Building Literacy Bridges: A Professional Development School Success Story

Supporting the whole child


Monroe Township Public Schools’ Holly Glen Elementary School in Williamstown, N.J., is committed to providing all children with a positive, challenging, and creative learning experience, which empowers them to become responsible and productive citizens. Working together, students, staff, parents, and community partners are dedicated to the development of the whole child. Holly Glen is a member of ASCD’s Whole Child Network of Schools and is in its third year of a comprehensive school improvement process using the tenets of the Whole Child Initiative—healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged—and their indicators (PDF) as a sustainable whole child supporting the whole childapproach to educating their students. Schools participating in the network have seen

  • Growth in building leadership, distributive leadership, and school teams;
  • Connections and alignment to a whole child approach among school initiatives;
  • Increased classroom engagement with use of developmentally appropriate practices;
  • Increased healthy practices by both students and staff; and
  • Enhanced community involvement that includes in-kind services.

Holly Glen’s school motto is “Building a Bridge to the Future” and one of the ways they build the bridge is through an innovative professional development school (PDS) partnership with the Rowan University College of Education. It prepares future educators, provides current educators with ongoing professional development, encourages joint school–university faculty investigation of education-related issues, and promotes the learning of students. The PDS provides professional preparation of teacher candidates, faculty development, and inquiry directed at the improvement of practice and enhanced student learning. Practicum and student teachers are placed in Holly Glen classrooms to extend the learning for students, exposing the Rowan clinical teachers to the best teaching practices. The program offers a year-long clinical experience model (internship), expanding the typical 16-week experience:

  • An undergraduate course, Differentiated Literacy Instruction and Practicum in Literacy, taught onsite that allows interns to first learn literacy concepts and strategies in the course, then immediately enter a Holly Glen classroom to observe and implement the learned ideas in the elementary classroom setting.
  • Interns are matched with inservice teacher mentors and tutor students struggling with literacy skill development.
  • Final clinical experience at Holly Glen.

“Our educational partnership with Rowan University allows Holly Glen teachers, Rowan professors, and college students to work together to form a progressive, interactive, educational forum. Educational ‘best practices’ are observed and implemented,” states Holly Glen principal Thomas R. Myers. “When the future teachers are in the classroom, they have the opportunity to turn theory into practice. Our PDS guides all stakeholders to become better educators.”

Through the program, 3rd grade students learn comprehension strategies through the use of literature, 2nd grade students learn writing strategies through the use of literature; and mini-lessons are presented to each grade level using picture books as mentoring text to support comprehension strategies. Members involved in the partnership have presented at state, national, and international conferences and the Holly Glen PDS was recognized for exemplary achievement (PDF) with the National Association for Professional Development Schools Award in 2013.

Learn more about the partnership between Holly Glen Elementary School and Rowan University by hearing from students, teachers, administrators, and parents about what a PDS means to them in the presentation below.