Community Builder: Midlands reading coach reaches beyond classroom walls

Published: May. 22, 2019 at 7:23 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Dr. Seuss once said, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Inside the walls of Meadowfield Elementary School in Richland One, the school’s reading coach, Apryl Whitman is helping her students and their families discover that reality.

“Her initiatives that she’s brought to our school are unparalleled with anything else we’ve done here,” said Julie Stensland, the school’s Curriculum Resource Teacher.

Whitman has served as the school’s reaching coach for the last four years.

“The excitement that they have is what I absolutely love the most,” said Whitman about watching her students grow a love for reading.

While Whitman partners with teachers to enhance reading in the classroom, her colleagues said she’s gone beyond the school’s walls to partner with the community.

“She sees Meadowfield has her classroom and so she takes on the entire school,” said Stensland. “She's advocating for our families, our children as well as our teachers.”

Staff members said she’s grown Literacy Nights and Real Men Read events and has collected thousands of book donations for children to build their home libraries.

“Apryl has taken on a challenge to make sure they can take [the books] home, while also taking on the challenge to educate parents and to have parents help us, help their children,” said Lisa Davis, principal of Meadowfield Elementary.

Whitman also partnered with Hand Middle School to create a mentorship program for kindergarten and first-grade students, and the students at Meadowfield are thriving.

“My favorite part about reading is the inspiration you go on and the adventure you go on,” said Anthony Tart, a first-grade student.

For all of her efforts, Matt Mungo with Mungo Homes surprised Whitman while she was partnering with first-grade teacher Ms. Fortner to teach a reading lesson.

“Let me break this up real quick,” said Mungo after walking through the classroom door. Whitman sat in shock and became emotional as Mungo continued. She later told us she knew exactly who he was once he walked in the room because she had seen the WIS Community Builder segment before.

“I am here because of your work with reading and literary in our community,” Mungo continued. “You have been chosen as the WIS and Mungo Homes Community Builder, and you’ll get a $1,000 check to the charity of your choice so thank you for all of your hard work!”

“Ohhh! I knew this was a setup!” laughed Whitman.

It was a setup to share with others how this lover of books is helping these little learners thrive in this story called life.

“Reading is the fundamental piece,” said Davis. “We’re trying to raise good human beings, but we also know that in order to be successful in life you have to have these basic skills, and reading is the foundation of them all. Having a reading coach like Apryl lets us be really successful here at Meadowfield.”

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