1998 Teacher of the Year Award: Pam Barret

The National Right to Read Foundation is pleased to announce that the 1998 recipient of its Patrick Groff Teacher of the Year Award is Pam Barret, first grade teacher at Tovashal Elementary School in Murrieta, California.

An enthusiastic nominating letter offered this information:
“She has absolutely no non-readers in her class when they exit. She is energetic and passionate about her subjects and her students. She has also braved the Whole Language philosophy that permeates her district and worked with them (as they would let her) to encourage a sound language arts adoption.

“Pam uses Open Court (Collections for Young Scholars), Phonics Pathways, and The Phonics Game to help her children learn to read—and they have. Through Pam’s efforts her district adopted Open Court, an explicit, systematic phonics program…. She is dynamic and passionate and loves to give her students an open door to real ‘life-long’ learning.”

On March 17, 1999 she and her first grade class held their “Third Annual Tribute to Virtue” at the Tovashal Cocoa House. Her first graders read selections from The Book of Virtues, edited by William J. Bennett and “enjoyed hot chocolate and baked treats in an environment of invigorating literature and an atmosphere of live, classical music.”

An awards ceremony for Pam was held at Tovashal Elementary School in Murrieta, California. Staff Writer, Patti Magee, from a local Murrieta Newspaper wrote the following report.

MURRIETA—Tovashal first-grade teacher Pam Barret kept it quiet that she had won an award from the Right to Read Foundation naming her its 1998 national teacher of the year for her use of phonics in the classroom.

However, the news leaked out and on Wednesday colleagues, family, friends and a host of state political representatives surprised and stunned her with an award ceremony that followed her annual Thanksgiving reading and song program by her students.

She sat wide-eyed and open-mouthed as it dawned on her what was happening. She frequently wiped tears from her eyes and hugged a parade of presenters that ran the gamut from Patrick Groff, professor emeritus at San Diego State University and senior adviser to the National Right to Read Foundation, to former students who gave her an oversized card.

Assemblyman Steve Baldwin from La Mesa, former chairman of that body’s education committee, praised Barret’s efforts.

“She is one shining example of the phonics movement in California.” he said. “You can’t learn anything else until you have a foundation for reading.”

Speakers shared stories about Barret and her dedication to the school and the community.

Leslie Rasmussen, who was one of Barret’s first students in 1977, called her an inspiration and remembered her as a teacher who always encouraged her students to do well.

Among those attending were Nadine Heimberger from Temple Unified School District in Los Angeles County, who supervised Barret’s student-teaching stint.

“Her main focus was always how well her students read,” Heimberger said. “It was important that every student learn to read.”

Barret spoke about how Heimberger influenced her.

“She taught me how to teach children to read,” she said.

Barret was also modest about the attention she received.

This is overwhelming, but this is about the kids and the parents who are partners in their children’s education, she said. “My greatest satisfaction is knowing the boys and girls leave my classroom knowing how to read.”

Congratulations to you, Pam, and also to all the too numerous to mention other reading teachers who are patiently, persistently, and skillfully passing on that absolutely essential key to success—the ability to read.

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