Podcast: Understanding Evidence-Based Literacy Practices with Dr. Jake Downs in UT on Teachers in America

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Photo: Elementary literacy coordinator Dr. Jake Downs

Welcome back to Teachers in America, where we celebrate teachers and their lasting impact on students' learning journeys and lives.

In this episode, we hear from Dr. Jake Downs, an elementary literacy coordinator for Cache County School District in Utah. Jake holds a doctorate degree from Utah State University, where he specialized in literacy education and leadership. He also launched his own educational podcast, Teaching Literacy Podcast, where he serves as host and interviews reading scholars in hopes of bridging literacy research and practice.

A full transcript of the episode appears below; it has been edited for clarity.

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Noelle Morris: Welcome to Teachers in America, a production of HMH, where we celebrate teachers and recognize their triumphs, challenges, sacrifices, and dedication to students.

I am the Senior Director of Community Engagement, Noelle Morris. Each episode, I meet a new teacher friend to learn about the latest lessons and innovations from the classroom.

Today we are joined by Jake Downs, the elementary literacy coordinator for Cache County School District in northern Utah.

Prior to his leadership role, Jake served as an instructional coach, 4th grade teacher, and paraprofessional. In 2021 he completed a doctorate degree from Utah State University where he specialized in literacy education and leadership. His dissertation reviewed 60 years of paired oral reading research and was awarded the J. Estill Alexander Future Leaders in Literacy Award.

Jake is also a fellow education podcaster and hosts the Teaching Literacy Podcast, where he interviews reading scholars to bring research to a teacher audience.

In this episode, Jake shares his literacy expertise and talks about best practices for literacy instruction, the science of reading, and data-based decision-making to help struggling readers.

Now let’s get to the episode!

Noelle Morris: Hey, Jake, welcome to Teachers in America from one teacher podcaster to another. I can't wait to have this conversation. Give our audience an introduction to who you are, what's your passion, and what you're excited to talk about today.

Dr. Jake Downs: Yeah. Hey, Noelle. Thanks for having me on the podcast. I'm really excited to chat with you for a little bit today. My name is Jake Downs, and I'm currently working as the K–6 literacy coordinator for Cache County School District. We're just at the very northern tip of Utah. You go any further, and you hit Idaho. A little bit of background of me is I started in the classroom actually as a paraprofessional doing small-group reading intervention instruction. I moved to teaching. I was a second-grade teacher for a very brief time, then taught fourth grade, and then [did] a little bit of work as an instructional coach. Now, I'm a literacy coordinator at the district level. In the background, I've been working on getting further degrees. A couple of years ago, I finished a doctorate in curriculum instruction from Utah State University.

A big part of that was I was in a literacy emphasis, and so really learning what research says about literacy, evidence-based practice and trained in how to parse apart research in thinking what does this mean for instruction, and really marrying curriculum with instruction so that students can benefit and become good readers. Alongside that, I have my own podcast, Teaching Literacy Podcast. I started it when I was a PhD student because I found such great reading research, and reading researchers are really good at talking and communicating [with] each other. Sometimes, they're not as good at communicating [with] a practitioner audience, so I publish episodes on there intermittently. I interview reading researchers about specific research they've done. We get into the weeds of it, and then we talk about what it means for instruction. That's been a really great way for me to connect with different researchers and also sharpen my own understanding.

Noelle: What a span of starting as a paraprofessional instructional assistant to where you are now. What three words would you say best describe you across your education journey?

Jake: Best three words. There are a lot of words out there, so three words are really hard to pick. The last line of the poem "Ulysses" by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and the very last line, so I'm actually not going to do three words, says, "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." That's more than three words, but that describes me very well in the sense that I've really cared a lot about really getting into the weeds and what does research say helps readers and striving and seeking and trying to find, but especially that last part of not yielding in the sense that I don't want to become stale. I don't want to get entrenched in a certain camp and just stay there forever, that I want to continue to learn and stretch and develop so I can best serve students in my capacity to do so.

Noelle: When you were focused on your PhD and what you're doing now, tell us how you approach readers' reading and going through that whole reading development from K–3.

