Literacy is celebrated and reading is an adventure in Caroline Eschenbach’s classroom at Virginia Heights Elementary School in Roanoke, Virginia. Eschenbach teaches reading to the entire third grade, taking time to learn about her students’ individual interests and abilities, using data to identify areas of need, and aligning lessons with grade-level standards. She uses fiction and nonfiction, including news articles, bringing in content students find interesting and relevant to their lives. Eschenbach’s students learn critical thinking skills through project-based learning, writing and reading journals, word games and author circles. She incorporates songs, rhythms and movement to keep students active and cement content and concepts into their memories.
Eschenbach, whose mother also taught third grade, uses literature to spark discussions of current events, citizenship and community roles, and career paths. Students receive authentic, tangible feedback on a regular basis, with tasks, or mini-goals, to help them track their own progress. Eschenbach’s pupils feel successful, and they are: They post stellar test scores, with results consistently above district averages for snapshots, benchmarks and Standards of Learning assessments. Every student—including English language learners and special need students—demonstrates growth, with some making up to two and a half years’ progress.
Dedicated to continuously improving her craft, Eschenbach devotes personal time to exploring innovative educational strategies and attends national conferences and district training. She mentors student teachers and invites teachers from around Roanoke City Public Schools to observe her lessons. She thrives on collaboration, participating in professional learning communities and presenting at district “share fairs,” where colleagues bring lessons to share with each other. Eschenbach helped create posters for the district on key resources for English teachers and students and has contributed to the writing and reading curriculum. She communicates openly and often with parents, using school literacy nights to help families incorporate reading into students’ home lives.
Eschenbach earned a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies from Virginia Tech in 2010 and a master’s in elementary education from the University of Virginia in 2012.
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