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TAMIU-LBV Literacy Partnership

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The TAMIU-LBV Literacy Partnership is a service project of TAMIU funded by the Lamar Bruni Vergara Charitable Trust. The Literacy Partnership works closely with both LISD and UISD to provide highly-effective tutoring services to struggling readers in Literacy Enrichment Centers (LECs)



what is an lec

What is an LEC?

A Literacy Enrichment Center (LEC) is the place in a partner school where struggling readers grow their literacy skills in one-on-one tutoring sessions. LECs are furnished by the school with simple, organized stations so that each tutor & student always have a place to work comfortably. LECs have a rich library of books organized by reading level so that students & tutors are always working at the student’s “just right” reading level. The school’s reading interventionists, teachers, or administrators study data frequently to schedule tutoring sessions for readers who would benefit the most from the LEC’s five-part tutoring lessons. The LEC tutoring format, lessons, and activities were created by Dr. Tammy Lipsey, Director of Literacy (K-12) for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (TN).


where are Laredo's LECs

Where are Laredo’s LECs?         

Laredo’s first LEC opened in Cuellar Elementary School (UISD) in the fall of 2011. As success drew attention, the service extended to Ligarde Elementary (LISD) in February, 2015. Thanks to the financial support of the Lamar Bruni Vergara Charitable Trust, five LECs will serve around 200 students during the 2015-2016 school year. Even more centers will open in the future. Partner schools support LECs in both UISD and LISD. Cuellar, Zaffirini, Killam, Ligarde, and Macdonell elementary schools work to keep LECs scheduled with students who will benefit the most from one-on-one literacy tutoring.


Who leads the TAMIUWho leads the LECs-LBV Literacy Partnership LECs?

The Literacy Partnership is led by Dr. Phil Roberson, Associate Clinical Professor of Early Childhood Education. Dr. Roberson has served in both faculty and administrator roles in Tennessee, Nebraska, and Utah. He has also served on various Texas, Tennessee, and national professional education leadership positions and is an active member of the Board of Examiners of CAEP (NCATE).

Other TAMIU faculty and staff involved in the partnership are:

Dr. Xuesong Wang, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education and Reading; Ms. Bonnie Villarreal, Assistant Clinical Professor of Reading and Special Education; Andrea Pawelek (MS) , Program Director; and Heather Thornton (MHR), Program Manager. In each partner school, literacy interventionists monitor the operation of the LEC and provide leadership to improve literacy assessment and instruction in classrooms.

 Last but not least, the LECs would not be possible without the dedicated work of our tutors. Click below to learn more about the Literacy Partnership and LECs in our community.


  • How did the Literacy Partnership start?
    • This model of literacy tutoring began in Metropolitan Nashville (TN) Public Schools as an adaptation of the Reading Recovery intervention. Dr. Tammy Lipsey created the five-part lesson format that is the foundation of LEC success. When Dr. Phil Roberson joined TAMIU in 2010 he brought the knowledge and skills to start LECs here in Laredo. The first center opened in Cuellar Elementary in 2011. With financial support from the Lamar Bruni Vergara Charitable Trust, the TAMIU-LBV Literacy Partnership is expanding. LECs are supporting readers in both LISD and UISD schools, with five centers operating in Fall, 2015.
  • Why spend the time and money for one-on-one tutoring?
    • Educators have known for many years that early literacy is important. As more communities start to look closely at high school graduation rates, we see that reading on grade-level by grade 3 is critical for academic success. A student who can read on grade level in 3rd grade has a FOUR TIMES better chance of graduating high school than a student who lags behind. When struggling readers grow up in poverty the gap is even greater. (Read more about the importance of reading for graduation from the Annie E. Casey foundation.
  • Do you have to be a pre-service teacher to be a tutor?
    • Certainly not! Tutor volunteers can come from anywhere in the community, with any type of career or education background. You only need to be a good English language model and commit to training in the LEC model for at least one semester to be an effective tutor. LEC tutors receive all the training and supervision they need in just a few short hours from professors at TAMIU. The tutoring process is very straightforward and we provide all the materials you’ll need, so it’s easy to be a successful tutor with minimal training.
  • How do I become a tutor?
    • A select number of tutors are paid with grant funds; others are volunteers from the community—students at TAMIU, LCC, or high schools, members of civic organizations, retired teachers, members of the business community, and faith-based organizations.
    • Successful tutors are typically available two hours each week and will attend every week reliably for at least ten weeks in a semester. Paid tutors may work as many as 19 hours each week, serving several students twice-weekly. Volunteer tutors usually serve only one or two students twice weekly.
    • Tutors pass a background check to become a volunteer with either LISD or UISD, and with TAMIU. Since tutors spend almost all their volunteer time with students, they also must provide results of a recent TB test. 
    • Once a tutor is accepted, they receive a half-day training from TAMIU professors. At the end of the training the tutors know how to plan and implement a 30-minute tutoring session tailored to their student. Tutors are supervised and mentored by faculty and staff in the literacy partnership.
  • What will I do for 30 minutes with a student?
    • The 30-minute session goes by quickly. This 5-part tutoring lesson is very clear. Tutors know exactly the steps to take, yet there’s room within each step for you to customize your lesson to fit your student’s interests and needs. You’ll always have just the right resources to meet your student’s needs, and you won’t have to struggle to fill the time.
      • Warm-up reading with a familiar book
      • Introduction and “Picture-walk” through the new book, then the student reads
      • Play a couple of short games provided by the LEC
      • The student practices writing a sentence from the book
      • Let the student re-tell the story in their own words to improve comprehension
  • Is this tutoring bilingual or ELL/ESL?
    • The approach is ESL, with no requirement that tutors speak a second language. The goal of the Literacy Partnership is to support English language literacy. A tutor who is bilingual might help a student to learn a new English vocabulary word now and then, but the lessons are conducted in English.
  • How does a student receive tutoring?
    • LECs are partnered closely with each elementary school. Since school resources are always limited, teachers and reading interventionists use data to select students who are at the right place in their development to benefit the most from this tutoring model. It’s this partnership that helps make LECs so efficient and effective.
  • How do students benefit?
    • By practicing a wide variety of literacy-related skills, students’ overall literacy improves. They practice sight words, decoding new tricky words, reading out loud, and practice spelling, writing, recall, and comprehension in every lesson.
  • How do tutors benefit?
    • Most of all, every tutor gains the satisfaction and sense of pride knowing that they’re brightening the future for their students, their families, and for our whole Laredo community. Many tutors are TAMIU College of Education majors. These future educators have the opportunity to activate the knowledge and skills from their TAMIU education, not to mention obtaining valuable work experience that makes them an appealing choice for their future careers in schools. Other tutors who are not teachers in training also gain valuable work experience.
  • I can’t fit tutoring into my schedule, but I’d like to help. How can I?
    • While caring tutors are our #1 need, there are occasionally other ways for individuals or groups to support the Literacy Partnership. One great way to support the literacy partnership is to spread the word to help with volunteer recruitment or to identify persons who might be able to provide monetary support.

Contact Info

TAMIU-LBV Literacy partnership
Phil Roberson, Partnership Director 956-326-3155
Andrea Pawelek, Program Director 956-326-3150
Heather Thornton, Program Manager


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