Jake: In thinking about how readers read, and there's so much detail, very broad, 10,000-foot overview, but there are really two main pillars that we need to be thinking about when we're thinking about how readers read it. This is even when you and I are reading this, it's the same cognitive processes. The one pillar you have is decoding, which is really all about being able to get the words off the page. So that matters with phonology, the individual sounds that we use in our language, that's the orthography, which are the letters that we attach to those sounds, and then morphology, which is the meanings of those words and parts of those words, so like roots and prefixes, suffixes, base words, things like that. The goal with that, and this is very where reading foundations really come into play, is we want to be able to process print automatically or with very little cognitive effort.

We want to be able to process print effortlessly because we also have to attend to the language comprehension side of things as well. So the more efficiently we can process the words on a page that if I can be able to look at a word and process it automatically, that's freeing up cognitive bandwidth for me to be able to make meaning with those words. So the other side that really matters a lot is language comprehension. There are things in here that matter as far as really small micro-level structures of what noun is the verb referring to. When it says "they" in a paragraph, what is the group of people that "they" is being referred to all the way to a very global level? Is this text a folktale? What type of language structures do folktales use, or is this text a compare and contrast? What are the big ideas in this text and the relationship between them to even things beyond the text of, well, what's the author's purpose here?

What's the author's meaning? What inferences does the reader lay on to the text to give the readers more meaning? So that language comprehension side is what's called unconstrained in the sense that it's just very broad in a lot of different, very dynamic interactive things. Whereas, the word reading side is, it's much more technical and it's much more concrete. It's not that one is better than the other; it's really both/and that matter. So whenever we're thinking of what it means to be a reader, that we're attending to both sides of that coin. We're helping readers develop in their decoding side, so with phonology morphology and orthography, letters, sounds and meaning. But then we're also tending to the language side as well as being able to help students see how we make meaning in speech. When we overlay text onto that speech or read, how do we make meaning in complex text?

Noelle: In the last year, I've been seeing a lot of just awareness from structured literacy on ensuring that everybody sees that priority of content knowledge and development so that you're not isolating that as an after, but it is all working in that same flow from that executive function to the language comprehension and that we're not waiting for one magic moment to then be like, "Okay, now let's think about how all this means or how it transfers into application," and basically what we used to say is reading to learn.

Jake: The common terminology that most folks might be familiar with is learning to read and then transitioning from reading to learn. I do feel that there's a conversation shifting around that in the sense that it's not quite that simple; it's a bit more nuanced than that. Third grade is a major turning point, but it's not like the tipping point where that starts to really matter. It actually mattered quite far before that. Well, let me frame it this way. When I look at an incoming kindergartner in our school district, and I look if I think of their language comprehension skill and their word reading skill, their word reading skill is actually lagging much farther behind their listening comprehension skill because they've had five years of listening comprehension practice, and they just haven't had much decoding instruction yet. So my approach for what that means is I'm still going to approach listening comprehension, absolutely.

But time is a finite resource within schools, and conversations would be much different if time weren't finite. But in just trying to prioritize, it's thinking, "Okay, well, if decoding is the lagging skill broadly, then I'm going to devote time and resources to be accelerating that to get it more on par with where the listening comprehension is at, but I'm not going to neglect listening comprehension." The speech-language folks out there would definitely agree with that, that I can still support semantics; I can still support syntax. I can even support things like text structure in kindergarten and first and second grade with something like a read-aloud or other structured language type work. But it's just a matter within a school day, how do we allocate our resources so that we're supporting both of those, but in a long-term and a more strategic way.

Noelle: When you think about the decoding and what you said, prioritizing, how are some of those factors of what you need to focus on and prioritize? Are you linking to the developmental factors and bringing that into classrooms?

