Congratulations 2015 S.P.I.R.E.® Super Stars!

The S.P.I.R.E.® Super Star Awards recognize students who have overcome significant challenges to improve their reading proficiency, as well as teachers who go above and beyond on a daily basis to provide their students with every opportunity to improve their skills. 

It is very rewarding for all of us at EPS to learn about the dedication and perseverance of these award recipients and the incredible achievements they have made. Congratulations on an outstanding year!

Use the tabs below to read about our 2015 S.P.I.R.E. Super Stars. Click here to learn more about the S.P.I.R.E. reading intervention program.

Winner – 2015 S.P.I.R.E. Super Star of the Year

Kimberly, 4th Grade Student, Liberty Elementary School, Franklin, TN

Nominated by Marguerite Pryor, Reading Teacher

It is with great excitement that I nominate Kimberly for the S.P.I.R.E. award. She is a very special young lady and has made so much progress despite her adversities. She is a 4th grade ELL student.   Spanish is her first language spoken at home and outside of school, which has made speaking, reading, and spelling English even more difficult for her.  Early in her academic career, there was a lack of stability in her schooling as her parents moved quite often and she had issues with regular school attendance. During her first grade year, she attended three elementary schools, including our school for three months.  She returned to us again during her second grade year in late March.  Sadly by then she was an at-risk student needing intensive reading intervention, quite introverted, and very defeated.  She immediately joined my tier 3 S.P.I.R.E. reading intervention group.  I taught her the S.P.I.R.E. level 1 summary lesson and began intervention in level 2. 

Kimberly is now a fourth grade student and she is midway through S.P.I.R.E. level 5.  This school year she began at the 18th percentile according to STAR reading and ended the year at the 33rd percentile! She has actually reached her Accelerated Reader goal for this grading period on her own and is so excited about her accomplishments!

One of the things I enjoy so much about teaching S.P.I.R.E. to Kimberly is her newly discovered awareness of phonemes, sentence structure, and vocabulary.  It is thrilling to me when she comes to our group and shares what she has discovered about words outside our group.  She is using the phonemes we learn in our group when she is back in her classroom as well as at home.  She has become so aware of how words are pronounced and spelled.  She often questions meanings of other words that remind her of the word we are studying. She is amazed to find out that she is mispronouncing words that she thought others were saying and she had been spelling them incorrectly because of this.  Because her vocabulary has greatly increased, her comprehension is significantly better.

I feel S.P.I.R.E. is such a highly effective program for struggling readers.  As a result of using the S.P.I.R.E. program with Kimberly, she has become a stronger reader and feels more confident in her reading ability. I am so very proud of Kimberly’s growth in reading.

Finalist – 2015 S.P.I.R.E. Super Star

Damien, 4th Grade Student, Liberty Elementary School, Franklin, TN

Nominated by April Harper & Jeannette Abbott, Student Support and S.P.I.R.E. Intervention Teachers

It is with true excitement and enthusiasm that we recommend 4th grader Damien for this year’s S.P.I.R.E. Super Star Student Award. Damien began his 4th grade year with significant reading fluency deficits. At 54 words per minute, he was below basic. He felt defeated and lacked the motivation to put forth his best effort.  Programs he had been through in the past simply did not work for him.

We quickly put him on a strict Tier 3 diet of S.P.I.R.E. As we progress monitored him throughout the fall we saw a little growth, but not what we were hoping for. We started to wonder if this was the intervention he needed. Then finally a break-through! In November, Damien took an oral reading probe and read 78 WPM. We were so excited, and he caught the excitement too.  By January he was up to 107 WPM.  We were elated. Assessments showed his scale score increased by 119 points and his independent reading level increased by one year.

As further proof of his success, in an independent reading program he took his first test in October and by the second quarter he had achieved 196 percent of his goal. This is when Damien began to love reading! To date he has taken 80 reading tests (79% non-fiction) and his accuracy is at 85%. Additionally, he began to improve in other subjects as well. His confidence increased.

Then, disaster struck in the form of snow and ice, followed by successive school closings. Although we were concerned about missed lessons, we didn’t anticipate what success meant for this young man. He never thought about not succeeding; he knew he could become a better reader and his new found motivation and continued success in the S.P.I.R.E. program placed him on a new road to high achievement. His spring testing showed a reading speed of 121 WPM or a 92% increase in his reading fluency. What a wonderful success story. This young man is truly an inspiration to his teachers and a walking testimonial to the strength of this reading program.

Finalist – 2015 S.P.I.R.E. Super Star

Roman, 4th Grade Student, Angier Elementary School, Angier, NC

Nominated by Beth Gilchrist, Exceptional Children's Reading Specialist

I started working with Roman Matthews in June of 2014.  He was finishing 3rd grade and had just been identified with a learning disability in reading.  He had very little confidence in himself and his mom was afraid we were going to lose him quickly if something didn’t change soon.  He was very unsuccessful on his End of Grade Assessment, not coming even close to proficient.  He was forced to attend the Summer School Program in hopes of remediating his skills.  He could read independently at a 1st grade level and could read about 45 words per minute on a 2nd grade level. 

We started working together in S.P.I.R.E., three times a week during the summer and then twice a week when the new school year started.  He began with level 1.  We are now almost finished with level 4, only 10 months later.  Roman was one of two children at his school who was able to pass his Read to Achieve Assessment in October, which allowed him to stay in his 4th grade class.

For the first time, he made A’s and B’s on his report card in reading, made Honor Roll for his academic success, and is now reading on grade level.  On his last report card, his highest grade point average was in his reading class.  He no longer requires daily services for his learning disability.  Roman has taken the skills he has acquired through S.P.I.R.E. and applied them to his daily classwork.  He is now confident in his reading and enjoys challenging his mom and teachers with his knowledge of phonics.  In his words, “Finally someone taught me how to read and didn’t just make me practice reading.”  His mom tells me that, “His stars have been changed.” It doesn’t get any better than that.

