Valen Warner | Reading Specialist, Cohort 1

1. How has the Reading Specialist Certification program impacted your practice?

The reading specialist certification program equipped me with a robust understanding of foundational literacy skills and overall literacy development. As a result of the knowledge that I gained from the program, I am now able to identify students’ literacy needs and provide them with the support and advocacy that they need to progress toward proficiency in reading and writing.

2. What do you find most valuable about your experience in the Reading Specialist program?

Because of my participation in the Reading Specialist program, I now have a framework for understanding literacy development. This framework has helped me identify gaps students have in their journey toward proficiency and it has allowed me to address those gaps with individualized support and intervention tailored to specific needs. Further, my tier 1 instruction has improved as I have grown in my knowledge of how to support all students’ reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and knowledge of grammar and syntax.

3. Can you share an anecdote of how your Reading Specialist experience has impacted student outcomes?

This past school year I worked very closely with a ninth-grade student of mine who needed additional support during tier 1 English instruction. This student had excellent language comprehension but struggled to decode words and spell at the ninth-grade level. As a result of my Reading Specialist training, I was able to recognize that this student displayed characteristics of dyslexia. This student had struggled for years with problems that could have been addressed sooner had someone had the knowledge and training to provide her with individualized instruction in foundational literacy skills. Throughout our time together I was able to provide her with additional support during tier 1 instruction and to advocate for her to be evaluated for a specific learning disability in reading. This advocacy was extremely important for the student because it meant that she finally received official documentation for accommodations and modifications for her learning needs. This documentation will follow her into her college journey as she takes the ACT and when she needs additional time for exams in college. Student outcomes are changed when teachers are equipped with the highest quality professional development and training, and that’s what the reading specialist program provided me with.

4. What would you say to someone considering the Reading Specialist program? 

This program is worth the investment of your time, energy, and money. If you participate in this program you will grow as a practitioner and you can feel confident knowing that you are being equipped with evidence-based practices that will substantially impact your students’ academic and socio-emotional well-being and literacy outcomes for life. What could be worth more than that?


Valen came to Memphis in 2017 to learn how to be a teacher with MTR’s Residency program. After several years of effectively teaching at Sherwood Middle School and East High School, she joined us again in 2021 to get her Reading Specialist Certification. Valen has since been awarded the New Memphis 2022 Educator of Excellence! Check out her podcast episode here.

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