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HMH Honors 180 Student Award Winners Who Have Persevered and Excelled


Last week in this space, HMH honored six teachers with 180 Educator Awards for their dedication to helping struggling students excel. Today we begin recognizing 15 students who were nominated by their teachers for making tremendous gains in reading and math with the support of the READ 180, MATH 180, and System 44, intervention programs that use adaptive technology to personalize student instruction.

Below we are pleased to introduce nine exceptional students from the READ 180 program who have persevered in overcoming challenges, become leaders in and out of their classrooms, and made impressive growth in their reading abilities and academic courses.

Each winner will receive a cash prize, and the student's school district will receive HMH educational materials.

Wyatt Angeli, State College Area School District, Port Matilda, Pennsylvania

Grade 5, READ 180, Stage A

According to his READ 180 teacher, Mrs. Ellen Cannizzaro, “Wyatt is truly an exceptional child who has shown a determination that I rarely see in children—every single day that I have worked with him. He pushes hard each day to be a better reader.” This strong work ethic has had an impact on other students in his class, who can be heard saying, ‘I will try to be like Wyatt today.’ “He has a positive influence on all his peers and is truly the delight of all his teachers,” adds Mrs. Cannizzaro.

Wyatt graduated from System 44 into the READ 180 program and he saw his Lexile® score grow by 542 points! “Since I’ve been in READ 180, I’ve increased my vocabulary and had more practice reading, so now I can read these challenging books,” he says.

And speaking of challenge, Wyatt says, “in the future I want to work as a scientist and maybe become an archeologist, paleontologist, or geologist.”

“Wyatt’s struggle with reading has made it difficult in other subjects,” says Mrs. Cannizzaro, “But now his other teachers report that he is knocking it out of the park!”

And parents report that Wyatt has become ‘a reading machine’ at home—a habit that is sure to serve him well in his future goals!

Natalie Shyanne Snipes, Abington School District, Pennsylvania

Grade 6, READ 180, Stage A

Sixth grade student Natalie Shyanne Snipes was nominated for the 180 Student Award for “her dedication to her own learning, passion for leadership among her peers, and determination to consistently achieve better results,” says her teacher, Maria Vaccaro.

That's a long way from the student who started the READ 180 program not believing in herself, struggling to write a complete paragraph or identify a book she wanted to read. These days, she doesn’t want to miss a day of school because she thoroughly enjoys reading. In just 18 months, she gained 435 Lexile® points, to put her on grade level. “Natalie’s newfound confidence and love of reading have made her a leader in the classroom,” according to her sixth grade teacher, Mary Elizabeth Klepper. “She helps others, takes pride in her work, and is eager to continually improve.” She not only completes her homework each day—she asks for extra homework to challenge herself. Now, in talking about course selection for seventh grade, she is determined to take honors courses. And in another show of confidence, she recently sang in a talent show. “With all the troubles I had before starting READ 180,” Natalie says, “I feel accomplished. I’m more energetic in reading.” Natalie’s dream is to go to college and become a teacher herself. “I want to help students achieve as well as I have.” And according to Ms. Vaccaro, Natalie has also inspired her “to become a better educator and support students to achieve their fullest potential.”

Collage 16 9 Student Stage A1

Lessly Bazaldua, Aragon Middle School,  Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, Houston, Texas

Grade 8, READ 180, Stage B

“Lessly inspires me each and every day,” says her READ 180  teacher, Shashi Chugh. “She walks into class with a huge smile and a ready-to-learn attitude. If I had to describe Lessly in one word it would be ‘determined.’ Lessly has a mission and a goal to read at grade level and I can tell that no one is going to be able to stop her!”

Lessly’s parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico and as an ESL student, she struggled with reading. Lessly started middle school with not only a low Lexile® of 57, but extremely low self-esteem and confidence. In seventh grade, Lessly was introduced to the READ 180 program.

“It was like someone had ignited a fire, and Lessly was on a reading rocket toward remarkable success. Her hard work, determination and fidelity to the READ180 program paid off with a tremendous gain in her Lexile score, confidence and self-esteem. Since then, Lessly is unstoppable!” says Mrs. Chugh.

