Rosa Lofgren has been teaching for 26 years, 21 of them at PS/MS 279 in the Bronx’s District 10, which she considers her “second home.” The school serves around 1,000 students each year in Kindergarten through 8th grade, 300 of whom come from local homeless shelters.
Rosa has taught 1st through 5th grade, and for the past five years has served as a literacy coach, supporting teachers of Kindergarten through third grade. For the last three years, she has also served as a New Teacher Mentor. Rosa and a colleague have been the school’s Read Alliance Teachers since the program was established at the school 14 years ago.
Over the past few years, the school suffered budget cuts and Read Alliance is one of the few remaining after school programs, owing in part to the ongoing support of New York City Council Member Fernando Cabrera. In summer 2019, Read Alliance privately fundraised to support a summer program at PS 279 for the first time.
“If a student is not on grade level by second grade, it becomes harder and harder for that student to catch up,” says Rosa. “By the time they get to third grade, when they have to take state tests, it’s very hard for them to be able to read the test and answer the questions.
“As a coach and mentor, I have access to data and I track some of our students as I look at test results. I recognize the names [from the Read Alliance program] and see how the students are improving. We have had students with severe problems in reading and they become wonderful readers in middle school. Sometimes, an older student will come into a READ session and say, ‘I was here! I remember!’ Some even come back and want to be tutors.
“It’s a great program because it gives students the foundational skills they need. It’s simple, it’s nothing complicated. The students can feel successful because they start with very easy books and go through different levels and can say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m reading now on level 3, 4.’ Sometimes it’s even level 5 or 6.”
Teen leader - Student Dynamic
“One of the most important things that makes this program very successful, in my opinion, is that the students build relationships with their tutors. A lot of our parents work and sometimes the kids don’t have anyone to help them with homework or read with them. When they spend 45 minutes with their tutor, who sits with them one-to-one, and they talk together and read together and play games, the tutor is tending to their needs. You can see it--they laugh. READ sessions are a very helpful and happy place.
“The teen leaders feel responsible for their students’ success, and they take that very seriously. I’m grateful to see these kids.”
Parent Demand for the Program
“Parents are very grateful that we have this program. Our best way of promoting the program is by parents telling other parents: ‘READ has started!’ But we can only take 45 students. Sometimes the parents get very upset. After parent-teacher conferences, they are knocking on my door and asking to add their kids to the program.”