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Former grade 6 teacher takes on leadership role   

picture of Director of UPK and Literacy

Sixth grade teacher Don Stevens has been named the Director of Literacy and UPK. He looks forward to working with UPK staff to support school readiness for young students, and working with teachers to identify and develop practices and strategies to improve K-12 literacy instruction.

Meet Don Stevens Watervliet's Director of Literacy & UPK


Don Stevens, the district's new Director of Literacy and Universal PreKindergarten (UPK), is no stranger to Watervliet schools. That's because for the past 10 years he has been a sixth-grade teacher at Watervliet Elementary School.

The former grade 6 teacher served as an administrative intern in the curriculum office last year, which helped prepare him for his new role as an instructional leader. Mr. Stevens began his career teaching in Averill Park Central Schools, filling year-long leave positions in the first and fifth grades. In 2006, he began working as a sixth grade teacher at the elementary school in Watervliet.

Mr. Stevens earned his Bachelor's Degree in Childhood Education with an extension in middle school education. He then pursued his Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and his Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from The College of Saint Rose in Albany.

Why education?

I chose a career in education to help provide opportunities and experiences for children. With the development of an enriching and effective education, we can enhance our future.

What are you looking forward to most in your new position?

I am extremely excited to work with our district's youngest children in the UPK program; to provide a sound foundation of education at the earliest years of school. I am also looking forward to working with our teachers and staff regarding the use of literacy to further develop our curriculum and instruction for reading and writing.

What are your goals, long term or immediate?

One of my life-long goals is to never stop learning. I am always asking questions, doing research and finding answers to continue growing as a teacher, now as a leader, as well as a member of society.

What activities do you enjoy in your free time?

When I am not walking my dogs, I enjoy reading an interesting book, watching a good movie, experiencing a play or exploring a new place.

What is your favorite book, or current book that you are reading?

My favorite book is Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. I am inspired by the thought of continuing down the road of learning with endless opportunities and experiences. I love sharing this book with students and exploring the many places they may go in life.

What are your pets' names?

Ollie and Peanut are my dogs, and I also have a turtle named Swampy.

What makes you laugh?

Laughter is contagious! I love to joke and share funny stories with my students.

Any other thoughts you'd like to share?

Just how excited and honored I am to be a part of Watervliet schools leadership team, and to have this opportunity to work with young learners who are just embarking on their educational path. I am also looking forward to developing and sharing instructional approaches and strategies for literacy with my colleagues.

NYS ELA Standards Review Committee

This spring, based on his qualifications and experience as an educator, Mr. Stevens was invited to participate on the New York State Education Department's English Language Arts Standards Review Committee. The committee, which included a select group of K-12 classroom teachers, administrators, curriculum specialists, parents, college professors and members of the business community from across the state, was tasked with providing insight and unique perspectives on the ELA Common Core Standards and implementation.

Can You describe the ELA Review Committee process?

The committee began by researching and exploring developmentally age-appropriate learning for students and how it aligns with grade level expectations. The standards revision process has been occurring throughout the spring and summer with in-person and web-based sessions that have focused on the needs of students within individual grade levels, as well as prekindergarten through grade 12 as a whole.

Through collaboration, discussion and agreement, the committee has recommended revisions to the ELA standards where appropriate. These revisions continue to promote high expectations and college and career readiness. One additional focus has been discussion about how best to help identify strategies of differentiation that address individual needs in respect to students with disabilities and English as a New Language students.

This fall the revisions will be available for public comment and the committee will then review those comments and submit final recommendations to the Board of Regents and Commissioner of Education for approval.

As a new administrator whose focus is on literacy, can you share some thoughts on the work the ELA Review Committee has done?

It was important to understand that the standards are not based on the student assessments. Rather the standards are what will drive local district curriculum decisions and future district and state assessments. Final revisions of the standards may require future adjustments to the assessments and performance tasks.

 When approved, the revised standards will provide clear direction as we look at the ELA curriculum the district uses, determine its alignment, and make adjustments. I look forward to mapping the ELA continuum from UPK to 12th grade in order to identify our district’s strengths, as well as areas we can improve upon.