Focused phonics lessons in Berkeley County

Ashley Battaglini showing her phonics folder.
Battaglini showing her phonics folder.

Ashley Battaglini was awarded an NEA Foundation’s Student Success Grant and was the only NEA grant winner in West Virginia this year. Battaglini is an academic coach at Hedgesville Elementary School in Hedgesville, WV. She works with kindergarten, first, and second-grade teachers as well as their students daily. Battaglini won a grant of $2,021 for her Focused Phonics Lessons for the creation of a “phonics toolkit” for the 600 students at Hedgesville Elementary School, which includes a folder, marker, and eraser in connection with the county’s adoption of the University of Florida Literacy Institute (UFLI).

Battaglini said that as an academic coach, her job is to serve and anticipate the teachers’ needs. When she learned that Berkeley County Schools was adopting UFLI for the 2023–2024 school year, she started researching the best way to use this new curriculum efficiently. After finding an idea on an UFLI Facebook group that she liked, she began researching grants that may be available that would fund the necessary materials to implement this program at the start of the new year and applied for the NEA grant.

(Left) Rebecca Brock teaches a lesson using the phonics toolkit. (Right) A kindergartener starts decoding a word.

Battaglini and a group of volunteers created over 600 folders, one for each student, by cutting, laminating, and velcroing each letter block for the folders. The teacher can quickly handout the folder, marker, and eraser at the beginning of a phonics block. More specifically, this grant provided the materials to enable students to master weekly spelling tests, conduct cold reads of decodable texts, and take Quick Phonics Screeners. Battaglini instructed teachers how to implement the program as well as co-teaching lessons with the teachers at Hedgesville Elementary.

Battaglini is in her 10th year working in public schools. She began as a kindergarten teacher in Virginia, then moved to teach second grade at Berkeley Heights Elementary School before becoming an academic coach in the fall of 2021 at Hedgesville Elementary School. “As an academic coach, I am able to bridge the gap between upcoming curriculum changes and classroom implementation,” Battaglini says of her position. She added that academic coaches are very needed in schools now. A coach can take the time to fully learn new curricula, then train teachers based on what their students need. Battaglini says being an academic coach is “amazing” and hopes that the county continues to use academic coaches going forward.

The NEA Foundation offers competitive Learning & Leadership and Student Achievement grants of up to $5,000 for a range of professional development, activities/projects to WVEA members. Application deadlines vary by program. Visit neafoundation.org to learn more.