Jake: Well, thinking about developmental factors, for me, again, it's going back to those two pillars, but it's being able to target students where they're at in that developmental process. For example, Linnea Ehri has really worked for decades around developing her model of orthographic mapping, which is how we go from [being] non-readers to being able to process print efficiently, like I was mentioning a few minutes ago. So I have a kindergartner right now, and two years ago, we were at Home Depot, and he was able to quote, unquote, "read the word Home Depot." Well, he wasn't really reading the word Home Depot; he was recognizing the logo and connecting that to what he had in his vocabulary as Home Depot. So at the most basic level, we use symbols, and we attach that to meaning, and that's a very pre-alphabetic kind of approach.

But we have to approach to being able to going sound by sound when we read and then being able to process bigger and bigger chunks to where we're able to process words automatically. I don't think that process is curtailed that we can't just go to whole word reading, but we do have to attend time on with text that's very orthographically transparent, being able to process sound by sound. But at the same time, as students are progressing and developing, something like a decodable starts to matter less because students are able to transfer their phonic skills that they have to novel text, to new text outside of those letter patterns. So it matters instructionally that we're following that progression, but it also matters with, I think, the types of texts we're doing of when does a student start to transition from strictly decodable text or a larger dive decodable text to more grade-level text and that sort of thing.

I think the same thing on the listening comprehension side. The abstraction of thought that a third-grader can do versus a kindergartener or first-grader really matters. If I'm trying to get to really top-level, very situation model-type understandings of text-like theme, I can only do that to a certain degree with a kindergartener or a first-grader just strictly because of where their cognition is at developmentally, but I can still do comprehension work with them. So understanding how those readers develop from K–3 really should allow us to be responsive with our instruction. The word reading side of that pillar is getting a lot of conversation right now, but I think the listening comprehension side is worth quite a bit of conversation as well. So we're targeting readers where they're at and moving them to more complex texts, more complex thought, which is going to benefit them across the school day.

Noelle: What are some of your go-to literacy lessons?

Jake: This one's tricky, and I frame it more as go-to literacy thoughts or mindsets or habits of practice. The one that's jumping out to me just based on what I was just referencing is, I don't know what else to call it, but this idea of least restrictive texts. Folks that are familiar with one of the major tenets of special education is least restrictive environment, the idea that if [students are] able to succeed academically in whole-group format, then that's their least restricted environment; that's their most appropriate placement. So it goes on to smaller group and individual or different configurations of instruction. I have this notion of an idea of least restrictive text; if they have both the word reading skill and listening comprehension skill to be in a more complex text, then we should be offering them that because that's going to accelerate them; that's going to stretch them beyond where they're currently at.

I think that especially going back to that conversation and decodables of thinking strategically of when do we start to fade decodable text and move more to grade-level text and complex texts, for me, that's an idea of least restrictive text that if I can give students a broader text, I will, or even in our current era, phonemic awareness, it's a very hot topic, very talked about. The research indicates that phonemic awareness is a key part of reading, and if we teach students to have a certain degree of phonemic awareness, they're going to achieve. But there comes a point where some folks will be doing oral only phonemic awareness. So with this idea of least restrictive text, "Well, if the students have some alphabet knowledge that we're isolating the first sound of the word 'bat,' and the students have alphabet knowledge, then we can start to say, well, yeah, the first sound in 'bat' is /b/, and we also know that 'b' makes the /b/ sound."

So as soon as we can start layering orthography onto the phonemic awareness work we're doing, that's another concept of least restrictive texts where really, in a way, it's about efficiency, but it's also supporting students along an instructional progression or an instructional sequence. So that's the idea of what I think about as what I'm calling least restrictive texts. But I also think there are two other really big mindsets that matter going into literacy instruction. One is just having intentionality with the current science of reading conversation that's happening nationwide. There's a big push for districts and schools and teachers to have a strong curated curriculum, and I support that. I think a good curriculum is definitely a good thing, but at the same time, I still think it takes a wise, knowledgeable, and skilled teacher to complement that curriculum and to take the curriculum that's written and via instruction actually make it better and more responsive to students.

