The school year is coming to a close. I am doing all of those end-of-the-year tasks that I have done so many times. This year, though, I have some new items on my list. I am packing hundreds of books, sorting and discarding files and planning for a new subject. I am also saying good-bye to some old friends: Ponyboy Curtis and Johnny Cade, Billy Weaver and his creepy landlady, Charlie Gordon and Algernon, Anne Frank and her Secret Annex family, Ebenezer Scrooge, Lonnie Collins and Katniss Everdeen.
I am an eighth-grade reading teacher at Elkins Middle School. Our reading program has been abolished. The six reading teachers have been replaced by three reading specialists. I repeat, six teachers have been replaced by three teachers. It will no longer be possible for all students at Elkins Middle School to have reading instruction every day for the entire school year. Class sizes for the other core classes will, of course, increase.
I am swamped with a multitude of emotions at the end of this nearly 20-year stint as a reading teacher in Randolph County, both at Tygarts Valley High School and at Elkins Middle School.
I am proud of the job I have done as a reading teacher, and I am extraordinarily proud of the students I have taught.
I am saddened that the county administration felt that the years of work and passion of the middle school reading teachers did not merit any acknowledgment. Not a "thanks for work well done," not even a "this was a tough decision, but ... ."
I am ashamed that, in January, I was too frightened to fight harder, too cowed to try to enlist some support.
I am appalled that there was no public outcry at the demise of the reading program. There wasn't even a public peep.
I am angered that I happily voted in favor of the excess levy, paid my increased taxes without complaint and now find that educational programs are being abolished.
I am upset that, when funding is an issue, the first cuts are made to those with the most direct impact on students - the teachers. Make no mistake, I still have a job. I bumped a wonderful English teacher out of her position.
I am curious as to why, after approval of the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Act for another year, the reading program was not reinstated.
I am afraid that, in Randolph County, the first of the "Three R's" has become a second thought for middle school students.