EAGLE RIVER - We expect every student to learn how to read. But at Eagle River Elementary school teachers take it a step further by helping students understand what they read.
"Literacy is huge. It's a big part of our world, our society. It connects to all other subjects," said Eagle River Elementary Principal Karie Jo Bornberg.
The school has had so much success teaching students to read that it's received special recognition from the Department of Public Instruction.
"To see them get it and enjoy getting to the point is what really makes teaching excellent," said fourth-grade teacher Nicole Musial.
It's that passion that got the school state recognition for its achievement in closing the literacy gap between general students and ones with special needs.
"This is all credit to the teachers," said Bornberg. "We're a great team here, and this recognition is because of their hard work day in and day out."
As one of 18 schools statewide to receive the recognition, two teachers were selected to attend the "Promising Practices" workshops to let other schools and teachers know how they've closed that gap.
"We're showing that we have begun closing that achievement gap for students with disabilities, and by us sharing our ideas with them and with the "Promising Practice" work group, we're hoping to get our word out and share what's been successful for us and for our students," said special education teacher Sara Adamovich.
The teachers have had success by helping students, parents, and teachers recognize potential reading problems and by team teaching with a special education teacher.
"It's really great to just have another person in the classroom that we can bounce ideas off of each other," said first- and second-grade loop teacher Jessica Adamovich. "She helps me differentiate and make accommodations for my students who have specific needs. And it's been a really great learning experience."
Another way teachers teach reading is by doing fun projects. Musial's fourth-grade class created a book of poems written and illustrated by the students.
"The day that box got dropped off in my room, you would have thought it was Christmas morning," said Musial. "It was the most exciting moment for them. They wanted to see it. They wanted to read it. They wanted to touch it."
Teachers say seeing that excitement and passion for learning makes the job worth it.
"They could write easily, anything," Musial said. "We've done tons of writing projects, but to see them open that book and go, 'Oh, I'm excited to see what final project looks like,' that's when you know you've hit it with that student."