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“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” ~Winston Churchill


Stacie Court
Stacie Court
Stacie Court's Blog

WOW! What Great Staff!

 

  Big gold star, with smaller gold stars embedded in it


 

WOW!  Learning Ally staff members are so great!  What is it that makes us so terrific?


 

Maybe it’s our WOWs: Ways of Working.  A set of guidelines for positive action, we refer to them and incorporate them into all our personal and organizational goals.  By following the WOWs, we all work together to make Learning Ally a great place to work and volunteer.


 

Maybe you’d like to consider adding some or all of our WOWs to your own toolbox?  Here they are for you to ponder:


 

a. Focus on customer needs as we embrace continuous change.

b. Project ahead to find and deliver on the changes that need to be made.

c. Find the meaning in the data.

d. Make fact-based decisions and remain aligned with those decisions until a new case is made and a new decision is reached.

e. Ask how we can do it better, consistently and often.

f. Display bravery and be comfortable standing up and taking an unpopular view on issues.

g. Assume positive intent.

h. Communicate truthfully, candidly, and constructively.

i. Demonstrate concern for all functions and see the organization as one.

j. Acknowledge and celebrate team efforts and wins.

k. Address issues with each other directly before taking them up with others.

l. Set clear expectations and define everyone’s role (ownership) for achievement.

m. Ensure the right people are in the room when making decisions.

n. Regularly ask for and give feedback.

o. Openly acknowledge mistakes, seek solutions, and not blame.



 

Some of these WOWs seem so obvious, but others maybe not so much depending on your personal background and the experiences you’ve had.  Confession time: I grew up in a very negative household. A few years ago, when a member of our Senior Leadership Team told me, “Assume positive intent”, it hit me like a thunderbolt.  I was stunned. At that moment, I realized all my life I had assumed negative intent, and it had colored so many of my experiences as an adult. I have been grateful to that person ever since then for taking the time to tell me that, and am pleased to see it as a part of our WOWs.  Just that one WOW has had such an impact on me personally; imagine how incorporating ALL of them can create positive, dynamic change in all of us?


 

Pick a WOW and try it on for size.  I bet you’ll like it.


Falling in Love

 

Maria Luna and other teachers crowd together, celebrating with big smiles and big jazz hands


 

Have you ever fallen in love? As staff member Terrie Noland says, “So many feelings pop up when you fall in love!  You want to spend time together...you get those butterflies in your stomach.”

 

Bilingual Literacy and Dyslexia Interventionist Maria Luna (above, with fellow staff members at Central Elementary in Lewisville, Texas) writes to us:

 

I have fallen in love with Learning Ally!!  I have seen it change my students’ reading lives!  They love being able to choose their own books (with a few suggestions from me ), and they also love being able to have book discussion with their peers!  I just have so many good things to say about it!

 

Terrie adds, “As school is kicking off around the country, we have teachers and students that can relate to those feelings of falling in love to their experience with Learning Ally.  They don’t want to be without us, they want to spend time with us and they quite possibly get butterflies in their stomach when reading so many great...titles.”



 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones


 

Metrics Update for this week:

 

  • Our readers increased (from zero last week) to 16,545!

 

  • Pages read by school readers has climbed to 3,719,966!



 

Happy Reading, everyone!





 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

 

Sad brother and sister face towering shelves of school supplies while father gleefully glides through the store as he pushes the cart


 

Remember that old Staple’s commercial, with the father gleefully purchasing back-to-school supplies to the soundtrack of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”?  In the commercial, the children appear quite despondent, dismayed by the imminent arrival of the impending school year.  

 

We adults all laughed at this commercial (for a bit of nostalgia, click here to view it again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD1PffNbZls), but for many families back-to-school really is a terribly stressful time.  For about 20% of students, school is pure torture, and it makes family life difficult as well.  For those students who use Learning Ally, however, school can be more like it was for me: an exciting day filled with learning and fun.  Thanks to the work of our many volunteers, these children’s sadness can be turned to joyful expectation! Instead of automatically expecting humiliation and failure, they can anticipate another year of personal growth and success in school.


 

Excited and enthused young boy eagerly raises his hand in class.

 

As we move into the new school year (yes, schools in the South have started already!), here at Learning Ally we reset all our counters that measure the schools’ and students’ activity over the year.  So, here’s where we are:

 

Back to School Countdown counter image: zero days, zero hours, zero minutes, zero seconds

 

2,965,350 books on student bookshelves were set back to zero 

 

697,280 students had their reading data set back to zero

 

17,583 schools had their reading data set back to zero

 

41,129 new school year emails sent out on August 1st, with an additional 82,258 going out in the days to come



 

How do you want students to feel on the first day of school?  Here are some of the answers staff came up with at a Back-to-School Pep Rally last week:

 

Pencil-shaped word cloud with words like joyful, excited, hopeful, curious, gritty, heroic, prepared.



