“TWRC” rhymes with “work” and stands for “think, wonder, reflect and connect.”
About this Blog
My name is Julie Niles Petersen and I plan on sharing my TWRCs (thoughts, wonders, reflections, and connections) about teaching reading in this blog. I plan to write a lot about “the big five” (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension), along with assessment, matching books to readers, reading engagement, reading stamina, online resources, reading research, and materials I recommend. If I use educational jargon, I will do my best to make the meaning very clear because I want this blog to be helpful to a wide variety of people–from those who struggle with reading to those who have graduate degrees in teaching reading.
Disclaimer: I am not the greatest writer, my grammar is weak, and my vocabulary size is not as great as I would like it to be. However, I am very passionate about teaching reading and I think my writing is generally pretty clear.
About My Teaching Background
I had a great supervising teacher when I was going to school for my teaching credential. She made me understand how important it was to teach reading effectively. She told me that how well students read at the end of first grade was a good indication of how well they would read later on in high school. I took this to mean that first grade teachers have a really important job to do.
I taught first grade for five years in a school where the student population consisted mostly of English language learners who were recent immigrants to the United States and who qualified for free and reduced lunch. At the end of my fifth year of teaching, I knew my students deserved a better reading teacher, so I took a leave of absence and pursued my master’s degree in reading/language arts.
While working on my master’s degree, I worked part-time as a reading tutor. I worked with students in grades K-7. Little did I know what a great opportunity this was. Being able to practice what I was learning in the master’s program with students in a one-to-one situation was a very powerful learning experience. I probably learned more in that short time than I would have learned in twenty years of teaching in the general classroom.
After completing my master’s degree and receiving my reading specialist credential, I became a reading specialist in an affluent district. The differences between the districts were eye-opening, to say the least. I worked in that district for four years. In one school, I worked with small groups of students from grades K-6. For the most part, I was able to make all the decisions on how to teach them and what program to use. In the other school, I taught students in grades 4 & 5 using the Read 180 program.
I currently teach courses (online & hybrid) in the master’s program from which I graduated. It is exciting to work with teachers who are just beginning the journey I began so many years ago. It is also exciting to learn new technology that allows teachers to collaborate over the Internet.
I am very involved with reading associations. Currently, I am the immediate past president of the Orange County Reading Association and have attended seven of the last eight annual International Reading Association conventions. I learn so much by taking part in these associations and I encourage you to also take part in them if you are a teacher. It really helps me keep up with the latest research and is a great way to network with others who have a passion for literacy.
I hope what I share with you will help you become a better reader or a a better reading teacher. I am also eager to learn from you! As Louisa Cook Moats states, “Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science” and I agree. I am on a constant quest to refine my knowledge of teaching reading and to become a better reading teacher. I find that talking with others about what works and what doesn’t work really makes me question and refine my knowledge.
Where did my passion for teaching reading come from? A large part of my passion comes from the fact that so many members in my family struggle with reading, spelling, writing, and grammar. For some reason reading and spelling came easy to me. When I witnessed my family members’ struggle with literacy, I always felt great empathy. I could see their frustration and shame and I wished I could take it away. Now, I also see how they avoid writing in public and I know they are missing so much by not making connections with others all around the world via forums and social networking sites. Another part of my passion comes from the fact that teaching reading is so complex and there are still so many answers out there waiting to be found. I really enjoy being part of the learning process.
On an even more personal note… I grew up in Michigan and currently reside in California. Since 2001, I have been happily married to a great Dane who was born and raised in Denmark. I love to travel and have been to seventeen states and five countries. I have a trigger finger when it comes to taking photos and can spend hours tagging and organizing them. I love singing karaoke and pretending that I will get noticed in the crowd and become a worldwide singing sensation. I can carry on conversations in English, Spanish, and French. I can speak and understand several phrases in Danish and I know the alphabet and a few signs in American Sign Language. I love to laugh, eat, and spend time with great friends and family. I let the budding actress out of me by reading out loud using great phrasing, expression, and accents. Reading aloud to children is one of my all-time favorite things to do!