A Good Read
This year, SIT Graduate Institute students David Boutte and Charlotte Herz paired up with Brattleboro’s Winston-Prouty Early Learning Center for work study. They’ve done so as part of the federal America Reads program, which has, for 20 years, put work-study students in schools, childcare centers, museums, and other organizations to support the development of local kids.
David and Charlotte each travel twice per week from SIT’s Brattleboro campus to Winston-Prouty, which sits a few hills away and commands its own valley view. In the classrooms of the Early Learning Center, they sit down with a book. Soon, a group of kids squirm into place to enjoy a story, then do a project about it. That simple transaction is the heart of Charlotte and David’s work—helping kids from infant to six years old gain the basics of reading. It’s simple, but effective. They point out letters and sounds, and the kids take in a story. Today, as Charlotte settles in with a group, it’s one about a gorilla. They offer close, focused attention in the middle of a large classroom.
The SIT students, says Early Learning Center administrative coordinator Angela Hoag, “offer enthusiasm for learning,” and serve as good role models for Winston-Prouty students.
David, who says he’s mostly from Texas, New Jersey, and New York, moved to SIT from Las Vegas, where he taught first grade. He had previously taught kindergarten and pre-K with Teach for America.
He’d seen SIT before, on visits to friends who attended. In SIT, he says, he recognized an opportunity to integrate his commitment to social justice and the practicalities of a career.
Though his work study is in early childhood education, he’s in the Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management program. SIT’s flexibility has allowed him to make his work at Winston-Prouty more expansive. He will be able to tie skills he developed during his previous master’s in early childhood education and teaching to the program-development skills he’s learning at SIT. “Over the summer, we’re looking toward designing a program that lets America Reads tutors do more, like perhaps work with families or design a curriculum. ”
David says, “Experiential education is one of our values. I’m doing experiential education that’s going to result in more programming for the local community, which I think is the heart of why I decided to come here.”
Charlotte, originally from southeastern Connecticut, changed fields when she came to SIT. As an undergraduate, she studied education and English literature. When she decided that her goal to make a difference as an educator would be best served by approaching it outside the structures of the public school system, SIT seemed like a fit.
Charlotte says, “I had done a service-learning trip to a Navajo reservation. That shifted my thinking in terms of being a global citizen and learning about different cultures and ways of thinking.”
She’s not entirely certain what career path she’ll follow after SIT, but she says she’s felt the draw of helping out students in underserved communities in the US.
She says her time so far at SIT, where she is also in the Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management degree program, has been “eye-opening and self-reflective.” That, she says, is one of SIT’s strengths. “SIT is definitely a place for self-discovery, and no matter where you are in your career path, it’s a time to really dive deeper into yourself and figure out your role in the world .”
Angela Hoag says the talented students from SIT have made a lot of difference at the school, and Winston-Prouty hopes the collaboration will continue. “There is such a love of learning that all SIT students and faculty have. It’s a wonderful lesson to teach our children at a young age—to ask why, how, when, to explore their own interests, and to want to learn more about anything and everything.”