I think an important part of that is intentionality, and so knowing student data, knowing what their patterns of strengths are, areas that they need to grow and develop, whether they're sound-by-sound reading, whether they're whole word reading, whether they can read smoothly and accurately in whichever grade you're at, but knowing the key data metrics for your grade and being able to use a curriculum to say, "Okay." And typically, in most curricula I see, there's more designed to be taught within a block that can really realistically be taught within a block. So what that takes is skilled teachers to be able to basically triage, to say, "This is what my students need most, so I'm going to spend my best instructional time and resources on this component. Then I'm going to do this as well, but I'm going to curtail it or twist it or shrink it or adjust it just a little bit." That, I think, really matters—having specific targets and letting your students know what those targets are as well. It's really hard to learn something if you don't know what you're supposed to be learning.

It's really hard to learn that thing. So spending time at the very beginning of a lesson just to take 30 seconds to say, "Hey, students, this is what we're working on. Here's why it's a big deal, and let me give you an idea of what it looks like," it helps frame the whole process for the students so they can learn and acquire the knowledge better. Then in thinking about curriculum, too, there are different types of curriculum. There's a curriculum that's been developed in a lab and refined and honed over years and lots of different iterations. So that might be a curriculum that, as a teacher, I would be adhering a little bit more closely to because I know it's been refined for a specific population or a specific audience. But at the same time, there are other curricula that are meant to be very broad and have all of the materials you might need. So that's one where I might be more strategic in how I'm curating things so that I'm getting the most important things through the gate rather than just trying to cram everything through that gate.

Just the fact of going into a lesson and saying, "This is my goal," has a lot of clout. [I] really think that's how a teacher can go and complement a curriculum and make a curriculum better. Then my last mindset, too, is the volume of practice. There are different numbers out there of "Struggling reader needs X amount of repetitions to be able to acquire a basic level of proficiency." There's so much nuance to that conversation. I don't dip too much into a specific number, but what does matter is that there needs to be a high volume of practice. So, for example, if I'm teaching "oa" is /ō/ like in soap, if I only give my students two or three exposures to that across a half-hour lesson, that's probably not a high enough volume for them to be able to take that and run with it. At the same time, if I'm doing fifth grade and I'm trying to teach, let's say, a problem-solution text structure, that gets much harder because a text takes a lot longer when you're in the upper grades.

But if I'm only giving them a couple of exposures to problem-solution texts and how the language in that text is organized, it's going to be hard for them to get really proficient at it. The volume of practice and the intentionality really complement each other. It's because when you're intentional, that allows you to create a volume of practice that can really impact learning rather than just, again, trying to cram everything through the gate. So having data, knowing where to go with it, and being intentional with instruction is what I think really matters with the mindset of whichever literacy curriculum you're going with, whichever your modalities of instruction are, and where you teach. But intentionality and volume of practice absolutely matter with being an effective teacher.

Noelle: What are your thoughts about technology enhancing that volume of practice and even providing more of a place where you can get more personalized?

Jake: I think that's a huge area of opportunity. So my master's degree is in instructional technology, and a big part of that was, how do you use technology to enhance learning rather than just replace something that you do paper and pencil, but now we're doing it with a screen? How do you use technology in the ways that you're mentioning? I think what technology offers, and I'm speaking very broadly, and I don't have the level of research expertise in this area, so this is more just Jake saying his lay of the land, but I think what technology products offer are some really targeted and sophisticated data collection and analysis. I think that's a huge offering. There are a lot of products out there that deliver instruction to readers based on an intake test, and it's the platform that's delivering the instruction, whichever one that you're looking at or that you use, I would be willing to say that there are some efficacy studies or research papers or white papers or gray literature on it, and it's worth looking into that.

But also, as a teacher, you can tell them, "Watch and see how much volume of practice the students are getting." That's perhaps a limitation that I've just anecdotally observed sometimes with platforms delivering instruction; sometimes [students] don't get as high a volume of practice in the digital platform as what a living, breathing teacher can do in front of a reader. Sometimes based on logistics and people power, that can be a meaningful ingredient in instruction, but I think that's something to watch for. But where I'm really interested in is what data collection can offer with technology. But I still think it takes a really wise and savvy teacher to be able to say which data matters, to be able to interpret the data and shape the data for some really targeted instruction and reign in a digital platform to being, what does this really offer me and my students, and how can I implement that meaningfully?