Lessly has passed her reading STAAR state test with flying colors, and she has become a role model and inspiration to other READ 180 students. The impact READ 180 has had on Lessly is evident in not only her improved Lexile (940), but in her success in other subjects as well.

“I can pronounce words and know what they mean now, which is really helpful in my other classes,” said Lessly.

Through READ 180, Lessly has discovered a passion for reading, has committed herself to enhancing her knowledge, and has come to enjoy school and learning.

“She has an eagerness to discuss books and continue learning about the world around her in a way that is unmatched by my other students,” says Mrs. Chugh.

Trevor German, Springfield R-12 School District, Springfield, Missouri

Grade 8, READ 180, Stage B

Although he started middle school with little confidence, Trevor was motivated by a boost in his Lexile® level and took advantage of some strategies that were working. He began asking for more difficult texts and worked hard to overcome challenges, like encountering words he didn’t know. He was so determined to graduate from System 44 into READ 180, says teacher Courtney Ellis, that he completed 49 topics in the last two months of seventh grade!

But first, Trevor had to overcome some preconceived notions and a fixed mindset about students in special education. This enabled him to accept the help that would advance him academically. “Trevor learned that success comes when you work for it in all aspects of your life,” says Ms. Ellis.

Today Trevor is a leader in and out of the classroom, supports other students who are working through READ 180 and mentoring younger students. He has even read speeches in front of the school. “Trevor has used this newfound confidence in his reading ability and joined our school’s leadership program,” says Ms. Ellis. “He volunteers at our community center and has helped with food drives. He has won the leadership award in football for two years in a row and is also a leader in basketball and track.” When Trevor talks about his future, Ms. Ellis says he uses the word ‘success’ frequently. “My goal is to go to college and study architecture to work on big buildings,” he says.

Madison Moore, Panama Buena Vista Union School District, Bakersfield, California

Grade 8, READ 180, Stage B 

Madison is a student who has shown enormous determination to succeed. Despite facing serious physical challenges stemming from a childhood illness that leaves her confined to a wheelchair, “Madison has never used her past misfortunes as an excuse to not do her work,” says her teacher Daniel Hanna. “Instead,” he continues, “Madison has applied herself to learn, read regularly, and achieve growth. More than that, Madison has set goals for becoming more mobile and independent.”  

Focusing on her classwork and reading growth, Madison has shown significant growth this school year, and astronomical growth since she entered the READ 180 program a little over a year ago, Mr. Hanna says. In that short time, she has achieved Lexile® growth of more than 854 points and currently has a 3.83 GPA! She has also grasped the concept of writing essays and has written many good essays in class this year. Mr. Hanna expects her to be on grade level in English by the time she begins high school. 

“Because of being a better reader, reading is so much more enjoyable,” Madison says. “I am more motivated to complete what I’ve begun since being in READ 180. My improvement in reading has also helped me in science and other classes.” Her teacher points out that READ 180 has also helped Madison grow outside of school. “She is more social now and reads more at home,” he says. 

“One of my goals for the future is to be a 911 dispatcher,” Madison says. “READ 180 is helping me achieve that goal with new words, vocabulary, and ideas.”

Daniel Rolon, Hamilton Township School District, Mays Landing, NJ

Grade 8, READ 180, Stage B

When Dan first started in teacher Amy Carter’s class, she says, “he raised his hand and proudly stated that he doesn’t do homework. As much as I pushed for him to do his nightly reading, he resisted just as much.” Then there was a lightbulb moment. He and Ms. Carter found a book that he enjoyed. They worked out a time for reading at home and he stuck with it. And during the third marking period, Dan read the most words of anyone in his class! 

Predictably, the increased reading time also brought success with Dan’s Lexile® level. His score increased over 300 points in sixth grade and at that time he exited the ELL program. By the start of eighth grade, Dan had come full circle. Remember his first statement to Ms. Carter about homework? That September, he was the first student to hand in a completed Summer Reading assignment. “Such a proud moment!” Ms. Carter exclaims. 

Now completing eighth grade, Dan will have a total gain of 842 Lexile® points! “Because of my confidence,” Dan says, “I had faith I could apply to a more competitive high school. I was accepted and am looking forward to having a great Freshman year. I’ll be studying automobile technology. My dream is to build and design my own car.”

