By Hope Quay 

Gardner takes on literacy coach role


Longtime Lincoln educator Annette Gardner has been chosen to lead Lincoln Schools' new Literacy Project as the Montana Comprehensive Literacy Plan Instructional Coach.

The position - a long mouthful that Gardner likes to refer to as "McLPic" – goes into effect Monday, Apr. 9, at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Gardner will become full-time McLPic, while her kindergarten class will be taken over by substitute teacher Tyler Beller and the first grade class - formerly divided between Gardner and second grade teacher Joanie Templeton- will become a combined first and second grade class presided over by Templeton.

"One of the advantages to having me step into this position is that I am already a school employee, so with a certified teacher able to step into my regular classroom job, I can start the Instructional Coach job now," Gardner said. "That will give us a head start, and when September rolls around we will have most of the knots shaken loose and the reins well in hand as we start the new school year."

Thanks to a successful grant application process headed by guidance counselor Kathy Heisler, the school is one of 21 districts in Montana to receive the Montana Comprehensive Literacy Project Grant. The grant, totaling $750,000, will be disbursed over the course of the next four years. It's intended for use in improving literacy skills in kids of all grade levels.

As the coach, Gardner's job will be to work with English and Language Arts teachers and school administration to increase student achievement and reduce the achievement gap of disadvantaged students. Gardner and the rest of the team will receive help from Montana Office of Public Instruction resources and a reading coach from Colorado who will visit several times a year.

Although the grant will not change the basic reading and writing curriculum, it will bring in money for additional resources, teacher training and technology to help struggling kids.

"Most of my work will be to support, mentor and assist teachers as we develop instructional strategies and intervention programs for all struggling students in kindergarten through twelfth grade," she said. "If the teachers need materials or training it will be my job to find and deliver what they need."

To keep the grant funding, the district must meet certain goals and requirements, including improved State Assessment scores amongst fifth and eighth graders, and ACT scores amongst Juniors. It also requires a sustainable local literacy improvement plan that pays special attention to development in kids ages 3-5. This means the eventual implementation of the district's first pre-school program.

Gardner said there will also be significant paperwork involving grant reports and monitoring and tracking achievement data, and she may also be able to help set up the preschool program, which she considers an exciting new project.

Next year, Gardner's position will move to three-quarter time. She said the change from full time will be ideal, as she would like to spend more time with her young grandson.

"I've taught a long time and...when she [Heisler] approached me she knew that I would be interested," she said.

Although she welcomes the change of pace, Gardner admits it will be difficult to move away from the classroom environment she knows so well. She plans to focus on her lifelong passion for reading to help make the transition.

"One thing that has stayed consistent throughout my life is the love of reading. If my help in any way improves the ability or desire of our students to read, or fosters a love of books, I will be delighted," she said. "I really am excited. I have worked with many teachers in my 37 years in education, and I can say with confidence that our English/Language Arts staff, including our paraprofessionals, is top-notch. It's an honor to work with them, and I feel lucky to think I might be able to make their jobs easier and more effective."


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