Noelle: Yeah, I agree on that part. I think it's interesting on volume of practice, and that would definitely depend on what technology, what resource you have and you're using because they're designed for different purposes.

Jake: Technology is advancing so fast, but if I can choose a savvy teacher or a specific platform, I'm still going to choose a savvy teacher.

Noelle: Oh, definitely.

Jake: But the idea of digital platforms doing really sophisticated data collection with some volume of practice and then a teacher interpreting that and complementing that. In the '90s, it was a big deal when Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, this grand chess master that a computer beat. But then in the modern day, it's when a grand chess master teams up with computer chess that they do better than either one could do individually. So I think that's where the power of technology really lies and will continue to lie of figuring out how do we work well with technology to support good instruction?

Noelle: So, we definitely both agree that the teacher is the number one return on any instructional investment because that's the breadth of everything. How are you looking at building and improving literacy across the curriculum by focusing on teachers first and bringing them into some of the decisions and ways to help them see their work, not just in the individual classrooms but across grade levels and, of course, across a district?

Jake: I think that's a really key point. If we want good instruction to happen, we have to be able to caretake and support the folks who are delivering that instruction. This is an area that I wish I was doing better in. I think if you've talked to any literacy administrator that this is one of their biggest challenges, so I don't expect to have all of the answers, but I have a few ideas of things that I've really thought about and been trying to work on them. In the last couple of years, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey have been talking a lot more about this idea of collective teacher efficacy having a really big impact on student learning—collective teacher meaning a group of teachers. Efficacy comes from the psychological literature.

Bandura was one of the major researchers around efficacy, but efficacy has a couple of components where it's not just being successful at something, and it's not just self-esteem. It's different than both of those, but it's a mesh of them. It's, "Am I making an impact, and do I feel confident that I can make an impact?" It's those two traits together that define in the academic literature what the word efficacy is. So collective teacher efficacy is when you have a group of teachers together that are able to feel like they are making an impact, and they actually are making an impact; that's one of the biggest areas that really matter with systems-level support. So in order to have efficacy, you have to be able to support pedagogical knowledge, how to teach, but also content knowledge, what to teach, matters.

But then also when I hear collective teacher, the word that just screams out to me is this idea of a PLC, a professional learning community, whether it's a grade-level team or combined grade-level teams within a school that they're able to work together that it's not, "I have my group of students, you have your group of students, but that we have a group of students who are ours," and being able to look at data and support instruction when there are multiple teachers as stakeholders, and that might involve special education and instructional coaches and admin, but able to have different stakeholders, part of the conversation of what really matters for good instruction and school-level administrators and district-level administrators, being able to carve out time, which is so hard to do, but find time for teachers to work together.

I also think in the last few years, there's been a heightened conversation around this idea of professional learning. That's a different construct from training and professional development. Training might be we have a specific curriculum or a specific tool that we're learning this tool, professional development being, "Here's a one-off training on X, Y, or Z," but professional learning being more sustained, like a continuity of support over time where different sessions are stacking and adding on one to another. I think supporting teachers is being able to provide multiple sessions that are adding on each other. In our professional development sessions, we tried to have a consistent thread that we're pulling and we're building together of, what does it mean to really comprehend complex texts in the upper elementary grades?

Now that I feel that I've got several chess pieces on the board, it's now let's start figuring out how these pieces work together. But rather than just playing whack-a-mole or teachers feeling like whiplash, but really having us sustained, this is a direction that teachers need to head over time and then giving them good pragmatic tools, good pragmatic visuals, and support and coaching to be able to implement in the classroom really matters with being able to have a system where a student enters kindergarten, and then they leave to middle school five, six, seven years later ready for the challenges and demands of school. We segment and fragment grades and then parts within a grade, but to a student, it is a whole, W-H-O-L-E, that there's a continuum there, and it does take a lot of school-level effort to make sure that that student is getting something coherent from kindergarten to first grade all the way through middle school.

Noelle: Do you have any particular take or a way that you kick off energy and get a PLC started?

