SIM StoryCorps - March 2023: Expanding Your Horizons with SIM

Pam Leitzell and Gloria Sherman
Listen to the audio file - Mar 2023 SIM StoryCorps Leitzell Sherman.m4a
Read the Transcript Below

Jocelyn Washburn: Intro 

SIM StoryCorps is a candid conversation between two educators about what's really important in the field of education, students, connections, hope, success. How did SIM contribute to attaining what matters most? Listen to these stories of the educators’ heart to find out. Then we invite you to find a partner. And tell your story. 

In this SIM StoryCorps, we'll hear Pam Leitzell and Gloria Sherman talk about how SIM impacted their teaching and expanded their horizons. 


00:00:01 Pam Leitzell 

Hi, my name is Pam Leitzell and I have been a SIM professional developer for over 20 years and although that's a pretty long time, I've been an educator for a lot longer.  I began teaching in January 1976, so that makes me well, I won't say old, I'll just say seasoned. And I actually didn't learn about SIM until 20 years into my career, so, I guess that makes me a late bloomer as well, at least where SIM is concerned.  

Joining me today is a fellow late bloomer to SIM, Gloria Sherman. 

Hi Gloria. 


00:00:37 Gloria Sherman 

Hi, Pam. Hi everyone. 


00:00:41 Pam Leitzell 

Well, Gloria, I remember the first time I met you. I had been asked to work on a project in South Carolina with a group of teachers, and in that group, I found a kindred spirit. You were someone who had been teaching for more than a little while, yet you still had that deep desire to keep learning and to make a difference for kids. 

Today we get to share our stories about the impact SIM has had on us. 

Gloria, tell me about your first experience with SIM. 


00:01:09 Gloria Sherman 

Sure, Pam. I first learned about SIM during my 32nd year of teaching. I should say this was after working 30 years in North Carolina as a teacher and administrator. I had retired but still had a passion for teaching and decided to take what was going to be a short-term interim position in South Carolina, teaching 6th grade ESL. At the end of that year, I was given the opportunity to return to the school and work full time as an Xtreme Reading teacher, that's when I met you, Pam. I had never heard about Xtreme Reading or seen it, but after only a few weeks working with the program, I knew the kids were really learning and the program was working.  

One particular student comes to mind who had struggled with discipline issues and low self-esteem. Xtreme Reading gave me the strategies to provide hope to him and we worked through the challenges together that he faced. After a short time, I began to notice changes in his discipline as well as his self-esteem. He eventually became one of my most successful students and also a confident reader. Overall, my students’ discipline referrals decreased. They became more excited about learning, and they began to believe they could be successful in school. I was hooked. 

So, Pam, what was your first experience like? 


00:02:41 Pam Leitzell 

Well in the mid 90s, I was teaching an academic resource class and it's a class where I helped students review critical information from their core classes and complete their written assignments and study for their tests. And I heard about a workshop called the SIM Test -Taking Strategy

So, on a Saturday, believe it or not, I went to the workshop to see what it was all about during that session, light bulbs started going off in my head right away. You know the strategy was so clear and it explained step by step, what kids should be doing and thinking when taking a test. But it also gave specific information about how to think.  I think learning about the stages of instruction was the most meaningful part for me, especially the modeling stage. You know, up until then, I think I was very good at explaining things and telling kids what to do, but I hadn't really given a lot of thought about showing them what that would look like and how to think. And that stage definitely made me a better teacher. 

Well, anyway, after learning the strategy, my kids started doing a lot better on tests. It was so much better that other teachers started asking why my kids were scoring higher on their tests and writing PIRATES on their test papers. If you know the strategy, you know how important that word PIRATES is. Other teachers became so interested in the strategy that I was asked to teach it to them and eventually that strategy was taught to all the kids in our middle school. It made a huge difference for our kids; the test data told the story. 

So, like you, Gloria, I became hooked on SIM and never looked back. So, years into my career, SIM became the reason I ventured into new responsibilities and experiences like working with and coaching other teachers. 

Gloria, how did SIM push you outside the classroom doors to try new things and take on new responsibilities? 


00:04:41 Gloria Sherman 

Xtreme Reading provided me the opportunity to become part of what became known as our Schools Xtreme Dream Team. This team consisted of eight Xtreme Reading teachers in our school. It gave me the opportunity to work with the other teachers on the team and collaborate on ways to enhance their instruction by sharing responsibilities and planning together. It also helped us keep a record of the students’ progress and collect data to verify that the program was indeed working.  

The team took the lead on other literacy issues in the building and helped drive decisions about literacy across all the content areas. I ended up serving as the liaison to the administration in regards to reading interventions, and I helped to build a reading continuum of support in the school. That meant that any child in our school who struggled with reading, whether they were in special education or general education, could get appropriate supports and interventions. I also worked with the feeder schools to collect and analyze reading data regarding incoming 6th graders so we could assign supports right away to any student needing it. 

What other opportunities came your way because of SIM? 


00:06:01 Pam Leitzell 

Well, there were lots. After a few years, our district had incorporated SIM and special education classes across all four of its secondary schools, and that resulted in a drastic increase in our state test scores for our special education students. The district eventually decided to embark on a district wide content literacy continuum project involving all of our secondary teachers. So, as the secondary special education coordinator, I co-chaired the committee that organized that in 2010, and our district received the SIM Impact award for its work. That led to so many positive results for our kids across the district and that was a true high. 

After completing my 30th year as an educator, I decided to retire, but not really, and started working for the Center as a professional developer on other projects.  I traveled to a lot of places, lost a lot of luggage, and I got to meet dedicated teachers from all across the country. 

Gloria, did SIM eventually lead you to venture out to new places to meet new people? 


00:07:11 Gloria Sherman 

Most definitely Pam. Xtreme Reading is a major reason I stayed in the classroom for eight more years. 

Eventually I became a SIM professional developer and started connecting with others in the SIM network. I am now coaching other Xtreme Reading teachers and providing SIM workshops. I am currently serving on the North Carolina State Adolescent Literacy project with you. I still learn new things all the time through the vast amount of SIM resources and in the network. I've met the most remarkable and knowledgeable people, especially here in my home state of North Carolina. Who are passionate about kids, and I share that passion with them as well. 


00:08:00 Pam Leitzell 

Well, I know you do, Gloria. 

So here we are. We're both still plugging away. I guess you could say we're 2 old timers and late bloomers who have gotten to experience new things and expand our own horizons because of SIM. 


00:08:17 Gloria Sherman 

I feel the same way and my advice to newcomers would be take advantage of any SIM opportunities that come your way because doors will open that you didn't even know existed. 


00:08:30 Pam Leitzell 

That's right. And my words of encouragement to new SIM professional developers are words. I think we'll borrow from a world-famous author, Doctor Seuss. 

“Congratulations. Today is your day. You're off to great places. You're off and away.” 

Well, I know SIM took me to great places and even more importantly, I found lots of SIM kindred spirits along the way. 

Well, we hope our story struck some chords for you today. 

Thanks for chatting with me today and for being such a great SIM kindred spirit to me. 


00:09:06 Gloria Sherman 

It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with you, Pam. I'm looking forward to what the future holds for both of us. 


00:09:14 Pam Leitzell 

Well, you got that right. Me too. Hey, take care, my friend. 

This is Pam and Gloria signing out.