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An elementary school boy sits in front of a computer in his special education school while holding up a page of autographs.



A Day in the Life of a Reading Specialist

A Day in the Life of a Reading Specialist

Ever wondered what life as a reading specialist looks like? We asked Kelley Painter, a reading specialist at our Indiana, PA campus what her role looks like, how she got there, and any advice she could give. Take a look at what she said! 

What was your career trajectory? How did you end up at New Story Schools? 

My bachelor’s degree is in elementary education, and I got my first Master’s in math. I loved teaching math, so I taught it online for a few years and it ended up not being quite what I was looking for. So, I started participating in a mentoring program for children who were on the autism spectrum. While doing this, I knew this was the population of students I wanted to work with. I had also worked in human services, you weren’t supposed to work on educational things with that job, but it was hard for me not to. I had decided to get my Master’s in reading because, while I also tutored, I found the kids who struggled with math typically enjoyed and did well in reading and vice versa. I really enjoyed teaching reading and knew already that I wanted to work with students with behavioral needs and on the autism spectrum from my previous experiences. Of course, it is hard to get a position like this. I reached out to New Story Schools a few times about working there, but I didn’t have my special education certification. So, when I saw they were hiring a reading specialist, I applied immediately.   

What is your day-to-day role like as a reading specialist? 

Typically, I pull students for one-on-one reading intervention. When students are new to school, show deficits in reading through standardized testing, or are behind at least a grade or two in reading, I assess first and see what we are looking at. Once it’s deemed that they would need intensive intervention, I work with the student individually for 30-minute sessions several times a week. We work on whatever they are struggling with, anywhere from letter recognition, letter sounds, phonemic awareness, and we work our way into reading comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary. I’ve worked with kids from six to 19 years. I keep track of what we have worked on and mastered with every student I work with, so we can review the successes they have.  

What is something you look forward to everyday? 

I look forward to seeing all my students. It is exciting to work with them. They will be struggling or will be frustrated because they hate reading, but then they will ask me what time our session is. They have little hurdles to jump over, but seeing the strides they make is very exciting. The students typically have a little ring with their sight words on them, and once they get three stars on a sight word, that means they’ve mastered it. They then get to rip them out and show their teachers how much they’ve accomplished, that is just one of the things they love to do. I always look forward to the fact that they look forward to learning.  

What has been your favorite memory so far working at New Story Schools? 

I had been working with one student for a while. I could tell we were making progress, but when we retested, I was so excited to see the number of sight words that he recognized and the different sounds that he knew. We were both cheering, and he wanted us to skip down the hall together to tell his teacher.  

What makes you proud of the work you do? 

Knowing that these students were not reading before, I am a part of the group who is going to help them to be able to perform in the world. If you can’t read, there are so many limitations. We are opening a huge world for these kids. To be part of that is awesome.  

Is there any advice you could give to someone who is also looking to pursue a career in special education? 

If you know in your heart that you want to be an educator, you will receive the most appreciation and love from this population of students. You will receive the biggest reward. As someone who has worked in both traditional and special education, the struggles may seem great, but if you are looking for an intrinsically rewarding career, special education is where it’s at.  

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