Bartell works closely with teachers, students at BMS

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By Jesef Williams

Some students achieve more success in the classroom when hands-on activities are built into daily lessons, while others may find it easier to work in small groups.

Finding what strategies work best for students and communicating those techniques to teachers is just part of what Wendy Bartell does.

The Buford Middle School literacy coach and instructional facilitator works daily with teachers and students. She helps teachers with their lesson plans, facilitates workshops and speaks to students about literacy.

Bartell said no two days are alike.

She was recognized for her efforts at the beginning of the school year with the 2010 Celebrate Great Teaching Award for middle school educators. The accolade is Lancaster County School District’s highest honor for educators.

“I was very honored. I didn’t know what to say,” Bartell said. “To think what I get to represent. I know the great teaching that goes on in the district.”

Bartell has had the dual title of literacy coach and instructional facilitator since she came to Buford Middle in 2006.

In that role, Bartell meets weekly with groups of teachers to plan lessons and discuss best-teaching practices.

A few weeks ago, she led a session with English teachers that touched on the need to make lessons relevant to students’ everyday life. One of the proverbs discussed that day was, “Content by itself is powerless.”

She asked those teachers to try an engagement strategy with their students, such as read-aloud sessions in their classrooms, to get students more involved.

“In order for kids to learn, learning has to be fun and it needs to be relevant,” Bartell said. “I don’t believe that kids don’t care.”

Heather O’Neil, who’s teaching English this year after working for three years as a computer lab instructor, said Bartell has been very helpful to her.

O’Neil has already incorporated a strategy that Bartell endorses called Five Brushstrokes of Writing. The technique looks to strengthen writing by placing emphasis on five grammatical devices – participles, vivid verbs, appositives, absolutes and adjectives shifted out of order.

Bartell said it allows students to better “show” what they’re writing about.

“I’m really seeing a change in their writing,” O’Neil said. “She gave me the confidence to try that in my class.”

Bartell helps develop district standards and schoolwide curriculum and meets with teachers weekly to plan lessons.

“That’s a big part of what I do,” she said.

Before coming to Buford Middle, Bartell taught for 12 years at South Middle School, where she was first an English teacher and then that school’s literacy coach.

A Heath Springs native, Bartell is a graduate of Andrew Jackson High School and the University of South Carolina, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary science.

She holds a master’s in divergent learning from Francis Marion University and has earned 30 hours beyond her master’s in language and literacy development from USC. She’s been National Board-certified for eight years in the area of adolescent English Language Arts.

Principal Sheri Wells said Bartell has a love for literacy that is evident in all she does.

“She is wonderful teaching students and wonderful teaching teachers,” Wells said. “This is no easy task. We are very fortunate to have her here at Buford Middle School.”

Contact reporter  Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152