On Monday and Tuesday, May 17 and 18, teachers from several Portage elementary schools attended a reading and writing workshop at the new Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Park. Third through fifth grade teachers attended on Monday. Kindergarten through second grade teachers attended on Tuesday.
Crisman Elementary School teachers Sandy Povlinski, Ruth Cozza and Andrew Johnson planned and hosted the workshop. It included a visit from Portage Mayor Olga G. Velazquez and a presentation by Kristi McCullough of Smekens Education Solutions.
According to the website www.SmekensEducation.com, Smekens’ “training team is best known for showing teachers how to apply research-based literacy strategies in ways that are practical and effective.” There were strategies for both beginning and experienced teachers.
Dr. Debra Dudek, Coordinator of Title 1 and Special Student Programs for Portage Township Schools, was instrumental in acquiring the grant that funded the workshop with Title 1 monies.
Mayor Velazquez began by welcoming the participants to the facility. She discussed the history and planning of the lakeshore park and riverwalk and her vision for its future use.
Velazquez said later, “I was very encouraged to see the Portage Township Staff using this facility for their meeting. It is a well-designed building in a beautiful, natural setting. What a great place to inspire people to write.”
The Smekens’ presentation focused on the reciprocal nature between reading and writing. McCullough emphasized the importance of fluency in reading to improve comprehension. She demonstrated techniques to raise the fluency rate of each student, no matter how accomplished or challenged in the area of reading.
Marci Johnson, a fifth grade teacher in her fifth year at Saylor, said, “I’ve seen many Smekens’ presentations. The thing I love is that they bring so many books for us to examine that provide real-world examples for the kids.”
“We were hoping to have Kristina Smekens herself do the presentation, but she is in such demand and booked so far in advance,” Sandy Povlinski said. “But Kristi (McCullough) did a great job. She’s very high energy and engaging.”