Coffee Break with...Aida Allen Rotell
Have you ever met an educator and you thought, "I wish I had them as a teacher." Or "I want my children to have this teacher." For me that person is Aida Allen Rotell. I've seen her teach, I've seen her present, and presented with her. She is a fascinating individual! And very funny. She also has in depth knowledge of literacy, and how to support teachers. I'm not the only one who thinks this. Aida is a national and internationally recognized Literacy Consultant, whose primary goal is to empower teachers to be intentional, purposeful and positively impact student learning.
Take a coffee break and a little peak into what drives her in education.
What resources, for example, books, researchers, journal, etc., do you find most supportive to your growth as a literacy instructor, and why are they important to you?
Drs. Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey’s work. It’s relevant; it’s things that are happening right now. Their work is connected to what Common Core is asking for, and different states are asking for, and they try to cater to those needs. Their work is teacher-friendly because they write about things they’ve done in the field.
Four of their books I love, use and refer teachers to are: 1) Visible Learning for Literacy, 2) Rigorous Reading: 5 Access Points For Comprehending Complex Texts, and 3) Better Learning Through Structured Teaching, and 4) Text-Dependent Questions, Grades K-5: Pathways to Close and Critical Reading. These books are very applicable in the classroom, they connect with teachers, they break down the components, and they have great ready to use examples. Rigorous Reading is one of my all time faves, and Doug wrote one especially for Texas and their standards. The Text Dependent Questions (TDQ) is great if you’re trying to get your teachers into text complexity. There is one for K-5 and 6-12.
And I still love to attend conferences. I’m still a student of learning.
What is one piece of advice you would share with other educators in the field? What is your nugget?
My nugget is to work with kids. Get into a classroom to be connected to kids. If you’re in the field of consulting, you have to keep yourself relevant. If you’re not connected with kids in the classroom today, you're irrelevant. I try to work as much as I can in classrooms, and keep myself up to date reading educational books and journals.
A great of piece of advice that Dr. Diane Lapp gave me quite a while back was to make a commitment to read at least one piece of information about literacy every month, and be committed to the reading. It could be a whole book, a chapter from a book, or an article. But read something! Even if I don’t agree with it, it keeps me learning, and staying connected to current issues and trends, and the reading helps me understand what teachers think about certain issues.
Also, find time to have conversations with your colleagues.
What do you believe is especially important for educators to understand about being a Literacy Consultant?
We have to know that every school has a different pulse and understanding of literacy. You can’t go in and push your ideas without seeing their need. I think there is good in all districts, but I also think the learning curve is different for all districts, and you have to adapt what you’re doing as you go in there and tweak it; make some accommodations for each group of teachers you’re working with. You want to try be a constant for them more than just a one shot to really make a difference. You have to build relationships with those schools or districts and become part of their team. You’ve been working with a group and you want them to be successful. You can’t just spray and pray!
A literacy consultant must be open to building relationships and owning your work by seeing how well they do, how they implement it, and you have to differentiate for their needs. As districts hire people to come in they won’t see the work change without relationships, and someone coming in and working with them for at least a year. You want to empower them to push the work and sustain the practice. It’s a long shot of having the work really stick without time and relationship building.
How or what do you do to ensure all students are learning?
Always having some type of formative assessment. Also, have your COLOSO (content objective, language objective and social objective), and check for understanding constantly. For example, annotations are big in close reading; my new thing for annotations is not to only see just stars and circles. I want to make sure students are writing comments and teachers are reading and using them to see if students are acquiring the information, or what kind of reader they are. Are these students becoming independent readers? When teachers look at questions and margin notes, they are a big piece of formative assessment. As a consultant I have to ensure teachers understand how annotations are used informatively and notice how students are applying them, so kids are taking ownership by engaging in conversations with other students and their teachers. Formative assessments along with feedback help me ensure all students are learning.
Formative assessments along with feedback help me ensure all students are learning.
If you hosted a dinner party, for literacy greats (authors or educators, dead or alive), who would you invite and why? It can be a big or small dinner party. Who’d be on your guest list?
Definitely, I would invite Dr. Diane Lapp because she’s so knowledgeable with a wealth of hands on experience. She has contributed an immense amount to the world of literacy and remains incredibly relevant today. Irene Fountas & Guy Sue Pinnell, as I’m curious to understand how they developed guided reading. Drs. Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey, as they both know literacy so well. They have such great viewpoints and are open to everyone's perspective. Ron Clark, for how he builds confidence in kids. Then I would love to have a spread of teachers, from different states, different socioeconomic areas and different years of experience. So, teachers who have been in the field 25 years, when balanced literacy kicked-in, to newer teachers maybe less than 3 years. But especially teachers who are experiencing success with their students. We can talk about literacy now, and how it has changed. What are they doing to make it work?
Bio: Aida Allen Rotell is a national and internationally recognized Literacy Consultant, whose primary goal is to empower teachers to be intentional, purposeful and positively impact student learning. She is also an Instructional Coach at Health Science High and a lecturer in the teacher education department at San Diego State University. Prior to this adventure, Aida was an elementary bilingual teacher, who looped with her students through K-5. She lives in San Diego with her husband Patrick and her adorable pup Bailey. I'm so happy to speak with her as she has great understanding and appreciation what it truly takes to make a great literacy leader. She's also a fascinating individual.
You can see her present live at ILA West March 16-17 in San Diego. https://www.literacyworldwide.org/meetings-events/ila-west-2018
You can find the books Aida mention here on Amazon: