May 12, 2021
From AmeriCorps service to reading interventionist
In 1998, three community leaders came together and launched a one-on-one tutoring program for students who had fallen behind in reading at Belle Haven Community School in Menlo Park, CA. Flash forward to 2021, Reading Partners volunteers and AmeriCorps members now support thousands of students across twelve cities, ranging from coast to coast. This work is made possible by the amazing AmeriCorps members who join the Reading Partners team each year.
Having done this work spanning decades, there is now a strong, thriving network of Reading Partners AmeriCorps alumni!
One member of this network is Mary Brant, who served in both Redwood City and San Francisco between 2013-15. Now, Brant is a reading interventionist in Seattle, WA. She works at Rising Star Elementary School, which just so happens to have its very own Reading Center. Brant took a moment to reminisce on her years of service, including her favorite parts as well as some challenges, and share advice with aspiring AmeriCorps members.
Question: Can you share when and where you served with Reading Partners?
Answer: I started with Reading Partners in the 2013-14 school year in Redwood City, California at Hawes Elementary School. I moved there right after college and I loved being able to focus on reading and be a part of a school community. I loved it so much that I decided to do it again, so I served a second year at Sanchez Elementary School in San Francisco during the 2014-15 school year.
Question: What motivated you to serve that first year with Reading Partners?
Answer: I knew that I wanted to do at least one year of service with AmeriCorps and was looking at a lot of different programs. During college I worked a lot with our literacy center so I knew I wanted to work with elementary-age students, focusing specifically on literacy. I also had a friend who was serving with Reading Partners and raving about it! I was actually able to join her team and it was so nice to have that connection.
Question: After your first year, why did you choose to return for a second year of service?
Answer: The year of AmeriCorps went by so quickly! I was just getting into my flow and so I felt like I had to come back! I was able to serve as a mentor to other site coordinators on my team, there were added responsibilities, and it felt like a new adventure. I would totally recommend coming back for a senior AmeriCorps year because one year just does not feel like enough time, and now I am still in touch with some of those teachers and fellow AmeriCorps members from those two years.
Question: What was one of your favorite parts of being a Site Coordinator?
Answer: The best part for me was getting to work with the kids, but also having the opportunity to train tutors. For me, I had not been in that role before, so it was a new challenge learning how to best support adults so they can support students. More so, getting to see progress from tutors and students over the course of the year was so cool.
There are not as many other roles where you are doing so much: you are working with the teachers, the students, and the tutors every single day. If you can do this, you can do anything!
Question: What was one of the most challenging parts?
Answer: I think it’s similar to my favorite part because communicating with so many individuals every day was not easy. You really have to develop strong communication skills while training to balance so many different schedules between the students, teachers, and tutors.
The other part was that you do spend a lot of time on your own in your Reading Center, so I made a strong effort to sit in the breakroom during lunch to make friends with the teachers because they truly do become your community.
Question: It’s been a few years since your service years, what do you do now?
Answer: In between AmeriCorps and now, I went to graduate school for teaching and taught full-time while doing it through a program called BATTI. I moved back to Redwood City for a bit, then moved to Seattle and taught kindergarten for two years. I always had this dream of becoming a reading interventionist, which is what I do now. I work with teachers to identify students who need tier 2 instruction based on various reasons. I teach small groups all day, support the coordination of the intervention schedule, help adults in the school coordinate their students’ support, and connect with families.
A lot of what I do now as a reading interventionist is very similar to what I did in the site coordinator role in regards to checking the data to monitor student growth and seeing their reading levels, managing intervention schedules, communicating with individual teachers, and finding ways to share the student growth with the school community.
Question: How did your time with Reading Partners help you prepare for your current role as a reading interventionist?
Answer: I ended up in education, but I really think that Reading Partners is a great experience for anyone no matter what you want to do because of the people skills you gain through the role. Also, thinking about professionalism, flexibility, and just figuring out what you want to do. This role can help you figure out what you enjoy and what you do want to do later down the road.
Also, reading is a form of justice! It is a social justice issue, an equity issue, and an access issue. If you’re going to do a year of volunteering, this is a wonderful opportunity to do it.
Question: If there was one thing you could say to someone thinking about applying to serve with Reading Partners, what would it be?
Answer: If you’re considering it, do it! Each year is different, there’s always going to change, but this role really will help you identify what you want to do in life while making an impact. You’re going to build relationships, you’re going to gain communication skills, and it looks great on your resume that you committed to a year of service!
If you’re interested in serving with Reading Partners or finding out more about what service looks like, check out our open AmeriCorps positions nationwide.