Educator Profile: Kerry Blackwelder
When you enter Kerry Blackwelder’s room, the first thing you notice is her enthusiasm for reading; it is reflected in everything displayed in her colorful, cozy classroom. Warmth and friendliness exude, and the students know when they walk through the door that they’ve come to a safe place. Kerry has been a reading specialist at Cooleemee Elementary School in Davie County for 24 years; she has implemented HillRAP, first in its original print version, and later migrating to the iPad app for 15 of those years. She is also a HillRAP mentor and has taken several Cooleemee teachers through the HillRAP certification process by modeling, best instructional practices, supporting quality implementation, and coaching her colleagues. Kerry’s principal describes her as “a true legend” who will be “truly irreplaceable.”
Her fellow reading specialist Amy Stokes commented: “If someone asked me to describe Kerry Blackwelder in one word that encompasses who she is as a learner, teacher, fellow educator, mentor, or friend I would use the word PASSIONATE. Kerry Blackwelder is passionate in ALL aspects of her life. She has a passion for learning while consistently researching new ways to help herself and others grow as educators. She has a passion for her students. She wants them to live their best lives and to grow to their fullest potential both emotionally and academically. Students leave her classroom knowing without a doubt that she wholeheartedly loves them and will always be there to help guide them in their educational journey.”
One of Kerry’s favorite HillRAP memories involves a student who struggled with phonological awareness and had tried to blend compound words together (e.g., cup+cake=cupcake) for months. When Kerry said “cup-cake,” the student said: “icing.” One day, the skill clicked and the whole class erupted in cheers! These are the moments teachers like Kerry treasure.
Kerry is retiring from Cooleemee this year but not from teaching. Her next adventure will be joining fellow HillRAP mentor, Luwonna Oakes, as a tutor at the Mebane Charitable Foundation office. There Kerry and Luwonna will continue to deliver HillRAP to students who struggle with reading, and Davie County will continue to reap the benefits of having these exceptional teachers place more children on the road to reading success.