TAMU-CC IHEART Initiative Expands to CCISD, Earns Texas A&M University System Award

 CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Since its inception in spring 2018, IHEART has become a signature program of the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi College of Education and Human Development. The program has a dual mission of providing reading intervention to first-grade children and serves as real-world teaching opportunities for Island University pre-service teachers.

Created by Dr. Bethanie Pletcher, TAMU-CC Associate Professor of Reading Education, Islanders Helping the Early Acceleration of Readers Together, or IHEART, has served 200 children at JFK Elementary School in West Oso Independent School District (ISD). The program makes use of specialized literacy books called Red Rocket Readers and focuses on high-frequency word work, letter identification, continuous text reading, phonological awareness, and phonics in a small group setting. According to Pletcher, the elementary students who participate in the IHEART program have shown significant growth in letter and phonics knowledge, writing, and reading.

Now in its fifth year, the program has expanded to Gloria Hicks Elementary School in Corpus Christi ISD where IHEART tutors are serving 12 first-grade students this semester.

“We are thrilled to expand IHEART to Hicks Elementary,” Pletcher said. “The faculty and Mrs. Hicks have been so welcoming, just as everyone at JFK Elementary has been. These are such wonderful partnerships, and we love that we’re now in two different school districts.”


IHEART earns TAMUS award

Drs. Tracy Harper (far left), Robin Johnson (second from left), Michele Staples (second from right), and Bethanie Pletcher were inducted to the Texas A&M University System Chancellor’s Academy of Teacher Excellence by Chancellor John Sharp on March 2 in College Station.

As part of the program, Island University pre-service teachers work with the same group of students for 30 minutes twice a week for 10 weeks. To be considered for the program, Islander students must be working toward teacher certification and have taken at least one course in early literacy instruction.

“IHEART provided such thorough support and training that any nerves I had were quickly alleviated,” said Emily Waddles ‘23, who is majoring in elementary education at TAMU-CC. “The IHEART program is so special because it creates a supportive community not only for the elementary students receiving reading intervention, but also for future teachers.”

Taylor Hugdahl ’23, interdisciplinary studies major at TAMU-CC, has taken note of the academic achievements she’s seen in the IHEART students.

“Throughout this experience, I witnessed students grow in reading, word coding, and writing skills along with becoming more confident in their overall abilities,” Hugdahl said.

While the program has benefited both elementary students and pre-service teachers, the teachers at the collaborative schools also benefit.

“IHEART helped me become confident in my teaching abilities,” said Chelsea Williams ‘21, a first-grade teacher at JFK Elementary School in West Oso ISD. “I use so much that I learned from IHEART lesson planning in my own small group lesson planning now.”

As recognition for her efforts, Pletcher has been selected to be inducted to the Texas A&M University System Chancellor’s Academy of Teacher Excellence (CATE) alongside her COEHD team. They include Drs. Tracy Harper, Robin Johnson, and Michele Staples; along with Marilyn Nicol ’24, a TAMU-CC graduate student.

“This is such an honor to be recognized by the A&M System for a program that positively affects both pre-service teachers and young children,” Pletcher said.

IHEART is funded by the TAMU-CC Impact Multiplier Grant and the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Grant, which provides materials for the tutors and students and allows the IHEART team to conduct research studies related to the program.

To read more about IHEART, visit https://www.tamucc.edu/education/departments/cils/iheart.php.