Shawnee educator excited to take over literacy course

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
Shawnee Middle School English Language Arts teacher Trecia Leach is excited to help students with their English comprehension this year.

Shawnee Middle School English and Language Arts teacher Trecia Leach is excited to take over the literacy learning program and educate students in the new READ Sixth, Seventh and Eighth room this year.

According to Leach, she is taking over the remedial literacy program and will teach nine week courses to students who struggle with English comprehension and have a lower reading level.

"When I took over it, my goal is for kids to actually like it or like being in there because before it was seen kind of as a punishment because you would get placed in there based on test scores," Leach said.

The educator explained she also has moved the course into a new classroom at the end of the eighth grade hall.

"It used to be in the sixth grade hall and so if we had seventh and eighth graders that were still under grade level they would have to go backwards down to the sixth grade hall to get help and I just saw that as a negative mentally," she said.

The new classroom is in a former computer lab that Leach has transformed into a fun and inviting literary environment.

The English teacher said students with the lowest literary test scores are placed in her class and she wants to help them score better, but more importantly, succeed beyond their test scores.

"What's more important for me is that they will go on to high school and potentially have a better chance of graduating on time," she said.

New literacy learning program teacher relates her experiences

Leach explained she has been teaching for 23 years — and a majority of that time was spent educating high school students who struggled meeting graduation requirements.

She said it was then that she developed her passion for helping students who need extra assistance with their reading.

Leach explained most of her experience with this comes from those years teaching high school students and she plans to apply some of the same methods to her course at SMS.

"I just want to help them have a better life in general," Leach said.

Before she took over the course, Leach said it was called Literacy Support, but she has since changed it to R.E.A.D Sixth, Seventh, Eighth.

A look at Shawnee Middle School English Language Arts teacher Trecia Leach's R.E.A.D Sixth, Seventh and Eighth room.

"I want to use the anagram R.E.A.D and right now what I'm considering is recognize, examine, analyze and either discuss or demonstrate," Leach said. "So I want to use the letters to have a certain strategy."

In her course, Leach will mainly focus on the fiction and non-fiction categories.

"They can do it and I just want to help them with that," she said.

After her students complete her nine week course Leach plans to check in on her students as they apply the methods she has taught them to their regular English courses.

"I'd rather they (go back) and help people. I kind of hope I give them the confidence to do that," she said.

Leach received a Bachelor of Science and Multidisciplinary Studies degree from a private university in Texas.

She spent about 10 years of her career teaching high school English in Yukon and has taught in Shawnee for the last four years.

When she was in third grade, Leach decided she would be an educator.

"I kind of was one of these kids. I just had teachers that believed in me," Leach said. "I guess it's just important for me because I had teachers like that. I was super drawn to it for some reason."

For Leach, the relationships she builds with her students are the best aspect of being a teacher.

"The relationships are so important. Especially when you're dealing with kids that maybe haven't had the best relationships with adults in their lives," she said.

Leach cares about all her students and she explained she tries her best to make sure they are aware of that.

"For me it's true. I would genuinely take most of them in if I could," she said.

While she's passionate about her job, Leach does feel there are struggles to being an educator, but it's the personal connection with her students that she can have a hard time with.

"Just because it is so personal for me it's the mental side of it and the emotional side that's draining for me," she said. "Not being able to help all of them is always hard for me."

However, Leach is ready to teach this course in a new way this year.

"These are the youngest kids I've ever taught so I'm looking forward to the different grades," Leach said. "I'm looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish with them in such a short amount of time. Change is always fun for me and it makes me excited."

The educator said the goal of the course is to make the students love it and that's what she's planning to accomplish.