Parley’s Park first grade teacher Kara Cook receives PC READS literacy award
Parley’s Park Elementary School first grade teacher Kara Cook loves her job, especially when she teaches her students to read.
So she is overjoyed that student advocacy nonprofit PC READS awarded her its 2020 Elevating Literacy Award, which honors those who help improve the lives of students with reading disabilities.
“I feel very humble, because there are so many people in Park City who are deserving of this award,” Cook said. “I was very appreciative that somebody thought of me. I didn’t know I was even nominated, and it was a complete shock.”
Cook’s colleague, Shannon Allen, a third grade teacher at Parley’s Park Elementary, nominated her.
“When it comes to advocacy for early literacy, Kara is a guru,” Allen said in a statement. “Her undeniable love and care is the reason she is such a remarkable teacher. She does whatever it takes to not only help close the achievement gap, but to also make sure her students feel valued, seen and heard.”
Allen referred to a free tutoring program that Cook established last summer for students struggling with reading and math as one of the other reasons for the nomination.
“(She) continues to push forward to advocate for our most vulnerable students and in turn, our community,” Allen said.
Cook created the program after seeing some of her students fall behind in their summer reading. She initially thought the program would only involve herself and few of her students.
“So many other teachers got on board, and I also had some amazing help from Park City High School students who volunteered their time,” Cook said. “Then Park City Library generously donated a room, and we were able to give 35 kids who were below reading level in kindergarten and first grade one-on-one reading sessions during the summer.”
Cook expanded the program for Spanish-speaking students and added a math component.
“It involved a lot of people in the community, and it was such a great experience,” she said. “I would love to continue it this summer, but I know it will be a challenge to meet in person. So we’re trying to find creative ways to continue the program this summer and the summer to come.”
Cook is honored that the award comes from PC READS, an organization she respects.
“They bring everybody together in a targeted effort to promote literacy, which is huge,” she said. “The support they give to teachers is amazing. They come to the schools and provide us pre-professional development. They give us grants so we can attend different education conferences, and that is priceless when it comes to student advocacy.”
Cook, who has taught at Parley’s Park Elementary School for the past five years, discovered her love of education when she was in high school.
“I worked at the Boys and Girls Club up here in Park City when they used to have a facility at City Park,” she said. “I loved working with the kids.”
Although Cook, who says the late Shel Silverstein is one of her favorite authors and poets, said she “veered from the education path” and got a marketing degree in college, she missed working with children.
“I went back to school and got my Masters of Education degree at Westminster College, and started teaching again,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Cook’s favorite thing to teach is reading, especially when it comes to working with the newer elementary school students.
“In first grade you see kids go from not knowing many letters to being excited that they can read a full story, and I love seeing when that lightbulb goes on,” she said.
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Park City Beethoven Festival will perform its Chamber Music at the Eccles Center season finale Sunday.