Jake: What I typically do when I'm having a conversation around instruction is I usually start with, "What's been your instructional highlight of the last month, or of the last two weeks, or the last six weeks? What's been your instructional highlight?" And then let folks reflect, and either, depending on the size of the group, we just talk as a group, or if it's a larger group, partner talk and then do some share out. I've found that orients it to what we're here to talk about is instruction. There are a lot of factors we can't control, but we can control instruction.

It also centers it on that there are a lot of logistics and there are a lot of layers to, by the time water gets to the end of the road to a classroom teacher, they're carrying baggage from the school, baggage from the district, baggage from the state, baggage from the feds that stacks all the way up. The teachers are really the pressure point for all of those, but it just helps frame it on, "What we care about right now is instruction, and what we care about is kids," and then taking the PLC conversation from there. So "What is your instructional highlight?" That's one I use to start a conversation quite often.

Noelle: We are two years out of COVID, and looking at the gaps that were there before, the gaps that came with virtual learning, and when you think about reading development and literacy, it's evident direct instruction from the teacher is key. What are you doing now to help students who are striving readers and you're seeing that gap? How are you supporting them, and how do you equip teachers to make those decisions and to differentiate within their lessons?

Jake: I think we're at such an interesting time post-COVID or COVID linger longer, whatever terminology we're in with COVID, and then also with the science of reading movement really gaining traction in the last five years. But then also Common Core was 10 years ago, and that really shook up the learning landscape. I think it still has implications 10 years later that we're still talking about. So I think the convergence of those three influences, it's a lot to sort through. But what I go back to is I can't help a student with becoming a better reader or a better writer if I don't know what they need. So for me, that's where data-based decision-making comes into play; I have to have good data, and that data has to show me what my students' strengths and areas of development are. Then I have to be able to design instruction based off of that.

I don't think COVID has brought that idea to the table. That's been very much a part of the RTI literature, but I think the need for it is heightened because things just feel different. I'm not talking about over-assessing, either. There comes a point where if you're doing so much assessment that it's undermining instructional time, there's a diminishing returns where more assessment doesn't give you more knowledge, but it does push out instructional minutes, so finding that balance of how much assessment do I need to know and really understand my learners? Then how do I be responsive to that? Dan Randall is a researcher I had on my podcast, and I want to get on my podcast again, but in research he does, he talks about a contingency-based scaffold. So scaffold being the instructional supports we're giving our students, but it's not just enough to be supporting students. Support only matters if it's contingent on what they need and having both of those.

I can have a curriculum that is rated A+++ on this scale. I can have a good curriculum that's really well regarded, but if it doesn't match my student's learning profile, I'm not saying learning style there, but their learning development, if it's either too advanced or too simple, then that's not going to be as effective as it could be. So in helping students struggling with literacy in the post-COVID world, in the post whatever the next crisis on the horizon in this world it's, how do I get good clean data? How do I make instructional decisions based off of that? At the school level, it's how do we as a school allocate our resources so that students who need the most are really getting that support? That's a really tricky school-level logistics, but that's the heart of RTI. I view RTI very much as a triage model of how to allocate resources to support student learning. That comes back to being responsive to data.

Noelle: I appreciate how you brought it back. The convergence of three strong moments in education that were pre-COVID and then centering it back to RTI and that we're still having those questions; they're still just as important now as they were when the intentionality came with RTI and MTSS on, who are my students? What are my students' needs? How am I going to ensure equitably that they receive that versus one-size-fits-all? That's a continuing question and conversation, but at least that question now is at the forefront.

Jake: Absolutely. Sometimes, it's more of a need now, and so then people might be paying a little bit more attention to it. And I think folks are adapting to, "We really need to support our readers, and not just because of COVID, but because it's the right thing to do."

Noelle: Right.

Jake: Can I comment on one more thing on the science of reading and Common Core convergence?

Noelle: Yeah, I definitely.

