As a classroom teacher, one of Tashia Wolf's favorite times of the day was working with students in small reading groups.
It gave her a chance, she said, to learn the different levels of readers she had in her class and find ways to help those who may have been struggling.
This year, those small group lessons she loved as a classroom teacher will become more prevalent as Wolf begins her new role as the reading interventionist for Arlington Public Schools.
She is joined by Kristy Rollins, who will be the math interventionist. Both teachers will work with students in kindergarten to eighth grade.
Stepping out of the classroom and into the newly-created interventionist roles is an exciting challenge both teachers are ready to take on. As with Wolf, Rollins, who previously taught third grade, likes the idea of working with students in smaller groups. But, she's also excited about the added role of working with middle school students.
"I'm excited I get to work with K-8, so I get to know more kids," she said. "I like to build those relationships."
Offering intervention time isn't a new concept at APS.
"On the middle school side of things, we started delivering interventions last year through a reading program we had," secondary Principal Aaron Pfingsten said. "That had been in discussions for a couple of years on how do we incorporate reading interventions into our current schedule, and math as well."
While the two-day-a-week sessions were helpful, Pfingsten said there were concerns that students were being pulled from other classes for the extra help. With that in mind, administrators requested additional time be added to the school day, which was approved by the board of education earlier this summer.
"Scheduling dedicated time honors and respects the time that is dedicated for other content areas," Pfingsten said.
With the full-time interventionists and the dedicated time, Pfingsten believes there will be a consistency for students.
The added time will also benefit elementary students.
"We were seeing a need for our fourth- to sixth-grade populations," elementary Principal Jacque Morgan said, noting that they had a part-time interventionist who tried to work with all grades in different subject areas, including reading and math.
"Our general curriculum bowls down the middle, it's for your average student," Morgan said. "So, when we do have kids who need a little extra help on either side of the spectrum, that's where we look to our interventionist to help."
Wolf and Rollins will work with students who may be struggling and can use extra support.
As they looked at adding the two new positions, Morgan said, thankfully time could be added for middle school students.
The intervention program, Morgan said, is designed to be a supplementary piece to what teachers are doing in the classroom. Not only will the interventionists be working with students in smaller group settings outside the classroom, they will also provide support in the classroom to students and teachers.
"As teachers are working through things with kids, they (the interventionists) can talk back and refer to the trainings they had to be helpful in more of a coaching role," Morgan said of one way the interventionists will assist classroom teachers.
Wolf and Rollins were in classrooms last week, assisting with testing and other assessments.
When students come to their classrooms for small-group sessions, Rollins said she and Wolf will be supporting what the teacher is doing.
"They are doing guided reading and math and we are doing guided reading and math, so we are just in addition to that," Rollins said.
Having spent 16 years in the classroom in Arlington, Wolf knows how important that support can be, especially when it comes to helping students who are struggling.
"Those students always weigh heavy on your heart and you are always trying to figure out what to do, but sometimes you don't have the things necessary or the interventions," she said.
But, using methods and materials she picked up during training sessions this summer and through continued research Wolf said she and Rollins will be able to assist teachers and help them move forward.
Rollins is looking forward to seeing the rewards that will come along with the small group setting and sharing that with the teachers, whom she said will see them as well, as students work in the classroom.
Morgan said students are pulled from classrooms for a variety of reasons, so there really isn't a stigma associated with intervention program.
Wolf said the students she's been working with have loved the time they spent in her classroom.
"The kids I'm talking to hope they get to come to my room," she said.
At the end of the day, Pfingsten said it will take a team effort for the intervention programs to be successful.
"It's not just Tashia working with students, it's not just Kristy working with students," he said. "Teachers will be dedicating time to working with students in these small groups as well."
The administrators and teachers understand the first year will be a work in progress, but they are ready to do what it takes to help make a difference for the kids and give them the support they need to be more successful and to support the teachers as well.
"I think at the very end of this first year, we want to look back and see what are the things we know we did well and what are the things we can look forward to for next year," Wolf said.