Collage 16 9 Student Stage B1

Elijah Jones, Hanford Joint Union High School District, Hanford, California

Grade 9, READ 180Stage C

Elijah is a young man with an amazing sense of humor and great fashion sense,” says his teacher Brittany Larabee. “He has shown nothing but success from day one. He came in with a smile on his face, ready to learn.” But Elijah admits, “before, I thought reading was boring. READ 180 has helped change my mindset from hating reading to loving it.”

“I always tell my students it’s okay to be wrong—it’s not okay not to try,” Ms. Larabee says. “Elijah is someone who has really taken that to heart. He is always willing to volunteer his answers or ask questions when he isn’t clear. His positive attitude and willingness to participate are contagious.”  

Elijah points out proudly, “READ 180 is helping me to get caught up to my grade level. I have been using more academic vocabulary.” While his teacher says has been open about his past academic struggles, “now Elijah expects himself to do well, as do I, so he does. He enjoys reading—even books that are challenging to him.”

This confidence has affected every aspect of Elijah’s life, and is also noticed by friends and family. Ms. Larrabee says she is especially proud “watching him pick new books and hearing him him talk to other students about books and being excited about reading.” Elijah is currently on track to exit her program after this year, and she has no doubt that his newfound confidence and skills will bring him success in his ELA class next year.

John Mensik, Southland College Preparatory Charter High School, Richton Park, Illinois

Grade 12, READ 180, Stage C

“John came into my READ 180 class not wanting to be there,” says his teacher Karen Hopkins. “I made it a point to start each class with positive enthusiasm,” she continues. “Still, in the beginning, it was a struggle to get him engaged with reading and large-group discourse.”

 Then something clicked for John. He began to see that characters within the stories had challenges he could relate to. “In class he began to participate in group discussions and share his struggles with his peers,” Ms. Hopkins says. “He began volunteering to read and asking questions during lessons.” She noticed comments in his essays about how his mindset had started to change. “He evolved into the most motivated student in the READ 180 program!” she exclaims. In just two months, John’s Lexile score increased 165 points.

 “I have improved my reading and writing since I’ve been in READ 180,” says John. “I’ve also succeeded in my other classes because I understand what my teachers are teaching now. Thanks to READ 180 I’ve changed my life ‘180.’” John also is motived by his Grandmother’s words, “do not give up during struggles.”

Estania Philemond, Henry County High School, McDonough, Georgia

Grade 9, READ 180, Stage C

“On the first day of our READ 180 class,” teacher DeAnna Moses says, “Estania sat in the back of the class and looked absolutely terrified at being in high school.”

Estania explains, “I was very shy. I would never respond in class because I was afraid I of being made fun of.” Then Ms. Moses read the profile of a recent graduate of READ 180, Darlene Manfred, to the class. “It was as though a spark was ignited in this young lady,” Ms. Moses says.

It turns out that, like Estania, Darlene was a native of Haiti and was also a victim of the devastating 2010 earthquake. Both girls had come to America and left family behind. At that moment, Estania made the decision that she would emulate Darlene to, “rise above the ashes and use READ 180 as a means to carve out her future,” Ms. Moses says.  “Estania connected with Darlene in the text when she saw that a young lady whose story was very much the same as hers used READ 180 to help her learn to read and understand English,” says Ms. Moses.

When Estania moved to the U.S. in the fourth grade, she spoke no English. In setting her goals for this year, she promised herself she would finish 9th grade with a 1050 Lexile® score. But by the mid-point of the year she scored 1140—a gain of 274 points after only four months in READ 180!

Today Estania’s ELL teacher says she helps her English learner classmates who struggle with reading, using the strategies she’s learned in READ 180. She is also helping to restart a Diversity Club at school, which is helping her overcome her shyness. “My teacher Ms. Moses helped me develop a growth mindset, Estania says. “She taught me to learn from my mistakes and keep trying.” For the future, Estania has her sights set on learning a fourth language, attending college, studying psychology, and becoming an entrepreneur.

R180 Stage C

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