 

And it’s all possible--VERY possible--because of all the hard work staff and volunteers (YOU!) put into helping these families.  Thank you!

 

Happy Reading!


Students Love Us!

 

     Abigail Shaw wears a bright yellow dress and a big smile; her guide dog, Kit, gazes quizzically at the camera

 

Abigail Shaw, staff member with Learning Ally’s College Success Program, with her guide dog, Kit


 

Students love Learning Ally!  Here’s a message from just one member of our ever-growing fan club:

 

I’m looking forward to this semester because for once I was actually able to get my textbook list ahead of time and found most of the books on Learning Ally, so there’s one less thing I have to worry about...I will enjoy my classes and they seem interesting so I’m looking forward to that.


 

College Success Program student

Sophomore from Long Island





 

 

Another big fan is Sadie Regardie.  A student in the Fairfax County Public Schools, Sadie read A LOT this summer, participating in our Summer Reading Together contest.  Sadie not only read at home--she even took her books on vacation! How many kids want to read on vacation? Sadie entered our social media part of the contest as well, and her entry shows how audiobooks can not only build enthusiasm for reading but also expose students to concepts and vocabulary.  Sadie says about Learning Ally, “...it has helped me persevere in reading. Makes the book make sense and makes reading more fun.” Click here to watch Sadie’s video entry:

https://spark.adobe.com/video/yjkTu48FpM4Sy


 

Sadie’s mother, Jenn Regardie, is a key influencer for Learning Ally in their school district, and will be a panelist for one of our upcoming edWebinars.  For more information about this educational opportunity, click here:

https://home.edweb.net/webinar/readers20190814/





 


 

Metrics Update for this week:

 

  • Our readers increased to 212,034

 

  • We had 47,285 reading at frequency*

 

  • Pages read by school readers increased by 63% over this time last year!



 

Happy Summer, and Happy Reading, everyone!





 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


Pass It On

 

Bryanna Marbury has dark skin, black hair, brown eyes, and wears glasses and a big, radiant smile!



 

Bryanna Marbury is a success, and Learning Ally volunteers made the difference for her.  Watch this video and hear what her mother, Barbara, has to say about Learning Ally’s impact on the community.

 

https://youtu.be/7477Cjy_4OI


 

To hear what Bryanna herself has to say, click here:  https://youtu.be/-t9vT54-Ufo

 

Since these videos were made, Bryanna has gone on to a career in early education, working with children through Grade 5.  Because you made a difference, Bryanna is making a difference!



 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones


 

Metrics Update for this week:

 

  • Our readers increased to 211,289

 

  • We had 47,029 reading at frequency*

 

  • Pages read by school readers increased by 64% over this time last year!



 

Happy Summer, and Happy Reading, everyone!





 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


We love BUGS!

 

Ad for Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School, including images of happy children involved in a variety of science-based activities


 

This past year Learning Ally Education Solutions GM Tim Wilson approved a special project where we provided a license to the Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School (affectionately known as BUGS) in return for the opportunity to study their experience with Learning Ally solutions.  It was a truly fruitful year for the students and teachers, and yielded results even we did not expect.


 

During their introduction to Learning Ally in November, teachers were thrilled by the variety and quality of our solutions, with teacher Betsy McGowan, the school’s reading specialist, exclaiming, “It looks like Christmas came early this year!”  By January all of Betsy’s students with reading deficits were registered with our program.

 

Betsy McGowan has shoulder-length light brown hair, brown eyes, and a big smile.


 

BUG’s eighth-graders were all assigned a dystopian novel, one which was available through our audiobook solution.  More than a few students told Betsy that this was the first time they had read an entire book--Learning Ally made it possible for them.


 

Cover of Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, including image of young biracial Trevor with his Xhosa mother in the foreground.

 

The next assigned book, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, was in our queue but unavailable when assigned.  Encouraged by their success with their first book, many of the students were inspired to work really hard and read the print version!  It took longer and they had to work much, much harder to keep up, but they liked the feeling of understanding and participating in the class discussions.


 

Cover art for George Orwell's Animal Farm: white cover with stylized pink pig


 

The final book for the school year was George Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm, already available through Learning Ally.  One student told Betsy she had been able to learn so much more vocabulary using Learning Ally’s audiobook solution.


 

A few weeks ago we received a surprise at our Princeton office:  a huge card thanking the Learning Ally team (that includes YOU, volunteers!).  Each student signed their name and gave us the number of pages they read, all of them (and their teachers) so proud of their progress.


