Helping With Reading

An introduction to the new Title 1 reading specialist st Salisbury Elementary School

Ms. Donovan helping out a fifth grade student (Christina Varsamis)

Ms. Donovan helping out a fifth grade student (Christina Varsamis)

Molly Donovan seems to genuinely love teaching and helping out students. This was clearly showcased when speaking with the new reading specialist at Salisbury Elementary School.

From a young age, Donovan knew she wanted to be a teacher. Her 4th grade math teacher inspired her. Upon fully understanding it for the first time, she knew she wanted to be a teacher, as she could have the ability “ to do things in a different way… and that was what I wanted to do for other kids,” she said.

Donovan grew up in Marblehead, MA. Before teaching, she had been a babysitter and a camp counselor, so she was already familiar with working with children prior to working in the education field. She attended college at Michigan State, due to the school being at the top in education in the country for 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report, and also because she is a huge sports fan, and Michigan State has a program for college football and basketball. 

Right out of college, she started teaching in Chicago as a required internship by Michigan State. After that, she taught in Swampscott, MA, filling in for a teacher who had left, as an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). 

Although she has been a substitute teacher for middle school and high school in the past, Donovan enjoys working with elementary school students the most, as “this is where they learn the foundational skills to really help them thrive…and have enriched conversations discussions about material the older they get”. The students are excited to learn and, as Donovan puts it, “still have enjoyment on their faces when they learn something…sometimes, not all the time, that’s not the case in high school”. 

The 2019-2020 school year will be her first time teaching as a Title 1 reading specialist. Title 1 is, according to USLegal, the largest government-funded education program. Its goal is to give additional funds to schools with large quantities of low-income students that assist in meeting those student’s educational goals. 

As a reading specialist, Donovan’s job is to help different students in each grade who are struggling with reading, writing, and spelling. A program called Fundations is used for the students, which breaks down the reading skills for those who might need a little more guidance or support than just what they get in the classroom. To keep things simple and to make sure the kids are getting what they need, Donovan’s classes typically have no more than four kids in them. Currently, she is teaching every elementary school grade except for 4th and 6th grade. 

Donovan came to Salisbury Elementary School because she wanted to be in a district full of positivity and one that really supported its students, and “had a good work environment not just between students, but between the faculty themselves,” she said. She recalled a moment prior to starting her job at Salisbury Elementary, when she had gone there to meet Darlene White, who is also a reading specialist and who Donovan worked with in her graduate program. Everyone introduced themselves to her as she was walking in the hallways and seemed genuinely happy to be there. Donovan said that when she “saw there was a position open, she was very excited…that’s why she applied.”

Overall, she loves it at Salisbury so far, although she says it is still taking her some time to get used to not teaching full classrooms and teaching just reading. Donovan also loves her job because of the faculty, especially her teammate, Kara Balkus, also a Title 1 teacher. “Amazing initiative, she’s extremely self-motivated. Her organization is so admirable, team player, collaborative nature, always thinking about the next step” are just a few of the things Balkus had to say about her coworker. 

Donovan says she likes being able to work on skills and seeing the kids’ growth in terms of their knowledge of the skill. “I think it comes back to,” said Donovan, “I’m helping students that struggle, and that was kind of the reason why I wanted to be a teacher.”