Yuen Ho has been teaching since 2001, but this year is her first at Bruce Elementary where she's in the school's reading recovery room helping Grade 1 students make leaps and bounds of progress when it comes to their literacy.
Ho says she loves what she does. In the classroom, she says she's always found it difficult to see a few kids struggling but not having the time to intervene. With her new gig, Ho spends her mornings working with four kids per morning for 30 minutes each.
"The luxury of this program is that it allows you to work one on one," she says. "You get to give individual lessons and we do a lot of assessments. We build on a foundation."
She says despite only starting in September, she's already seen a big difference in both the skills and confidence of her little pupils.
"To see that light bulb go off is just so great to see," she says.
Christine Fraser says Ho is one of her top teachers. Fraser leads a training group of 13 veteran teachers. She watches them teach and supports them when they have questions. Training new reading recovery teachers is something that Fraser says she derives a huge amount of satisfaction from.
"People need to know reading recovery works," she says. "Reading recovery is incredibly individualized. The training is really exceptional. It builds on the specific needs of the kids. It isn't boxed or limited."
Fraser says she's seen how the program works in over three provinces. But it was her experience in one of Winnipeg's schools that really hammered home the program's importance.
"When I was in Winnipeg I was working with a girl in Grade 6 and she was reading at a Grade 2 level. She had real confidence issues. She wouldn't participate in class and she thought reading was stupid. When other students in the class would start writing exercises, she would complain that she couldn't do it because she had a cramp in her hand," says Fraser.
But after some work, she discovered the girl was missing that writing was about ideas, not just mechanics. Fraser started working closely with her and realized that due to some simple decoding issues her comprehension was very low. So together, they worked on strategies for the girl's pre-reading, discussing what the story might be about and using questions to unlock the meaning of the paragraph.
"After two weeks, she turned and looked at me and said 'Ms. Fraser I just realized I didn't think I had to think when I was reading - I thought it was just about saying the words.'"
It is stories like this that makes Fraser as passionate as she is about getting kids reading.
"It makes me feel great to travel district. I feel awesome. I love being able to influence the literacy practice and at a district level to improve the understanding around literacy," she says.