Governor honors Waldo teacher for reading methods

Published: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 1:55 a.m.
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Gov. Jeb Bush congratulates Waldo Community School teacher Peggy Ferguson on Friday after awarding her with a reading endorsement.

(ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun)
In a surprise visit Friday morning to Waldo Community School, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush paid tribute to Peggy Ferguson, the first teacher in the state to earn a special reading endorsement.
Shortly after classes began at the school of 236 students, Bush walked into Lauren Catalonotto's classroom to greet Ferguson as she worked with a group of fourth-grade students.
"You are the first teacher in the state of Florida to receive the reading endorsement," Bush told Ferguson, as he presented her with a special certificate, created last year to recognize teachers with special skills in teaching reading. "Who would've thought that Waldo would be the first place for this to happen?"
The reading endorsement indicates a teacher's level of expertise and is given to teachers who complete courses based on scientifically based research that is aimed at preventing, identifying and remediating students' reading difficulties.
Ferguson, who previously taught at Williams and Talbot elementary schools and now serves as a reading coach for other teachers, said she was taken aback by the visit from the state's top leader.
"It was like the Lottery - Who? Me?" said Ferguson, whose master's degree in reading from Nova Southeastern University helped her qualify for the reading endorsement. "I think what this means is the governor is serious about reading. When you're working with a great group of teachers like I am in Waldo, who are doing everything possible to help students learn to read, it's very fulfilling."
Ferguson was hired in October to become a reading coach at Waldo, which received a grade of D last year from the state Department of Education based on students' scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
She is one of 15 such reading coaches who help other teachers develop strategies to reach struggling readers at low performing schools in the district.
Coaches around the state were hired with the help of a $45 million state and federal grant aimed at improving students' reading skills.
Bush has heavily promoted reading in the state and considers it a major priority of his administration. In 2001, Bush created the Just Read, Florida! reading initiative aimed at making sure every child in Florida attain grade level or higher reading skills by 2012.
"This will yield dramatic results," Bush said of the endorsement and coaching program. "All teachers have an incredibly important job."
During his visit with Ferguson, Bush assisted students and helped them figure out the definition of the vocabulary words "roguish" and "fascinated."
"I knew what fascinated was but I didn't know what roguish meant," Bush said. "Even if you don't have all the facts, you can use your thinking cap to figure it out."
After Bush encouraged another group of students to continue reading to improve their vocabulary, Emily Tillman's hand urgently shot up.
"Can I have your autograph?" she asked, as other students readied sheets of notebook paper for the governor to sign.
"That and 25 cents will get you a cup of coffee," Bush quipped.
Cathi Carr can be reached at 374-5086 or carrc@

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