2003 Teacher of the Year Award: Claudia Oyster

The National Right to Read Foundation is pleased to announce that Claudia Oyster is the 2003 recipient of its Patrick Groff Teacher of the Year Award. Claudia teaches kindergarten at Riverview Elementary School in Snohomish, Washington.

Claudia has taught kindergarten for 16 of the 26 years of her teaching career. She taught in private schools for the first 14 years, holds a Masters degree in Special Education, and has taught K, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7th grades.

Claudia has effectively used Beginning to Read, Write, and Listen and Open Court in her All-Day Kindergarten classroom. She believes that an explicit, systematic phonics approach is essential to teaching reading. As Claudia says:

It is rare that a child cannot learn to read-I even had a Downs Syndrome child learn to read! I always teach to the highest, NOT the lowest, common denominator and use appropriate enrichment to suit the individual students’ needs.
Once, when fighting to keep her program alive, she was asked in a public forum, “Why is this program important?” Claudia responded fervently, “Because at the end of the year, my children can read!”

Perhaps the best way to show Claudia’s qualifications for this award would be to share excerpts from letters from the very enthusiastic parents of some of her former students.

Our sons, now in fourth and first grades, both had the privilege of spending their kindergarten year with Claudia. Each child receives a series of “letter books” that contain many hands-on activities for learning letter sounds. Claudia incorporates reading into everything she does with her students. One of the reasons I think Claudia is so successful in teaching reading is that she assumes that all her students will be reading by the time they exit kindergarten. Our youngest son, who had no desire to even learn the alphabet before he entered kindergarten, emerged from Claudia’s class with the ability to read short sentences. The phonics-based curriculum that Claudia uses has been so critical in teaching him how to sound out words. Our children emerged from Claudia’s class with a love for learning and a self-confidence that have carried them through many down times since then. We attribute a great deal of that love for learning to Claudia’s careful and loving guidance. She is awesome!
Laura and Bob Christianson

I have been fortunate to have Claudia as a kindergarten teacher for my four children. It has been an incredible way to begin each of my children’s school careers. Claudia’s method of teaching and reinforcement has led to the reading success of my children as well as many others. I can’t think of a more deserving teacher than Claudia.
Jody Berntson

My husband and I were faced with a dilemma last year when our youngest entered into kindergarten. Matthew, a very bright and loving individual, was having a hard time absorbing the information he was being taught. Unfortunately we started to see his self esteem decrease as he lost his enthusiasm for school and was falling further behind. By the middle of December, with the guidance of the Principal and Claudia, Matthew was relocated into Claudia’s All-Day Kindergarten program. Within days, Matthew was reciting the letter of the week and was excited to do it over and over again. He couldn’t wait to go back to school the next day and the day after that and the day after that. This continued until he graduated from kindergarten. We then realized that a miracle had occurred…we had Claudia Oyster as our son’s kindergarten teacher. By the middle of January, Matthew was completely caught up with the rest of his classmates. He knew all of the same letters and their sounds. Shortly after that he was reading… Reading words… Short sentences… And taking pride in his accomplishments. It was amazing! There were several times that it brought me to tears. In closing, we will be forever grateful to Claudia for giving Matthew the foundation he needed to be successful.
Kurt and Laura Lanter

My husband and I chose Riverview Elementary for our daughters simply through word of mouth about what a wonderful program the All-Day Kindergarten was and what a fantastic teacher Claudia was. I worked in her class once a week while both my girls were in kindergarten, and seeing someone truly love their job as she does, and how wonderful she is with all her children was so much fun. She has got to be one of the greatest teachers I have ever known. I have witnessed older students continually going back to visit and just say, “Thank you for being such a great teacher.”
Ginger Dreves

We feel that both of our children benefited tremendously from Mrs. Oyster’s instruction and influence. Both of our children are doing well in school and find school a rewarding experience. We firmly believe that much of their success can be credited to Mrs. Oyster and the terrific foundation she gave each of her children in all areas, but especially in reading. We are delighted that her talents have been recognized.
Terry and Judy Danner

If anyone should get an award for teaching kids how to read, it should be Mrs. Oyster!” So said my now 5th grader who remembers Mrs. Oyster’s class of four years ago very fondly. Among the few things that I have kept from those first school days are the alphabet and phonics books that Claudia used in teaching the children to read. Each letter was an adventure to Joshua, and Claudia was a master at weaving mystery and fun into each step of the reading process. Reading held the key to all Mrs. Oyster held dear, and so Joshua strove to share it with her. His love of reading continues to this day. He reads an average of a book (or two) a week and prides himself that he has been tested to have the reading ability of a senior in high school. I remember Joshua’s first grade teacher commenting that it was quickly apparent who in her class had had the benefit of Mrs. Oyster’s tutelage. It thrills me to know that Claudia has been accepted for this honor.
Linda Savage

I currently have a daughter in her class, and her older brother was in Claudia’s all day program five years ago. I can’t say enough about Claudia and the outstanding effort she puts forth every day with EACH child enrolled in her program. She has the ability and experience to tap into each kindergartener’s mind and soul and bring out the best in them. Not one child in Claudia’s care “slips through the cracks”. With her experience over the years, she has learned what works and what doesn’t. Her program is outstanding.
Amy, David, and Allie Klimke

We are delighted to recognize Claudia as an outstanding example of the many reading teachers across America who understand what is absolutely essential to teaching students to read. Claudia’s love for her students and her skill in teaching reading based upon the findings of scientific research have made a priceless contribution to the lives of the children she has taught over the years. It is our hope that many other teachers will seek to receive this kind of training in teaching reading and thus be able to open the door to success for students far and wide.

Claudia, we are honored to know of your accomplishments and the many lives you have enriched, and we offer our sincere congratulations. May God bless you as you continue to persevere in teaching children to read thus passing on this priceless gift to all those entrusted to your care.

Be Sociable, Share!