November 3, 2022

A Letter from Guest Writer Ashley Howard, Learning and Literacy Specialist

Dear Harbor Families,

I was up next, it was finally my turn.  This was the time that I was going to pass! I heard my number called. “This is it," I thought to myself. I reassured myself as I nervously approached my seat. I sat down, took a deep breath and clicked begin. Unlike the last time, each question was easy. Before I knew it, time had flown by and the exam was finished. I got up from my seat and walked over to my dad. With great enthusiasm, I announced “I passed!”  

As I reflect on my role as the Learning and Literacy Specialist at The Harbor School, I would be remiss to omit my journey as a learner. First and foremost, it is with great empathy that I approach my instruction. I understand how it feels to want to be successful. I understand how it feels to see others achieve and the longing to simply understand. My driver’s permit story is just one of many on my path as both an educator and a lifelong learner. I earned my driver’s permit after several attempts. In previous attempts, I had studied by reading the learner’s permit manual and trying to memorize the content. Many of my friends passed after one attempt at the test. I couldn’t understand why I was not successful. It took trial and error to realize that I needed to study differently. I needed a new technique.

Therefore, on my last attempt, I decided to use index cards. I would write down definitions, and then read the cards to myself aloud. At the age of fifteen, I wasn’t yet aware that I am a visual and kinesthetic learner. The process of writing and reading, over and over, supports my processing. This realization laid the foundation to my success as a student. From studying for my learner’s permit to drafting my final presentation for my research methods class in graduate school for my Master’s in Special Education, applying strategies that support my learning paved the way for my effectiveness as both a student and an educator. 

As the Learning and Literacy Specialist, it is my honor to take on the task of understanding how each individual student learns, and supporting teachers and parents in the process of providing the “just right” instructional approach. In graduate school, a professor once told us that learning support “levels the playing field”. In other words, learning support provides equity in the classroom. Support and success in academics go hand-in-hand. 

There are a wide range of learning support tools and strategies that unlock the potential of each student and give way to achievement. For example, in math, the presence of number lines or 100 charts on a desk supports visual processing as a student counts and computes. In reading, using letter tiles to segment each sound in a word can enable a student’s success with learning to read. Providing students with sentence starters and graphic organizers can support processing with writing. Flexible seating also makes an impact on learning as it can support attention, focus, processing, and sensory needs in the classroom. These are just a few examples of how supports and strategies meet the unique needs of each individual learner.

In the past few months, I have really enjoyed getting to know the community at Harbor. It has been great to get to know our wonderful students here! I am very excited to continue to implement support, discover new tools and strategies with the teachers, work directly with the students - and to collaborate with you - this school year. Being on this journey with each individual student is a joy to experience. It is phenomenal to see a student make progress over the course of a school year and to see their eyes light up when they realize they are making progress.

I am thrilled to be a part of the journey! 


Ashley Howard 
Learning and Literacy Specialist
The Harbor School

Harbor School