Faces of Success: Jamie Katz
Watch a parent react to a major milestone in their child’s life. You will usually see a combination of pride for what the child has already accomplished and gratitude to all of those who helped that child along the way. Jamie Katz enjoyed watching parents react during a Read to Succeed graduation ceremony last week.
“It was a lot of fun watching them as their children walked across the stage,” said Katz. “It was also a highlight for me because I’ve learned so much about these children throughout the year.”
Katz just completed her first year as a Read to Succeed teacher at Wayne Reed Christian Childcare Center. While she was educating her students about concepts like identifying letters and sounds, Katz was also educating herself about the comprehensive United Way early literacy program that provides at-risk children with the basic reading readiness skills to prepare them for future educational success.
“Before this year, I didn’t really know much about the Read to Succeed program. It was unique to participate in professional development and work with other teachers to learn more about Read to Succeed’s impact.”
United Way’s Read to Succeed program has significantly impacted the educational outcomes of more than 12,000 at-risk Nashville children since the program began in 2004. It utilizes components like research-based curricula, highly qualified instructional coaches, parental engagement and lending libraries to build and strengthen the educational foundations of the students enrolled. These elements contribute to the educational gains of graduates that extend well beyond their time in the program. Read to Succeed currently has a 96 percent success rate in kindergarten preparedness.
"The program gives them a little extra push in their development. It also helps us connect with parents so they better understand what their child’s education might look like over the next 12 years.”
Katz understands many of the obstacles her students faced throughout the year because her early school years were also filled with challenges.
“I’d cry for hours while I did my homework and tell my mother that I just couldn’t complete a reading assignment. A specialist determined that I had a tracking problem. While people read words on a page from left to right, my eyes crossed over them. Once this issue was resolved, I saw school in a whole new light, and I decided that I didn’t want other children to struggle like I did.”
The Read to Succeed program is perfect for Katz because it gives her an opportunity to help children identify and resolve literacy barriers, including language barriers. Earlier this year, one of her students struggled with adjusting to a new language. His educational growth over the past four months has been extremely rewarding for Katz to witness.
“Seeing his transformation is incredible; it makes me cry when I think back to how nervous he was when he first came into my classroom. He went from not being able to understand a single word, to speaking a word here or there, to putting words together and understanding their meaning. Now, he speaks in complete sentences.”
United Way’s Read to Succeed program makes these types of outcomes possible for at-risk Nashville children. The program also brings a smile to this teacher’s face and the faces of the parents whose children just achieved an early education milestone by graduating. They are ready for kindergarten and beyond, thanks to Read to Succeed.