Winner – 2015 Teacher of Excellence

Tracy Miller, Exceptional Children's Teacher, Bladenboro Primary School, NC

Nominated by Rena Jessup, EC Teacher

Tracy Miller, one of Bladen County Schools S.P.I.R.E. trainers, is one of the most well rounded energetic, dedicated  teachers I have ever met. She has these students at her heart. I truly believe, if Tracy could teach S.P.I.R.E. 24- 7, she would do just that. Tracy loves to see students take ownership of their own learning. 

I had the opportunity to work with her for the very first time this year and watched how she would not allow anything or anybody deter her of the willingness to teach S.P.I.R.E. To me, "It was like, Tracy was Hooked-on Phonics of S.P.I.R.E." and wanted everybody in her path to be as she was.  She is highly motivated and has the compassion of this program in her heart. In my observation, I also  listened and watched how Tracy could communicate and gain other teachers' interest and support within her school environment. She also could make a sale to the Principal as to making sure her scheduling was set for a smooth implementation  of S.P.I.R.E. Questions asked: Were these students motivated to learn?  Oh yes, they looked forward to coming to Mrs. Tracy Miller's class.  Why? Because they knew  that Mrs. Tracy Miller helped them get on board and travel on a  path of success with S.P.I.R.E... from a nonreader to a reader!!!  Thanks Tracy Miller for your dedicated services as to helping our precious cargoes be as successful as they can be. I salute you as being the 2015 S.P.I.R.E. Teacher of the Year.

Also nominated by Reida Roberts, Director of Exceptional Children's Services, Bladen County Schools

Mrs. Tracy Miller is the consummate S.P.I.R.E. instructor. Her students rush every day to get to their S.P.I.R.E. lessons and are so eager to improve their reading skills, largely because of the enthusiasm and care that Mrs. Miller devotes to the S.P.I.R.E. program.  Not only is Mrs. Miller's classroom an inviting environment in which children feel comfortable, but Mrs. Miller herself is always positive and enthusiastic.     

Mrs. Miller's skills extend beyond her excellent instructional practices.  She serves our entire school district as a S.P.I.R.E. instructor, mentor, and coach.  She has devoted time during the summer and during her time away from school to make sure that other teachers have what they need to be successful.  I'm amazed to think that Mrs. Miller reaches children she doesn't even know about because of her work with other teachers. I'm sure there are many S.P.I.R.E. teachers who are qualified for this award.  Should you choose Mrs. Tracy Miller, you will enjoy her kind spirit and her gift for teaching children to read.

Finalist – 2015 Teacher of Excellence

Jessica McInnis, Exceptional Children's Teacher, Covington Street Elementary, Laurinburg, NC

Nominated by Wanda Callahan, EC Elementary Program Specialist

Jessica McInnis is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of the students she works with every day. Her ability to provide direct instruction using the S.P.I.R.E. reading program using creativity and technology has been awesome. She incorporates the use of the smart board during her lessons and well as using the web to research vocabulary presented within the lessons. Through our NCSIP Reading Foundations she has also incorporated strategies that further extend beyond the lesson itself. Her ongoing assessments drive her instruction as she moves the students through each level, making sure that mastery is the key to success for her most disabled readers. Jessi has become a lead teacher in the county and always welcomes other EC teachers to observe and to share her knowledge of S.P.I.R.E. with them.

Also nominated by Laura Britt, Exceptional Children Literacy Consultant, North Carolina Dept. of Public Instruction

Mrs. McInnis' knowledge of S.P.I.R.E. is unmatched. When I have LEAs that are interested in learning more about S.P.I.R.E., I recommend they visit her classroom. After their visit, it is nothing but high praise about their observation. Based on her ability to use S.P.I.R.E., I also used Mrs. McInnis to test out our NCSIP Fidelity check that is now used by countless others across our state. Without her attention to details and her impeccable fidelity of the program, I would not have been able to create a reliable S.P.I.R.E. fidelity check.

But above all this is her care and concern for her students. She works tirelessly to ensure that all her S.P.I.R.E. lessons meet the needs of her students. Mrs. McInnis uses the program assessments to guide her teaching. She does not have just one S.P.I.R.E. group, but several based on her students' abilities and needs. She does not hesitate to ask for assistance when she does not feel she is meeting her students' needs or if she has questions about upcoming lessons. It is truly an honor to second this nomination of Mrs. McInnis from Scotland County Schools.

Finalist – 2015 Teacher of Excellence

Stacie Wood, Exceptional Children's Lead Teacher, LaFayette Elementary, Kipling, NC
Nominated by Sarah Fiero EC Teacher

Stacie Wood's enthusiasm for teaching and love of learning are the foundation of a S.P.I.R.E. program that is the envy of schools both in and outside of Harnett County.  When S.P.I.R.E. was introduced into our county in the 2013/2014 school year, Stacie immediately familiarized herself with the program, organized the materials, designed top-down webs and made them available to teachers as instructional support, and quickly became the S.P.I.R.E. guru for our area.  Teachers from within and outside our county have come to observe Stacie teach her lessons, and Stacie is always willing to go the extra mile to help a teacher become more successful with the program. 

The level of confidence that S.P.I.R.E. has instilled in Stacie's students is phenomenal!  These students have progressed from struggling readers to more confident readers who can successfully decode words using the rules they have learned in the S.P.I.R.E. program and apply that knowledge across the curriculum.  Comprehension of text has become easier in part because decoding has become easier, and assessment data is proving the success of the program.  S.P.I.R.E. and Stacie Wood have given children at our school the priceless gift of the love of reading.