Spotlight on Amber Harwell
The department is pleased to highlight some of the amazing literacy coaches who are focused on improving literacy around the state! As part of the LEARNS Act, the department is hiring up to 120 literacy coaches who will support teachers in their efforts to ensure all students are reading on grade level by the end of third grade. Literacy coaches provide direct coaching, observation, information about student progress, and feedback to teachers in K-3 classrooms and support school leaders in implementing the Science of Reading and improving literacy school-wide. To learn more about the LEARNS Act, visit https://learns.ade.arkansas.gov.
Meet Amber Harwell
Hometown: Wylie, TX
Years in Education: 18
Previous Roles: Classroom Teacher (Grades K-2), Reading Specialist
Currently Serving: Jacksonville School District (Murrell Taylor Elementary & Bobby G. Lester Elementary)
What motivated you to become a literacy coach?
At year nine in my career, I was teaching second grade. I had one particular student who struggled with reading, so I enrolled in a master’s program to obtain a reading specialist degree so I could help future students read. The past five years I worked as a reading specialist, and during that time, I realized teachers need help understanding how to teach their students to read as much as students need instruction on learning to read.
What are some of the rewards you have experienced as a literacy coach?
1. Teachers want help and are very welcoming!
2. As the teacher and I embark on this learning journey together, we are able to build a relationship that fosters acceptance, hard work, and an open mindset.
What advice do you routinely give teachers? Why?
I remind teachers that I am here to support them at perfecting their craft. To do this, we must set an obtainable goal, focus on that goal, and strengthen instruction for the benefit of our students.
How does being a literacy coach differ from being a regular classroom teacher?
As a classroom teacher, I focused only on my students. As a literacy coach, I am able to impact multiple teachers, which, in turn, allows me to reach more students versus a few. The impact is greater, and I love helping teachers strengthen who they are and their instruction through self reflection.
What words of encouragement do you have for other educators?
To a young struggling reader: It may be hard, but don't give up. Have the attitude of “I may not have it YET, but I WILL!”
To a parent/guardian of a struggling reader: Embrace your child's strengths because positivity goes a long way! Be their support as they learn to read because it is the foundation for all things!