Jake: I support research and evidence-based practice, but some folks have characterized the science of reading movement as "Just another pendulum swing. We're going back the other way." I see when you look at the development implementation of the Common Core state, I look especially at the reading standards there, and it's very heavy on things more on the listening comprehension side, things like text structure, microstructures, macrostructures; it's very much aligned with just construction integration model of reading, comprehension of Perfetti's lexical quality hypothesis stuff. So I don't necessarily see it as a pendulum swing as much as I see it as an additive thing. We still care about making meaning in complex text. That is the goal of reading.

That's where we're trying to get our kids to, is not just being able to perform different literacy foundational skills really well, but acquiring those foundational skills in the service of something greater. But at the same time, I think a lot of the emphasis right now in reading foundations, if we're being savvy with how we're implementing it, that provides a springboard for how do you get to complex text? If I can't get the words off the page, it's going to be really hard for my teacher to do work with the author's purpose with me in fourth and fifth grade.

But at the same time, if all I ever do is practice getting words off the page, then it's also going to be very hard for me to understand how a text is organized at the top global level. So I hope that folks can take it as rather than just a whiplash pendulum swing, but framing it more as we care about both. We care about complex text, and we care about making sure our students are career and college ready, but we also care about getting them to the point where they can have some stamina, and they can bootstrap themselves within complex texts. That's not even part of the conversation right now. I think they actually both need each other for either one to really be realized fully.

Noelle: Jake, I appreciate your approach because you can definitely tell you do a lot of your own research and reading to bring decisions and practices that you're supporting teachers with. There's definitely intentionality there. So I have appreciated and enjoyed this conversation. I would've loved to have been doing this over coffee because you miss these kinds of conversations, and they're enjoyable because they end up pushing you to the next step. So I always ask teachers or anybody at the end of the episode, what's your walk-up song? Because whether it's collective efficacy, thinking about your own social and emotional learning as a teacher, or really getting your swagger on with your content knowledge and your decision-making, I firmly believe every teacher needs to realize you have a walk-up song. You bring it, and sometimes you have to motivate yourself. So what song is on the top of your playlist as you're walking into your school building or your office?

Jake: I have a confession, Noelle. This was actually the hardest question on the whole outline. So, my spouse and I watch The Voice, and I'm like in the blind auditions on NBC, right? I'm always like, "Oh, that would be my blind audition song." No, that'd be the four-chair turn. I like music quite a bit, so this one's given me some thought. But if I had to narrow it down, if we're going like '80s rock, Guns N' Roses, "Welcome to the Jungle," that's one potential I would pick. I'm a really big Jimmy Eat World fan. I think "Blister" off their 1999 Clarity album would be great. I'll probably just leave it at those two. So "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses or "Blister" by Jimmy Eat World would be my top two picks for my walk-up song.

Noelle: Totally, we vibe on the same. I have both of those in my playlist, across my like songs. So, Jake, I am thankful for you and have so much gratitude for you coming on our podcast. So thank you on behalf of HMH and Teachers in America. This is a great conversation. I cannot wait for our listeners to get into it.

Jake: Well, thanks, Noelle, for having me. I think anytime we can connect and support teachers with resources is a good thing. So what you all are doing on this podcast and other areas of HMH, I think it's fantastic. So thanks for having me.

Noelle: Thanks for joining us on the podcast today.

If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on the Teachers in America podcast, please email us at shaped@hmhco.com. Be the first to hear new episodes of Teachers in America by subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you enjoy today's show, please rate, review, and share it with your network. You can find the transcript of this episode on our Shaped blog by visiting hmhco.com/shaped. The link is in the show notes. Teachers in America is produced by HMH. Until next time, your friend, Noelle.

The Teachers in America podcast is a production of HMH. Executive producers are Christine Condon and Tim Lee. Editorial direction is by Christine Condon. It is creatively directed, and audio engineered by Tim Lee. Our producer and editor is Jennifer Corujo. Production designers are Mio Frye and Thomas Velazquez. Shaped blog post editors for the podcast are Christine Condon, Jennifer Corujo, and Alicia Ivory.  

Thanks again for listening!


The views expressed in this podcast are those of the guest and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

HMH core, intervention, and supplemental programs are rooted in the science of reading. Find out more about our evidence-based approach to teaching a child to read.

Hear more of Teachers in America on Shaped.

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