Meet Marisa Russo, our National Bilingual Curriculum Specialist and former elementary school teacher, who is passionate about early childhood education, literacy in particular. This year, Marisa stars in a 12-week video series called Monday Mornings with Marisa, designed to provide teaching professionals with effective new techniques to communicate key literacy concepts. In the first video, Marisa demonstrates a simple but effective way to teach ABCs that helps children more easily understand and articulate each letter. Each week, she will spotlight and demonstrate different lessons from the research-based Open Court Reading and Writing series. You may even call it “must see TV” for early childhood teachers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt-84rN0Lg8
Born in Orange County, California to parents who moved to the US from Italy, Marisa entered school in Kindergarten fluent in Italian, not English. Once in class, she quickly learned to read and write with help from teachers and a learning to read program that preceded Open Court Reading called HEADWAY. Though she may not have known it at the time, the experience would shape Marisa’s career in education and fuel her passion for helping children achieve early learning success. Two decades later, she would become a first grade elementary school teacher in Inglewood, California. “Nancy, my principal, was an extraordinary leader and told me not to worry about a thing. The best advice she gave to me was to follow the reading and language arts system the district was using because 1st graders had to be literate by the end of the year. I was nervous but determined to teach with fidelity. At the time, every student in grades K-6 received free lunch and free breakfast, approximately 50% of the students were LEP (Limited English Speakers), and I wasn’t even fully credentialed. The unique system we used was the research-fueled, Open Court Reading and Writing series,” Marisa explained.
Delighted to use large Sound/Spelling cards in her classroom, Marisa remembered how effective a similar system had been for her at age 6: “I couldn’t believe I was this fortunate to be able to teach the program that taught me to read and spell by age 6! I knew this was going to be a great experience and my students were going to be successful. I was so happy to have a guide to follow, instructional routines to help me with pacing, and ongoing support to ensure fidelity and success. I’m proud to add that my first graders all went to grade 2 on or above grade level.”
And today, with generations of successful students now working in careers of their own, Marisa continues to lead the way in early learning literacy education. As our resident champion of Open Court Reading and Writing, she spends her days sharing the program’s tactics for success with teachers all over the country.
“Components in Open Court Reading allow students to learn, practice and apply their skills with manipulatives, print products, and digital assets,” she said. “Digital games and activities provide more engagement for the learner, provide personalized learning opportunities, teach 21st century skills, and provide an environment for authentic and relevant assessment.”
We hope you share your Monday Mornings with Marisa this year! Take a look at the first webisode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt-84rN0Lg8 And don’t forget to come back each Monday!