Awards are not something new to Summit Cove Elementary School or its principal, Crystal Miller. This most recent one, however, is a first. Miller has been chosen to receive the Outstanding Administrative Leadership in Reading Award, given by the Colorado Council International Reading Association (CCIRA). It marks the first time that someone from Summit County has won the award.
The staff at Summit Cove nominated Miller for the award in recognition of her dedication to promoting literacy among her students. The purpose of the annual award, according to the CCIRA website, is to recognize an administrator "who has made an outstanding contribution in the area of reading by promoting excellence in the improvement of reading instruction." The first award was given in 1984.
"I was very excited," said Miller of her nomination. She will be presented with the award at the CCIRA state conference in Denver in February. The Summit Cove Elementary library will also be granted $500 for books in recognition of Miller's work.
Literacy is a passion of Miller's, who works hard to promote it throughout her school.
"She has certainly placed a laser-sharp focus on literacy in her building, and she's given her teachers the tools that they need so that all of them are excellent reading teachers," said Summit School District superintendent Heidi Pace.
In addition to supporting teachers, Miller gets personally involved with the students' reading programs. For example, she often goes around to read books with each classroom. When new books are coming in, the students are allowed to vote on the ones they'd like to have in the library, so Miller takes the finalists and reads them to the classroom before the students vote.
"She's great," said Summit Cove media specialist Shelley Wasson, one of the group that nominated Miller for the award. "She has been going into the classrooms and reading stories to the kids. ... She's really promoting reading over here."
"I nominated Crystal because I believe she has strived to increase her understanding of children's literacy needs and has encouraged and supported her staff's understandings of literacy needs," Robin Ackermann, English language acquisition specialist at Summit Cove, stated in an email. "She has used research that shows that children need a variety of books to get hooked on reading and has consistently written grants and sought out means of getting books in the hands of children."
Another personal touch is Miller's dedication to individual students. In particular, she's been spending time with a group of second-grade students going through the level literacy intervention program. When Miller realized the teacher wouldn't have enough time to individually manage the students, Miller stepped in and now reads with them every day. She said she's definitely seen improvement in their reading level, though she is quick to give recognition to the kids, program and teachers.
"We've put a lot of work into the literacy level intervention," Miller said. "The kids are great, they do a good job. (The teachers) help me a ton."
Kristen Abbott's perspective, as both a teacher and a parent, was an important part of the nomination process. Abbott, who teaches kindergarten at Summit Cove, said that Miller pushes the importance of literacy while offering plenty of support.
"She always comes into our classrooms at the beginning of the year and lets the 5-year-olds know 'You'll be reading by Christmas - that's what Mrs. Abbott's job is,'" Abbott said. "Crystal is really involved with training the teachers, keeping the teachers up to date on the current research for best practices for literacy instruction. She makes sure that we have necessary materials and enough books in the classroom. She's been actively writing grants to make sure we have books in the classroom."
Abbott's daughter is also one of the students in Miller's second-grade reading group. She has special needs due to her cerebral palsy, but Abbott said she has seen improvement in her daughter's reading ability, which she attributes to Miller's work.
"My daughter loves reading, so I'm lucky that way," Abbott said. "They are getting double doses of reading every day."
Though it's a lot of work, Miller feels that it's completely worth it to pay so much attention to students' literacy levels.
"We really have to make that a huge priority, that everybody has to read," Miller said. "If you can read you can do a lot of other stuff. ... We need to do a good job just to teach kids to get what they can out of it. It's a great skill."
Miller and Wasson are looking forward to the additions that the $500 will bring to their library. They haven't formed a plan yet, but there will definitely be more books around.
"We never have a shortage," said Miller.
Pace and the rest of the district are pleased to see Miller receiving recognition for her efforts.
"It's a wonderful way to honor the hard work that she's been doing," Pace said. "She's well-deserving of this award."