By Sarah Loyola
Join me in congratulating Lower School Academic Skills teacher Renae Gallagher, who has been named Ravenscroft’s May 2019 Innovator of the Month.
Gallagher was selected this month for being a true advocate for student learning. She has encouraged students in the Lower School’s Academic Skills program to learn how to use iPads in collaboration with a platform developed by the Hill Center. This practice has allowed Gallagher’s students to increase their abilities in word recognition and fluency and pushed them toward stronger read-aloud skills. Gallagher is also seen as an advocate for students who come to Ravenscroft with multilingual backgrounds. As Susan Perry, assistant head of school for student affairs, put it, Renae is “a true champion of the unique path each child walks in their life at their own pace.”
Gallagher was asked about her educational approach. Here are her responses:
Briefly describe what made you want to become a teacher, and what your teaching philosophy/motto is.
My earliest memory of wanting to be a teacher was when I was in first grade. My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Gumby, was such a fun and caring teacher. Throughout my life, I have always had a passion for helping others. Helping others was a lesson that I learned over the years seeing my parents help our family and friends. My parents instilled in me that it is important to always help others because that is what we are here to do. I would say that my teaching philosophy is “Everyone has the ability to learn, and it is OK if it isn’t by the typical teaching approach. They just need a different path to the same endpoint.”
When did you come to Ravenscroft? From where?
I came to Ravenscroft in the fall of 2017 from Wildwood Forest Elementary School in Wake County Public School System.
How has your teaching approach been impacted by technology?
Technology has impacted my teaching approach by allowing me to make learning more engaging for my students. The decoding program that we use is uploaded onto student iPads. [Decoding is when readers begin to apply sounds to phonemes in a word; this skill is taught in an explicit and sequential manner providing students with strategies to increase their word recognition and fluency.] Students have the option to use interactive tools, such as a highlighter or pencil, to help them with their decoding. My students have enjoyed the new format for learning reading which allows them to see their growth on a bar graph. The use of technology has also expanded my learning as a teacher. I continue to seek technology tools that can empower my students’ academic performance.
In your opinion, whom does the Academic Skills program best serve, and why is it such a unique aspect of a Ravenscroft education?
The Academic Skills program directly serves students in grades 1-12 who have documented learning needs. The program’s teachers provide direct and explicit instruction for students in need of academic or executive-function skills. The primary goal of the program is to enable and empower students to reach their educational potential.
What about your own background has inspired you to advocate for multilingual students?
Many people who I meet are surprised that I speak Spanish. I am Latina and grew up learning Spanish from my great-grandparents and grandparents. From hearing Spanish being spoken and Mexican music playing, I developed a passion to learn Spanish. I then pursued further learning by getting a degree in Spanish. As a teacher, knowing another language has broadened my understanding and the importance of encouraging students to continue their native language as well as pursuing English. I make it a priority for myself to connect with all of my students.
What do you most love about being a Raven?
I love the opportunities that are available here at Ravenscroft. I have had the opportunity to be a part of several committees including Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Student Assistance Team on campus that have helped me grow as a teacher.
In 2018, the Library and Technology Center was reimagined to fit the evolving needs of our students. The Keim Center for Innovation and Research was born. Read the history of this project here.