Vernon Williams has long enjoyed his career as an elementary school teacher – first at Busbee-Corbett Elementary-Middle School and, until this spring, East Aiken School of the Arts.

Now he’s heading to Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary School – this time in a new reading coach position.

“I’ve always enjoyed teaching in the classroom,” Williams said. “It had to be something where I would get pulled by the heartstrings.”

And that’s what happened.

The reading coach concept is a component of the S.C. General Assembly’s “Read to Success” legislation, approved in June. The General Assembly is paying partially for a coach at every elementary school in the state.

The District has had a focus on reading since Superintendent Dr. Beth Everitt took her current position in 2008, said the Federal Funds Director Jeanie Glover.

The new reading coaches attended a workshop at the District office last week – led by Ashley Young, previously an instructional coach at Clearwater Elementary School. Young will now coordinate aspects of the Read to Success program.

Instructional coaches have collaborated with classroom teachers in all content areas. Young said she’s excited about a new opportunity to work with coaches specifically on reading.

“Our reading coaches will analyze data and help teachers with forming instruction,” Young said. “They will also model lessons.”

During a presentation, she described how reading/literacy coaches can serve as stable resources for professorial development with the goal of improving reading instruction and student reading achievement.

The Read to Success law as a whole is introducing a new level of expectations. By the 2017-18 school year, third-graders must demonstrate proficient reading ability or they will be retained in that grade. Second-graders at risk of being retained will have the chance to attend summer school.

Through guided instruction and professional development, “We hope to have reduced third-grade deficiencies by 2017-18,” Glover said. “We’ll take part in child development programs from the state, giving us an extra level of support.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.