Parent Teacher Magazine Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools May/June 2018 - Page 11

Real Men Read Mentors spark enthusiasm at Hidden Valley All eyes were on A.J. Scales at the front of Megan McSherry’s third-grade class at Hidden Valley Elementary. The students were ready to hear more from “Bud, Not Buddy,” an award-winning children’s book, and Scales did not disappoint. His reading was followed by a spirited discussion that touched on fear, vampires and bears. Scales is one of about 40 men who volunteer for the Real Men Read program, which reaches every class in the school. Men from all walks of life – police officers, business owners and entrepreneurs – start one Friday each month by reading book chapters to students. The school provides the books along with guiding questions for each chapter. Scales, a cycle biller for Toshiba Corp., joined the program in January. He said it was a golden opportunity to be a positive, black male role model for students. He said he was the first one in his family to go to college and he tells students that the sky is the limit for them. “Sometimes the kids will tell you about some unfortunate situations, but they are fascinated by the idea of going to college,” Scales said. “I want them to know that nothing is ever out of reach for them if they make some sacrifices and the right decisions to get there.” Principal Michael Lungarini started the program at a school in Chicago, where it went district-wide. He instituted the program at Statesville Road Elementary when he was assistant principal, and again two years ago after moving to Hidden Valley. Hidden Valley believes that it takes a village to raise a child and we need more men in children’s lives,” he said. “When building relationships with the community, we always ask for time, treasure and talent. The Real Men Read program has all of these attributes.” Buddy McManus, a communications engineer with Mobile Communications America, heard about the program through a colleague who participates. He was participating for the second time and said the experience was a lot of fun. Becoming ‘the most awesome kid’ School psychologists play a vital role in helping students Taylor Shirkey is one of 71 Charlotte- Mecklenburg Schools psychologists who work to empower students in multiple ways. When students ask Shirkey what a psychologist is she replies, “It’s my job to figure out how kids learn best. I get to work with you, your parents and teachers to do everything we can to help you become the most awesome kid that you can be.” Although students are the most likely to ask, many adults don’t know exactly what school psychologists do. “Building relationships with parents and teachers is the most important part of my job,” Shirkey said. “We provide a full range of student services that include working with support staff, providing counseling to students and analyzing academic data to determine learning needs.” School psychologists are highly trained in both education and psychology. Shirkey has served as a school psychologist for three years. She currently serves Nations Ford Elementary, Old Providence Elementary and is assigned to Hawthorne Academy for limited services. She supports students individually or in groups. Group counseling can range from subjects such as homework and organization strategies, coping skills and building friendships. Individual counseling targets a student’s specific academic or social-emotional need. “I remember my parents having to navigate the system with my brother. They were his biggest advocates,” she said. “Experiencing that played a part in my career choice. I want parents to feel welcomed, understand the process and be part of it. I don’t want them to have to figure it out on their own.” School psychologists evaluate eligibility for special education and make referrals to help coordinate community services. They also teach parenting skills and help enhance home-school communication. A large part of their work relies on data. “I enjoy working with school staff to examine academic data. It helps us determine the learning needs of students early on, well before special education services are needed,” Shirkey said. “I am a part of informal consultations, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team and 504 plan or multi-tier system of supports meetings.” Shirkey focuses on students’ strengths. “It’s human nature to want to fix or understand what is wrong but I look for what is going right in a situation,” she said. “You can help a student much more when you can figure out what they’re good at. 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