Variety is the spice of life for reading coach Rachel Ayers

Published 9:21 am Wednesday, April 15, 2015

NW0414 Teacher of the Year Rachel Ayers A

Being able to work with students from all grades and observe them making new discoveries is what makes teaching special for East Side Elementary reading coach Rachel Ayers.

Ayers has been a teacher for eight years and has worked all of those at East Side Elementary.

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The Elizabethton School Board recently recognized Ayers for her efforts, naming her the Teacher of the Year for grades 5-8 and specialty areas for East Side Elementary. She was also named the systemwide teacher of the year for grades 5-8 and specialty areas.

Ayers worked as a reading coach this year and has previously taught fourth grade, first grade and second grade. As a reading coach, Ayers loves the variety each day brings to her classroom.

“It is really awesome because I get to see all the grade levels,” she said. “I work with all the readers with texts from their grade level, and we work toward making them feel like a successful reader.”

Not every student at East Side will be a part of Ayers’ classroom. Each student is tested using the aimsweb Assessment and students who test in the bottom 10 percent of their grade level are given reading intervention sessions with Ayers. Students complete reading tasks, word study and comprehension skills to help them better understand what they are reading, and to improve their grade-level skills, Ayers said.

“There is nothing like working with a reader, and to see them have that moment of understanding for the first time,” she said. “They work so hard, week after week, and to be there when they have that ‘Aha’ moment, I couldn’t image not having that in my life. I love to watch them grow and develop.”

As a reading coach, Ayers works to find the right type of material that inspires each student to want to read.

“More than anything, I want them to want to work on their reading skills,” she said. “I have to find out what motivates them, and then that is when they have their success. When they enjoy what they are reading, and they want to read, they are motivated to do better. If they are not interested, then they are not engaged with what they are reading.”

Ayers grew up in Unicoi County, and attend Unicoi County Schools all the way through high school. She earned her degree in education from East Tennessee State University in 2006 and was hired shortly after that to teach at East Side.

“After graduation, you apply everywhere hoping to get that call,” Ayers said. “After I interviewed, I felt so at ease and so at home, I knew this was where I wanted to be and I accepted the job right away. I feel fortunate to have spent my teaching career here at East Side. We are a little family and I feel fortunate to be building my career at this school.”

Ayers’ colleagues at East Side nominated her for the Teacher of the Year award. She is a repeat winner, having been named teacher of the year for both grade level and system level before.

“It is extremely humbling,” Ayers said. “Because I travel to all the grade levels, and have children from all classes, I know I am surrounded by incredible teachers. They are all worthy of this nomination, and I feel honored and humbled that they selected me.”

Ayers’ students agree with the decision to name their teacher Teacher of the Year.

“Everyday we do lots of things,” first-grader Barbara Perkey said. “Ms. Ayers is fun and she does a lot of fun things with us. We draw on our boards, and write in our journals and we get a story. When we finish a story, we get to go in the treasure box.”

First-grader Jackson Smith decided his favorite part of working with Ayers is how she gets class started each session.

“We get our motors running with a Pete the Cat story everyday,” Smith said. “Pete the Cat is awesome.”

Ayers’ help with reading skills is what is first-grader Blake Shelton likes best about his teacher.

“She is nice, and she helps me,” he said.