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Sitting among fellow educators in Andrews Hall earlier this year, Emilia Jacobs’ Marietta College experience was coming full circle.

Jacobs ’16, a Title I teacher at Washington Elementary School in Marietta, was among the local teachers invited to participate in a workshop that also included her fifth-grade teacher, Jan Mason MALL’86, who mentored and co-taught with Jacobs during her first year as a teacher at Washington.

The workshop was made possible through an Ohio Dean’s Compact on Exceptional Children Grant, which was obtained by Dr. Cathy Mowrer, McCoy Professor of Education, and Elaine O’Rourke, Director of Field & Clinical Experience. Part of the  $39,000 grant, aimed at literacy development, was used to bring Ginny Dowd, creator of the Phonics Dance, to campus for the free intervention specialist workshop. Seven current Marietta College Education students and more than 20 local K-3 intervention specialists from eight schools participated in various workshops throughout the year.

“We call the program ‘PAL,’ which stands for Pioneer Alliance for Literacy,” Mowrer says. “Our first all-day workshop was in November. That program gave teachers strategies on how to teach students to self-regulate.”

Dowd’s workshop provided free teaching material to participating educators and focused on helping students develop decoding skills. The workshop in June, featuring Kurt Wooten, introduces the Performance Cycle, which promotes literacy through the arts.

“I love the program,” Jacobs says. “It is very important with my schedule to have something like this so close. For me, and for all teachers, it’s very hard to travel for two or three days to get professional development. For me to be able to travel just down the street and receive this type of training in one day, it makes it so much easier.”

The two-year incentive grant provided $39,000 for this year and $35,000 for next year.

“This program serves many local school districts by training educators for free, paying for substitute teachers so their current students don’t fall behind on learning, and providing books and lunch,” Mowrer says. “Marietta, Warren, Belpre and Fort Frye districts are participating in the program.”

The inspiration to create PAL came after members in Marietta’s Education Department traveled to Florida last year to observe the programs offered at the Learning Alliance. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to helping children achieve literacy at grade level by implementing a variety of teaching methods. One of the methods Marietta faculty observed was conscious discipline.

“It’s a whole philosophy about classroom management and discipline with students,” O’Rourke says. “It has to begin with the teacher. Nowadays, kids come to school with trauma — trauma from home life and what they see outside of school. You have to deal with those things. This approach is to try to get the child to learn how to self-regulate. Social emotional learning and self-regulating is a classroom approach that takes three years to get fully implemented. You have to add these techniques piece by piece.”

O’Rourke says the College is a tremendous resource for current teachers.

“Twenty or 30 years ago, we didn’t have the number of kids we have now who live in single-parent homes or who live with grandparents or guardians,” O’Rourke says. “We didn’t have the number of kids we have now who have parents who are hooked on drugs. A lot of families have parents working two and three jobs just to keep a roof over their head. The whole family dynamic has changed, which causes kids to come to school with a whole different set of problems.”

Mowrer is proud that the College connection to local educators — many of whom are graduates — remains trusted and strong.

“When we review all that we are able to accomplish with very little grant funding, it is impressive,” Mowrer says. “But there’s always such a powerful feeling to want to do more. We want our teachers to be successful and to see their students thrive. We will keep working toward that goal.”

- Gi Smith