Walnut/Diamond Bar Highlander
September 22, 2011
By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer
Walnut Valley teachers win literacy awards
"Walk to Read" and other innovative reading programs have earned two Walnut Valley teachers literacy awards from the American Literacy Corporation. They will be among a handful of educators from across the state who will be honored on Nov. 13 at the Victoria Club in Riverside.
The nonprofit group rewards teachers who have significantly increased the literacy levels of their students. It gives $2,000 to teachers in kindergarten through eighth grade. Their schools also receive $500 for a reading related school event.
The group notes that this is the first time since 1992 that two winners have been selected from the same school district.
This year's winners include Cindy Giang, a first grade teacher at Quail Summit Elementary in Diamond Bar and Kay Hoard, a fourth grade teacher at Vejar Elementary in Walnut.
Walk to Read is one technique used by Cindy Giang to help her students learn to read at Quail Summit. "Four times a week, our first graders break down into different groups for reading," Giang explained. "The students get very excited about reading, about working with our other teachers." The groups allow students at the same level to work on their reading. Accelerated readers can advance at their own pace, while troubled readers get special help.
"She worked hard to implement the Walk to Read program with our first grade team, crafting a dynamic literacy program," said Principal Alysia Hobbs. Giang holds a master's degree in reading from Cal State L.A. The reading specialist uses this advanced training in her daily classes.
Her bright classroom is filled with the written word. A class poem graces one wall, while students stories fill another. No sitting around in this class, students use hand movements to illustrate their poems and stories. "This week, they're learning a poem about the American flag," Giang said, as she lead the class in an inspiring recitation. Kids also write about personal experiences. "Jenna lost her toy fish. She found it under her brother's bed," one first grader wrote. Giang uses a comfortable rocker in the corner for storytelling.
"The students are captivated by her storytelling," Hobbs said. "They giggle their way through phonics." While other kids might be hungry, these kids are "famished." If they eat too much, their "abdomen" might hurt. "Students learn a different vocabulary word every day," Giang noted. "We teach them words they'll encounter at a higher reading level." Ansel Chujing, 6, and Foxy Beasley, 5 ½, say reading is "easy." They love to go to the school library to pick out a good book. "I like to read about Pokemon," Ansel said. "I'm reading 'Thumbelina,'" Foxy said.
After retiring from AT&T, Kay Hoard decided to go back to school to become a teacher. "I had volunteered at some inner-city schools and I really enjoyed it," Hoard recalled. She earned a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Cal State Fullerton. Later, Hoard went back for a master's degree in reading.
Her second career is as a fourth-grade teacher at Vejar Elementary in Walnut.
"The commitment Kay shows her children is absolutely awe-inspiring," said Principal Steve Carr.
Faux spotlights hang over the desks of her students. Their names are emblazoned on the side because her students are the stars of Hoard's classroom. Student poetry and other work fill the walls of her class.
"She's one of the best teachers I've ever had," said 9-year-old Preston Patam.
"Reading is important because we'll need it in our careers." Patam would like to be a veterinarian some day. The fourth-grader says he enjoys reading mysteries and novels.
Classmate Chamine Tran agreed their teacher is one of the best. Of course, the 9-year-old already loves to read, going through 10 books a week already.
"Mrs. Hoard is nice," Tran continued. "She makes our class interesting."
Their instructor was going over a worksheet up front. "Circle the important words," Hoard said.
"Good, now give yourselves a pat on the back."
Further along, the master teacher told the kids to whisper their answer to someone near them. Her class is very interactive, keeping all the students involved.
Later, Chamine came forward to show her work on the digital blackboard. Other students offered different formulas to arrive at the same answer.
When told about the literacy award, Preston replied "She's a good teacher, she deserves it."
Cindy Giang teaches first grade at Quail Summit Elementary. (Staff photos by Watchara Phomicinda)
Kay Hoard teaches fourth grade at Vejar Elementary in Walnut.