RACINE, Wis. — Jodi Zarling has welcomed students into her classroom for 11 years. 

What You Need To Know

  • Jodi Zarling has been a teacher for 11 years

  • She teaches second grade at Jerstead-Agerholm in Racine Unified School District

  • She has seen a gap in literacy skills because of COVID-19 disruptions

  • RUSD teamed up with Cardinal Stritch University for teachers to get an advanced certificate to better address the issue

For the last six, she’s been a second grade teacher at Jerstead-Agerholm School in Racine. 

This month, she’s focused on teaching high frequency words —  words that are used often in speaking, reading, and writing. 

Over the last two years of the pandemic, she said students have struggled with literacy skills. 

“Coming into this school year, it was almost like we started over," Zarling said. "We started fresh. A lot of these kids were still at that kindergarten level where they left off when COVID hit two years ago.”

It’s a problem for students across Racine, the state of Wisconsin, and the country. Teachers like Zarling want to fix it. 

“Just wanting to be the best for them, wanting to make sure that I have every tool in my pocket that I can bring out to help these students get to where they need to be, I guess, as quick as they can so they don’t continue to fall behind as the years go," Zarling said. 

Racine Unified School District does, too. They teamed up with Cardinal Stritch University to allow teachers to further their own educations.

“They are engaged in a year’s worth of study, in-depth study, of what it takes to really understand literacy and understand what it means to teach students how to read and write and to access grade level texts, which is exactly what they deserve," said Rhonda Schoonover, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at Cardinal Stritch University.

The graduate level program is offered online, which is important to Zarling.

“I am a mom of two boys, and then being a full time teacher, there’s really minimal time throughout the day that I can devote to school," Zarling said. "But, having this Cardinal Stritch be online is a life saver.”

Schoonover said seeing 80 teachers sign up for the program shows how much they care for their kids. 

“As a teacher, you’re on a lifelong journey to continue learning how to support kids, and I think that’s evident by what’s happening here in racine," Schoonover said.