Teaching careers at the elementary and secondary levels require a tremendous amount of responsibility. After a number of years devoted to the traditional classroom setting, teachers often desire a change of environment. However, a liberal arts degree in education may limit one's opportunities. The pursuit of a graduate degree in reading and literacy expands options for educators, including work in a more intimate classroom setting.
Reading specialists and/or literacy coaches tend to work in a much smaller group setting, specifically teaching students who struggle with reading. At times, work will be one-on-one. Public and private schools, including elementary, middle, and high school, often retain reading specialist positions. Reading specialists work in conjunction with teachers of traditional classrooms, providing reading assessments, added resources, and supplementary instruction. Specialists also maintain close contact with parents and/or guardians, in addition to other counselors and school administrators. Therefore, collaboration and communication skills are of the utmost importance.
Educators with reading/literacy specializations may also be qualified to pursue employment as instructional coordinators, also known as instructional coaches. Instructional coordinators work in the school environment, but rather than work directly with students, coordinators develop and oversee the implementation of curriculum. In addition, coordinators act as mentors to classroom teachers, introduce new teaching strategies, educational materials, and technologies. They conduct workshops and assess school staff. Instructional coordinators may seek employment at the state level, local public schools, private schools, government agencies, or through higher educational institutions. Instructional coordinators typically work year-round, unlike reading specialist teachers that typically follow the same calendar system of traditional classroom teachers.
Employment in adult literacy instruction provides an alternative career option. Adult literacy classes often take place at community centers, local churches, community colleges, or through high school vocational centers. Adult literacy coaches will need to work more flexible hours, as literacy programs are often conducted in the evening or on weekends to better meet the needs of working adults. In addition, strategies for teaching adults varies from that of younger students, and will require a different set of competencies.
Teachers that desire to pursue graduate work in the reading/literacy specialist field will need to determine state-specific requirements. Often, educators will need to complete a masters degree, gain in-school teaching experience, and achieve necessary certification. Reading specialization typically requires core courses, targeting youth and adult learners, in: developing fluency, strategies for comprehension, instruction in sociocultural context, skills in assessing and observation, and learning theories of reading instruction.
By Rita Rowe