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ELA Teacher Reads the Room, Makes a Successful Change

When students aren’t fully engaged, they’re not invested in learning. Jessica Cummings saw this happening in her classroom and decided to change the way she was teaching.
Cummings, a sixth-grade English Language Arts teacher at Foundations Academy, began to use a “start, stop, do” approach. She starts by reading, then has students read independently and in groups, and along the way she designates when they will stop reading and take turns. The rotation has made them more involved and has been mutually beneficial.

Foundations Academy ELA Teacher J. Cummings
“She has really changed up the way she teaches with her students this year and has seen a lot of growth with her kiddos,” said Foundations Principal Libby Rowe. “She went from a very teacher-directed instructional model to one that has students leading the class.”
Being receptive to change is what brought Cummings to Foundations, which has earned the highest performance ranking in the state. She taught middle school in Jefferson County for several years before taking time off to raise her kids and had heard good things about Foundations, so she enrolled her kids at the time in kindergarten, first, and fourth grade.
Foundations’ commitment to building strong relationships with parents stood out especially to Cummings and her family.
“We really enjoyed the admin, which I think kind of drew us to the school,” Cummings said. “We liked all of their teachers. It was a welcoming environment for sure. We loved the parent involvement. There's just a lot of parent involvement, a lot of opportunities. You just felt really included in the group.”

Foundations Academy ELA teacher J. Cummings teaching

That welcoming environment led to her volunteering weekly in her son’s kindergarten class, and soon after more. It wasn’t long before Cummings became a substitute teacher, and when a vacancy opened up teaching fourth grade she got back into education full-time. She’s now in her sixth year at Foundations, with the past three in her current position.
In doing her job as part of that close-knit team, Cummings’ hope is that her approach makes students avid readers. By helping kids develop an enthusiasm for reading, she will have given them a lifelong gift.

Foundations Academy students reading

“I always hope that by switching up how we’re reading,” she said. “The high readers are still engaged but the low readers are also still engaged. That would be my takeaway – I think an enjoyment for reading, not feeling like they just do it for school, but they can do it for fun as well.”
Keep up the excellent work, Mrs. Cummings!

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About Foundations Academy
Foundations Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Brighton, Colorado, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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