nd year of teaching within the Williamsport Area School District. She has been at Sheridan for seven years and was at Cochran Elementary School for 15 years.
She graduated from Bloomsburg University with a bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in journalism before getting a master's degree in reading. It was at college that she met her husband, Bill, who was finishing his undergraduate degree before going on to Palmer College of Chiropractic in Iowa. The couple began dating in college and will be married 18 years this month.
Piotrowski, of Williamsport, is a native of Bethlehem. She and her husband attend St. Ann Church and have two "fur babies," dogs Buddy and Angel.
Her husband is a chiropractor and Scoutmaster and although the couple does not have any children of their own, Piotrowski said their exposure to so many children gives them a "membership in a much larger family."
It was her love of language that brought her to the classroom, though.
"I embrace language, the etymology of words," she said. "I love good literature."
She recalled Barbara Shepherd, her eighth-grade English teacher, as a memorable educator.
"I remember her sending home a letter - my mom still has it - where she saw something in me, a maturity I brought to the table," she said. "That's why I believe in mail. This year I mailed my kids letters to tell them their strengths. I believe so strongly in the power of telling them that 'someone in the world values you.' "
And her students return the favor, too.
"Resident artist" fifth-grader Jasmine Bilby wrote Piotrowski a note thanking her for working with her on an art project and put it in the mail.
"That meant the world to me," she said about the letter.
In the Classrooms is published on the first Monday of each month.
To nominate a teacher for consideration, email Education Editor Dana Borick at dborick@ sungazette.com or edu email@example.com or call 326-1551, ext. 3108.