6 things to know about RI's top teacher

Rhode Island’s new Teacher of the Year is Tracy Lafreniere, North Smithfield reading specialist. She helps first-third graders perfect their reading skills, a big accomplishment, she says, that leads the way to all others.

The six

  • Lafreniere knew since she was young that teaching would be her career. "I never so much aspired to become a teacher, but was born knowing I was going to be one. In the same way you instinctively know what your favorite color is or which ice cream flavor is your favorite, being a teacher is always something I just knew was in my heart and in my future. From the time I was very little, I can remember organizing papers and rulers, making makeshift blackboards from cardboard boxes and 'playing school' with my sister and cousins."
  • Lafreniere was inspired by a college professor who liked to read aloud. "He would spend the first 10 minutes of each class just reading aloud. It showed me the power of it – how much people love stories and reading. As a teacher of reading, I need to share this with my students."
  • Lafreniere considers learning to read the fundamental accomplishment for each student. "... learning to read is a big accomplishment. If it doesn’t begin here you can’t get anywhere else."
  • Lafreniere builds strong connections with students, teachers, and parents. "This job is difficult and challenging. The way you stay fresh and energized is to stay connected with students, parents, and colleagues. The focus on personal relationships is what you need to keep going every day."
  • Lafreniere believes strongly in focusing on what matters most - teaching. "I think all school leaders (including those at the state level) could benefit from planning and teaching lessons, even if not on a daily basis."
  • Lafreniere wants to start reading instruction even before pre-school – for parents. As Teacher of the Year, Lafreniere will have a choice of what statewide initiative will become her focus. "I would love to offer workshops for parents prior to their children entering school."

I would love to offer workshops for parents prior to their children entering school. Reading doesn’t begin when they walk through these doors."

Tracy Lafreniere

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Parents: here's how you can make story time a learning experience for your little one.

  • Point to each word on the page as you read.
  • Read the title and ask your child to make a prediction.
  • Take "picture walks."
  • Model fluency while reading, and bring your own energy and excitement for reading to your child.
  • Ask your child questions after reading every book.
  • Connect reading and writing if possible.

Find more tips and information in this Edutopia article "Parent Involvement in Early Literacy."

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