Today we will celebrate and lift up Kara Holtzman (@holtzman_kara). Kara is a CRLP Teacher Leader with the CRLP UC San Diego region and currently teaches third grade in the National School District. She has been teaching for 8 years and has been involved with the CRLP since 2015.
“I started my teaching career in a first grade class. I was a brand new teacher, in my first teaching assignment, and everything was overwhelming to me. And I felt that I sucked at everything.” It was a challenging time for Kara, a challenging time for many of us, starting out in our teaching careers.
At that time, another CRLP Teacher Leader at her school site introduced Kara to the CRLP. “I’m a nerd about learning things. Any learning opportunity that comes my way, I take advantage of.” She was particularly interested in the CRLP because she knew it was for teachers, by teachers. The CRLP offered Results training, which she needed at the time to support her reading instruction with her first graders. In addition to that, she felt she didn’t know what specifically to do to support multilingual learners (MLs) MLs and newcomers in her class. CRLP Results training sessions taught her how to develop her students’ literacy and academic English language proficiency. She got the pedagogical help she needed. For example, she was able to bridge gaps in her MLs’ and struggling readers’ phonics skills by teaching them the components of systematic phonics instruction. From there she felt she had the tools to efficiently close the gap and have her students engage in grade-level reading.
Shortly after CRLP Results training, she was invited to a CRLP Invitational. It was a turning point for her. She saw herself in the Teacher Leaders there. They were excited about learning, so supportive, eager to help each other, and wanting to learn new things. “It was a group effort, all of us learning together. It was a safe place. I felt this was where I was supposed to be.”
Kara received the pedagogical training she sought after for her MLs and other students as well, and embedded in that content was something she didn’t realize she needed as much – the community. “I felt seen and heard there. We can tackle anything in teaching, as long as we have that community, because it’s a safe place and allows you to be open to anything.”
Kara talked about how our students need everything right now. She, like so many educators, is overwhelmed with the learning loss because of the pandemic and the opportunity gaps it has widened. Kara understands we can seek out how to teach all that, but what matters most is that foundation of community for educators. “With the CRLP we can always walk away with something we can use in the classroom right away. The community helps me feel like I can talk to someone about the content I learn, bounce ideas off of, and in general, just talk about the hard work of being a teacher. It’s not just that CRLP is a community, though. The CRLP is always a positive and encouraging one. There are times my site and district colleagues get together and it can turn negative- with bitterness and complaining, but CRLP gatherings always leave me positive and uplifted. It helps me be resilient and have the courage to persevere and try new things. That’s the whole reason why I participate in the CRLP.”
Want to learn more about the Results: Word Recognition and Fluency skills Kara mentioned in her vignette? Click here for more information.
Keywords: teachers as learners, teachers as leaders, community, resilience, new teacher, mid-career teacher, foundational reading skills