 

Large black card (science fair display size) with colorful message thanking Learning Ally and smaller messages from students



 

This kind of success is possible because of all the great people we have working on our solutions.  This is just one example of how our volunteers make a difference in people’s lives every day--a difference that supports them through a lifetime of learning.  Thank you all for the gifts of your time, talent, and treasure. Our friends at BUGS are just one small group that is grateful every day for your presence in their lives.



 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones


 

Metrics Update for this week:

 

  • Our readers increased to 211,197

 

  • We had 46,753 reading at frequency*



 

Happy Summer, and Happy Reading, everyone!





 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


Summer Reading Together Explosion

 

Summer Reading Together logo: stylized sun wearing dark sunglasses in blue circle with words Summer Reading Together, Learning Ally


 

Learning Ally’s Summer Reading Together program is already helping thousands of students avoid summer slide!  Just since June 1st:

 

  • More than 3,000 students reading

  • More than 500,000 pages read

  • More than 500,000 minutes read



 

Students are having a great time exploring fun lit and even LEARNING over the summer.  Click here to watch the video recommendation posted by one of our enthusiastic participants:

https://www.instagram.com/p/By7-zyYhSdQ/


 

Young boy with crewcut and dark-framed glasses smiles as he holds up his tablet with the book Private Pilot Maneuvers displayed



 

Look for more exciting news from our students as the summer goes on!  To learn more about the program (and share the information with teachers and families who may want to join in the fun), click on this link:

https://learningally.org/Summer-Reading-Together


 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones


 

Metrics Update for this week:

 

  • Our readers increased to 209,389

 

  • We’ve had over 141 million pages read--an increase of 65% over last year for school readers!

 

  • We had 46,058 reading at frequency*



 

Happy Summer, and Happy Reading, everyone!





 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.

 


Summer Fun for Students with Learning Ally

 

Summer Reading Together logo: stylized sun wearing dark sunglasses in blue circle with words Summer Reading Together, Learning Ally


 

It’s summer time, and that means...Learning Ally’s Summer Reading Together!

 

Each year, students all over the country compete for monthly and grand prizes while completing summer reading assignments and fighting summer slide.  It’s a great program and motivates students to continue building their reading and comprehension skills. The students can read anything available on Learning Ally, including material assigned as summer reading and books that are just for fun.  To help them get started, the Family part of our website includes a link to Learning Ally Featured Books, grouped by themes such as Summer Reading Together: Space Exploration and Learning Ally Featured Books from Best-Selling Series, and includes books ranging from items based on movies to classic literature.  To explore our current list, click here:

https://learningally.org/Portals/6/Docs/SummerReading/SummerReadingLists.pdf



 

Screenshot of Learning Ally parent Amy Goetsch's post, featuring a photo of son Alex mowing the lawn and a shot of his Word of the Day: Arduous.

 

In addition, we have a Vocabulary Challenge for them on social media, where they can upload video recommendations of summer reading books, or post three to six vocabulary words that they learned during their summer reading experience.  Participants will be entered into a raffle, and one lucky winner will be the proud owner of a new Chromebook at the end of the summer!



 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones


 

Metrics Update for this week:

 

  • Our readers increased to 208,500

 

  • We’ve had over 137 million pages read--an increase of 66% over last year for school readers!

 

  • We had 45,743 reading at frequency*



 

Keep up the great work, everyone!  We're looking forward to a terrific summer!





 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


Spotlight on Dyslexia 2019

 

Logo: Spotlight on Dyslexia Virtual Conference


 

Once again, Learning Ally hosted its hit online conference Spotlight on Dyslexia this past Friday.  SPOD is a dynamic conference featuring sixteen speakers from all over the country, experts and specialists in dyslexia, literacy, and neuroscience, for in-depth discussions of the facts of dyslexia and the issues faced by dyslexic students, their families and their teachers.  This incredible event lasts all day and is attended by educators and administrators, parents, students, and teachers-in-training--anyone who wants to learn more about dyslexia and the solutions available that help people with dyslexia succeed in a print-based environment and beyond.




 

SPOD Theatre view with list of a few of the sessions available to attendees, as well as advertising by Learning Ally and partners including edWeb.com

 

Completely online, SPOD’s Theater offered fifteen sessions (three to choose from during each session period) ranging from “Older Struggling Readers: What Do They Need?” to “We’ve Screened for Dyslexia...Now What?” and “What a Successful Public School Dyslexia Program Looks Like”.  




 

Dr. Maryanne Wolfe outside in front of a tree and some bushes.  She has shoulder-length brown hair, a friendly smile, and wears glasses.  She's wearing a black dress with large white polka dots, and yellow sweater, and a silver chain.

