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State officials take a look at Fairmont's reading programs

Nathan Baker • Nov 6, 2017 at 11:33 PM

The state’s top education official and the first lady visited Johnson City classrooms Monday to learn how students were learning to read.

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen and first lady Crissy Haslam said they were impressed by the teachers, administration and students at Fairmont Elementary School.

“We definitely wanted to come to Fairmont, particularly you have a principal here, Carol McGill, that is one of our regional principals of the year, and know the extraordinary work that she’s doing at every single grade level, but also they love books and they love learning and they love what they’re doing in the reading space,” McQueen said.

The commissioner said it was evident from the children she spoke with as they worked through their daily lessons that McGill’s emphasis on hiring and placing outstanding teachers at earlier grade levels was paying off.

Fairmont was named a Reward School last month by the Department of Education for students’ academic achievement on standardized tests.

Since 2011 when her husband took office, one of Halsam’s priorities has been promoting reading proficiency for the state’s children.

She said she was especially impressed by one student’s work for a lesson on bats. The student spelled both “echolocation” and “nocturnal” correctly.

“It’s obvious they’re doing great jobs on a lot of programs here,” Haslam said.

Johnson City Schools Superintendent Steve Barnett, who before July was principal of the district’s other Reward School, Towne Acres Elementary, said the aim of the system’s total literacy program was to teach children how to read and write and to be excited by it.

“When they’re writing, we encourage them to come up with their own original sentences,” he said. “Sometimes they come up with some pretty original spelling, but they’re supposed to think about the sounds of the letters and come up with the best way to spell the words, then we’ll go back later and correct the spelling.”

Barnett commended McGill and her staff for catching the state’s attention and accolades.

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