IN CLOSE WITH | Katie Gutowski
An ELA/ELL Specialist for the Colonial School District in New Castle, Delaware, Katie Gutowski shares her personal insight about being an educational leader and the current and future state of education technology in the classroom.
GETTING STARTED How did you get started as an educator, and how has your job changed over the years?
I first started my career as a wide-eyed substitute throughout New Castle County in DE. After a year of getting my feet wet, substituting in various schools, I accepted a first-grade position in Colonial School District. As a first-grade teacher, I quickly learned the importance of reading. The primary years are instrumental in developing foundational reading skills. While my undergrad provided me with an excellent education, I felt like I needed to expand on my reading content knowledge and enrolled in Wilmington University’s Masters of Reading program. After a few years teaching first grade—which I loved!—and completing my Master’s program, I was transferred to a reading specialist position for the following school year.
After a full year as a reading specialist, my role changed and I became a building-based literacy coach. During that time, my role shifted from working primarily with students, to working with fellow colleagues to support CORE instruction, facilitate and manage RTI, and present district professional development. During my time as a building coach, I was fortunate enough to work with exceptional leaders that took me under their wing and provided me an opportunity to grow as an educational leader in my building.
After serving as a building coach for five years, I moved up to district coach, where I supported all elementary schools in regards to English language arts. My role was similar to what I was doing in the building, except on a much larger scale. I was fortunate to work with all schools, not just one. I was a district coach for just 2 ½ years before I moved into my current role as ELA/ELL Specialist for the Colonial School District.
My teaching goals remain the same as they did on day one: teach children to read, fall in love with reading, and get them excited to learn.
Whereas before I focused primarily on elementary, my role has extended into secondary and into a much more administrative fashion. The biggest change for me has been that secondary exposure as well as realizing all that happens behind the scenes. For example, the budgeting, the purchasing, the contracts, the plans, the meetings, contacting vendors, etc. It is pretty crazy to reflect back on day one in my educational career to now! How my job has changed, yet remained the same all at once. My teaching goals remain the same as they did on day one: teach children to read, fall in love with reading, and get them excited to learn.
INSPIRATIONS What inspires you about teaching? Do you have a slogan or mantra that guides you?
I am most inspired by the countless educators who sacrifice so much of themselves for others. Educators show up every day, put in hours well beyond the typical eight-hour work day, work weekends, nights, and vacations to prep, plan, and extend their own learning. While it can be mentally taxing and exhausting, and personal lives get put on hold at times, it is one of the most rewarding jobs! Not sure if my quote necessarily goes with what inspires me, but one that I often look to when I need a pick me up is, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” We all have the ability to bring about change and impact society positively.
Currently we invest in Reading Horizons Discovery seats for some of our student in Colonial. The software allows the students to work at their pace, time, and path. It provides formative feedback on skills the student has been working on. It is reliable, engaging, and provides instructional tools to support our students.
Ah-ha! MOMENT What was your greatest educational moment?
That is a tough one! One of my favorite educational moments was when a former student learned to read. She struggled to hear sounds, put sounds together, and even identify letters. We worked intensely in small group on those skills. One day, she picked up a leveled reader and just began reading. It was as if something clicked. I remember I grabbed her hand, squealed, and whispered, “You did it!” She flashed the biggest smile. After that, she took off. She no longer feared books!
PD FOR ME What makes for great tech-related professional development?
I love anything that is engaging, hands-on, and something I can take back and use or implement immediately.
I think Google Cardboard would be amazing! It would allow students access to material and places they might not see otherwise.
FUTURE LOOK What educational technology do you wish someone would invent and why?
Possibly something in regards to helping me read and retain knowledge for all of the educational books I have purchased recently but have no time to read!
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