 

In addition, our Keynote Speaker was Dr. Maryanne Wolf,  an educator famous for her advocacy for children and literacy around the world.  Her keynote address was “Lessons from the Reading Brain for Dyslexia, Early Diagnosis, and Intervention”.  Click here to learn more about her: https://www.maryannewolf.com/



 

SPOD Lounge, with links to the Educators chat room and the Parents chat room, as well as advertising by Learning Ally and partners including edWeb.com

 

To augment the activity of the day, we also had a Lounge with two chatrooms available all day, one specifically for educators and one specifically for parents.  These were places where people could reach out and learn from each other’s experiences. There were some great interactions going on, and it was absolutely heartwarming to see people helping each other succeed.


 

The Resource Center was a great place where participants could access and download pdfs and videos provided by Learning Ally, our partners, and the speakers:

 

SPOD Resource Center, with a list of a few of the pdfs available for download, as well as advertising by Learning Ally and partners including edWeb.com



 

Learning Ally partnered with edWeb.com so that educators attending the event could receive up to sixteen Continuing Education credits.  One great aspect: if you were tied up that day, every session is recorded, and participants can access the sessions and Keynote Address later to experience at the time that is best for them.  Another bonus: since participants could attend only one-third of the presentations live, the recordings give participants the opportunity to experience ALL the sessions. Educators who registered for the event have until September 30th to submit their quizzes and receive their CE credits.  Each session also had its own dedicated chat and Question and Answer that attendees could actively participate in during the live sessions, giving them the opportunity to ask questions directly to the speakers, as well as to chat with others interested in the specific topic being discussed.



 

We had over 1400 registered, and it was a busy day.  A few of the comments we received included:

 

From a teacher:  SPOD exceeded her expectations, it’s fabulous, easy to understand with great downloadable resources!

 

From a student: “Hi, everyone, I hope everyone’s enjoying their conference.  I’m so excited to be here to be supporting Learning Ally. Learning Ally has been such an instrumental part to my Success in school.  I’ve been using the software since 10th [grade] and it has transformed the way I learn.”

 

From another teacher:  “The students love Learning Ally!  I always do a group lesson how to utilize it correctly before sending them off to read/listen.  We focus on how listening to a book can be a tool that will help them become stronger readers...and they come in SO proud that they finished their first book.  I feel that Learning Ally levels the playing field for them. They can tackle a text that other students are reading and are able to discuss it with them because they are able to listen and comprehend instead of struggle to decode words and create meaning…”


 

In a past year an educator who attended told us, “The conference helped me grow so much as an educator and I earned CE credits.  The content and the experts were top notch!”

 

This year’s conference was no different--sought-after content, knowledgeable speakers, opportunities to share ideas and solutions!  Learning Ally has once again supported the success of teachers, administrators, students, and families, all over the country!  Start thinking now about joining us next time!

 

A classroom scene: a young teacher helping students learn how to use audiobooks in the classroom.  Everyone is smiling!





 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones


 

Metrics Update for this week:

 

  • Our readers increased to 207,718

 

  • We’ve had over 135 million pages read--an increase of 66% over last year for school readers!

 

  • We had 45,403 reading at frequency*



 

Thanks for all your hard work, everyone--together we are making a tremendous difference in the lives of so many people!





 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


A Message to Tristan

 

Computer screen shot of Michael Burgess with a big smile on his face.  Thumbnail photos on right are of Terrie Noland, Tristan and Mrs. York, Alexis, and Dave--all smiling!



 

Last week we told you about eighth-grader Tristan and his accomplishment of reading an entire book for the first time in his life, sharing an interview with him recorded by Learning Ally staff member Terrie Noland.  The book Tristan read was Swing, by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess--a wonderful story about people struggling to find their way in a confusing, complicated world.



 

Swing book cover: stylized image African American young man walking with backpack, book, and baseball bat, surrounded by music symbols and musical instruments traditionally used in jazz.


 

In response to this post, Literature Community Lead Alexis Bourbeau arranged for Learning Ally’s narrator for Swing, Michael Burgess, to record a message to Tristan, congratulating him and encouraging him to continue.  In a heartwarming video, Tristan, Tristan’s teacher Mrs. York, Terrie Noland, and Production Team staff members Alexis Bourbeau and Dave Kozemchak listen to Michael’s message and talk about Tristan’s great accomplishment, encouraging him to continue his quest for great books about subjects he’s interested in.  To watch that video, click here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyNGpEPeY0E&feature=youtu.be

 

In addition, at the end of the video is a follow-up email sent by Mrs. York:  

 


 

Special thanks to Alexis and Michael for making this moment possible!






 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones


 

Metrics Update for this week:

 

  • Our readers increased to 206,406

 

  • We had 44,925 reading at frequency*



 

This is why we all do this work:  to encourage and inspire struggling yet eager learners to explore the possibilities before them, and to help them succeed in school and beyond.

 

Happy June, everyone!  Thank you for all you're doing to help Tristan and other students like him!



 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.