Khieavanh Khanouthai had been teaching first grade at Nongdern Complete Primary School in Laos for 22 years. Yet students were leaving her class unable to read.
“No matter how much I tried, at the end of the semester my students could barely read and I had no idea why,” Khieavanh said. When teacher trainees arrived from the nearby college to observe her class she was both frustrated and saddened. Her students couldn’t read the lessons the trainees brought with them. “People questioned my ability to teach,” said Khieavanh.
Last year, Room to Read launched its Literacy Program at her school, which included training the teachers in its literacy instruction methods. Khieavanh was concerned about her ability to follow Room to Read’s new instruction method and, said the principal at her school, she considered retiring early and letting a younger teacher take her place. “I assured Khieavanh that we needed her valuable experience,” said the principal. “First grade is a critical time in a child’s education.”
Mr. Khonexay, the Room to Read literacy coach who led the training at Khieavanh’s school, offered her extra support. “I suggested she post the new instructional steps on the classroom wall for easy reference and repeat inspirational phases to remind her of her love of teaching,” said Mr. Khonexay, who also gave Khieavanh feedback after each training.
Students reading in the school library in Laos.
When the training was over, Mr. Khonexay noticed a significant improvement in Khieavanh’s teaching. “She told me it was the first time she felt truly happy with her teaching,” he said. After just one semester, she no longer needed to look at the instructions she posted on the wall.
“Children catch up fast. Now my students can sense how to blend new consonants with simple vowels, even before they open their textbooks!”Khieavanh KhanouthaiFirst Grade Teacher
As part of the comprehensive program, Room to Read gave Khieavanh‘s school quality reading and instruction materials, which helped lead to significant improvement in her students. “Children catch up fast. Now my students can sense how to blend new consonants with simple vowels, even before they open their textbooks!” said Khieavanh.
“When we do review lessons, they eagerly remember which letter goes with which lesson and even the page number!” What’s more, for the first time Khieavanh doesn’t mind when the teacher trainees come to her classroom. Beaming with pride, she said, “Now they never stop complimenting my students and asking me how I can
teach them so well.”
This story is part of our 2015 Global Monitoring Report. Check out the full online report here.