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Rheannon Sorrells ('04, '11M)
Learning how to read can be a daunting task for children, and it can be tough for teachers to figure out how to inspire students to learn. But for Rheannon Sorrells ('04, '11M), getting students excited about learning is vital to education. With an undergrad degree in Early Childhood Education and a master's in Exceptional Education, Sorrells suggested a new method of teaching reading in her school. At first facing opposition from other teachers, Sorrells pushed for the program, getting JMU professor of education Allison Kretlow to help implement it and train other teachers on the best way to use the program. "I knew that many of our students were struggling with reading and there had to be something out there that would work with our students," Sorrells says. Although Sorrells didn't create the program, she recognized its benefits over other programs and asked the critical question: Would it work at her school?
It did. Since Sorrells and her colleagues implemented the Response to Intervention program, the number of low-level student readers has decreased by 61 percent. RtI focuses less on the innate abilities of students and more on the teaching methods of educators, challenging teachers to adopt a new outlook. Sorrells' question led to a program now used throughout Warren County, Va., and is changing the educational outlook for hundreds of students.
”I think the most important thing I have learned is that it's truly important to get to know your students and appreciate them for who they are. Knowing that their teacher cares about them will motivate a student to work harder and accomplish their goal.“