By Josh LaBella
When students struggle at reading, every other subject becomes harder to grasp. One local instructor spends her professional life evaluating and honing the reading skills of local students so they can have more successful academic careers.
Latanya Watts Joyner, a reading consultant at May V. Carrigan School, said as she taught students in first and second grade she realized they needed good reading skills to learn math, social studies, science and all subjects students are tasked with.
“If you didn’t do well in reading,” said Watts Joyner, “it was just going to be hard. So then I wanted to help more [students] in just reading.”
Watts Joyner said she has worked in the West Haven School system for 20 years and at Carrigan for around eight. The New Haven native and Southern graduate said she got hired in West Haven after student teaching at the Seth G. Haley and Edith E. Mackrille elementary schools. She said she always stresses to students how important an ability reading is.
“I always tell the kids that if you can’t read, or you don’t read well or you need help reading, then everything else will be hard in life,” said Watts Joyner. “So it really is a lifelong skill.”
Watts Joyner said working with people is her favorite part of the job. She said she loves working with students but that another large portion of her job is professional development so she gets to work with teachers as well.
“I’m a people person,” said Watts Joyner. “So it’s good for me.”
Watts Joyner said some of her favorite memories are seeing how excited students get when they have just learned something.
“The kids are excited to learn,” said Watts Joyner. “They’re creative. They’re funny. There’s stories I can recall that just make you laugh. I like the job.”
According to Watts Joyner, students learn at different speeds and may have to follow different paths to success. She said a challenge of the job can be having to slow down a lesson or figure out a different way to teach it to help students succeed.
“That’s probably the hardest part,” said Watts Joyner. “But they all get there. Maybe just at different times.”
Her days and schedule greatly vary depending on need, Watts Joyner said. Some days, she said, she could be in one classroom and the next day three. She said when a teacher comes to school they need to be ready to try things that are fresh and new – whatever helps the students achieve.
According to Joyner, she was worried when moving from first and second grade to fifth and sixth that it might be different but that proved not to be true.
“Sometimes people are under the misconception that the students don’t want to learn or they can be difficult,” said Watts Joyner. “Not even just in West Haven, in any district. That’s just not true. They do want to learn and they do want to be here.”
Watts Joyner said she still remembers her elementary school teachers and that it is important to form that relationship. She said it is critical that students have someone they can connect to and reach out to with problems.
“They inspire something in you,” said Watts Joyner. “They push you to learn and say, ‘You’re a great student but you can be even better.’”