The key to student success is a four-letter word for Courtney Cushman: Read!
For her first grade students at Page Elementary School in Boone, a firm foundation in reading is always her biggest goal for the school year.
“I think reading skills help make a successful student as they move up in the grades,” she says. “I’ve taught at some of the higher grades, so I’ve seen that kids who don’t get that base of reading really continue to struggle.”
A native of Grand Blanc, Mich., (a suburb of Flint), Cushman appreciates the difference that small schools, such as Boone, can make for a child. She graduated in a class of nearly 700 students and is happy to be teaching in a place where students and teachers have a better chance to get to know one another.
“I like that I get to know all the kids in the building, not just my class,” she says.
Cushman is now in her seventh year teaching in Boone and has moved around from building to building several times, including stints teaching fourth grade at Franklin and fifth grade at the middle school. Now back at first grade, she says her heart tells her this is the grade where she belongs.
“I love the excitement that first graders have for school,” she says. “They’re excited to be here, and they really want to learn.”
To Cushman, first grade is an important window of opportunity to help children build that strong foundation in reading. And she tells parents that it’s not just the classroom that counts.
“You don’t have to set aside a special time to read, just make it part of your every day life,” she says.
Having kids help write out the grocery list is one of her favorite tips, but just talking to kids about everyday things helps build vocabulary.
“I don’t think there’s any special tricks,” Cushman says. “Just listen to them, read with them, read to them and have them read to you.”
Most of all, Cushman says it’s important to keep reading fun and positive, even if kids struggle a bit. Stay with it, keep it fun, and their reading skills will continue to build and blossom.
“The more they read, the better they become,” she says.