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DeShay Dishman and Beth Corder present at the conference

By: Morgan Sexton

Several teachers from Walker Early Learning Center and Bell Elementary presented at the Kentucky Reading Association (KRA) Conference in October. They discussed challenges young students have when learning to read, and what the Wayne County School system has done to produce strong readers.

Bell Elementary reading recovery teacher Bobbie Barrier has been a member of the KRA for 11 years. During the conference, Barrier presented on literacy blocks. All students in first grade are grouped according to their reading level and guided through a book every week by a faculty member during the literacy block.

According to Barrier, the literacy block method has done wonders for reading development. “At the beginning of last year, we had 107 students below a first grade reading level. By the end of the year, we were down to 27. There were 127 below level at the beginning of this year. Now, at the middle of the school year, only 70 are below reading level,” Barrier said. “That really shows how well this is working.”

After her presentation, Barrier was asked to write an article for the Kentucky Teacher Magazine. Her article will release in January. For Barrier, these statewide connections are what this conference is about. “It’s important for teachers to share these new ideas. We have to keep learning to benefit our students,” she said.

Teachers often put in extra work to make sure their students thrive. Sara Harris, curriculum coach and reading lab instructor from Bell Elementary, analyzes data on her students to make sure they are getting the instruction they need. She presented about differentiation at the KRA conference. As a homeroom teacher, Harris used differentiation to instruct her students at their own level.

Harris used her student’s yearly standardized test scores to place her students into leveled groups. Harris then created center-based activities to correspond with the level of the group. By individualizing her students’ learning, Harris was able to actively measure her students’ progress.

At the conference, Harris enjoyed answering questions from her colleagues who planned to use differentiation in their own classrooms. She hopes that her teaching methods will benefit children all across the state.

Another teacher from Bell Elementary is doing work that might impact children across the nation. Heather Lewis has been working with author Brenda Overturf to write a book focusing on elementary vocabulary. She presented with several instructors from Walker Early Learning Center to discuss the progress they have made.

Overturf has been observing Wayne County classrooms as Lewis and other teachers experiment with vocabulary instruction. Lewis encourages her students to use the words they learn in class. She creates games to send home with her students to get their families engaged in the instruction. Overturf is using Lewis’ experience to better tailor her book to the needs of first graders.

Although it was Lewis’ first time attending the conference, she brought home many ideas and feels a new connection to her fellow teachers.

Angela Ballinger, principal of Walker Early Learning Center, is no stranger to the Kentucky Reading Conference. In fact, she has been a member of the association since 2005 and is currently serving as the KRA president.

Ballinger presented on “Summer Slide”, discussing how students lose progress if they do not read throughout the summer. Ballinger has collaborated with Scholastic to bring the My Summer Books program to Walker to make sure kids continue to develop their reading skills during their break from school.

During the conference, Ballinger attended a panel on the importance of providing students with public speaking experience. Her goal for January is to encourage Character Education winners to stand up at breakfast and tell their fellow students about their favorite book. Over time, Ballinger hopes that every student at Walker will get a chance to speak in front of his or her classmates.

As a principal, Ballinger is proud of all the teachers from Walker who presented at the meeting. Other presenters from Walker were: Micah Hicks, Beth Corder, and DeShay Dishman. Ballinger is proud that Wayne County teachers have embraced becoming literacy experts. Conferences like this prove that teachers are always working to develop their skills and show that the district is growing.

The Wayne County School District and the Kentucky Reading Association are always working to make sure children are receiving the ever-advancing literacy education they need. Visit to learn more about their reading initiatives or to become a member of the association.  


deshay dishman and beth corder

Beth Corder presents with DeShay Dishman

bobbie barrier and literacy block presentation

Bobbie Barrier gives her Literacy Block presentation

sarah harris differentiation

Sara Harris discusses differentiation  

Photos courtesy of Bobbie Barrier and Sara Harris

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