“A coach is a teacher’s teacher. A coach accepts, understands, and addresses the real needs of adult learners in specific schools with the same unfailing, relentless, positive energy that our very best classroom teachers bring to their work with children.”

—Walpole, M. & McKenna, S. (2013). The literacy coach’s handbook. New York: The Guilford Press.

Literacy How Mentors are subject matter experts who deliver professional development on each component of comprehensive literacy instruction.  In their role as coaches, Mentors guide adult learners (i.e., teachers and administrators) on how best to translate and strategically implement their literacy knowledge in the classroom. Mentors embody Literacy How’s core valuesPassion. Lifelong Learning. Professionalism. Collaboration. Empowerment. Accountability—as they coach adults towards instructional excellence.

Coaching Adult Learners

A teacher enters the classroom with a lifetime of theories and experiences around the purpose, possibility, and conveyance of elementary education.  A coach must get inside each teacher’s head to size up predilections, prejudices, knowledge base, skill set, readiness to change, and the ability to do so, then come together to create a plan to empower change to happen.  This challenging job description promises a huge payoff—research has shown that peer coaching is the key link in transferring knowledge to practice (Joyce and Showers, 2002).


  • are supportive and non-evaluative.
  • use insight and listening skills to influence the internal ideas that shape the external behaviors of teaching.
  • build trust by maintaining confidentiality

“Joyce & Showers acknowledge that NO ONE will take the risks of growing in front of another person, or their advice and “coaching” unless they first have a relationship of mutual trust with that person. Mentoring provides that relationship within which effective coaching can lead to risk-taking and growth.”

  • build team accountability by engaging administrators and appropriate staff.

Literacy How helps teachers nationwide bridge gaps in the reading achievement.LEADING LITERACY

Principals should respect coach-teacher confidentiality, support teachers’ growth, and require their accountability.

  • are strategists, who can guide teachers to focus on having the greatest impact.
  • celebrate small successes along the way, while reaching for measurable goals.
  • understand that change takes time.  Research on effective school change has found that it takes an average of 20 to 25 times of trying a new method or technique before it becomes natural (Joyce & Showers, 1988).

Cognitive Coaching Model

“Coaching is a strategy for implementing a professional support system for teachers, a system that includes research or theory, demonstration, practice, and feedback.”

—Walpole, M. & McKenna, S. (2008). The literacy coaching challenge: Models and methods for grades K-8. New York: The Guilford Press.

The research-based Cognitive Coaching model, developed by Arthur L. Costa and Bob Garmston, assumes that people are capable of change. It asserts that teaching cannot be reduced to a recipe or formula, but that classroom performance is based on internal, invisible skills, the thought processes that drive the overt skill of teaching.

Literacy How mentors continuously use this four-step coaching process to refine teaching behaviors and increase effectiveness:

“In order to make true change in teacher practice, coaches must implement the coaching cycle fully and guide teachers through the gradual release of responsibility.”

—Christine Cohen, Literacy How Mentor

Resources and References

  • Bean, R.M. & Ippolito, J. (2016) Cultivating coaching mindsets. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences International.
  • Cherniss, C. (1978). The consultation readiness scale: An attempt to improve consultation practice. American Journal of Community Psychology 6, 15-21.
  • Costa, A. & Garmston, R. (2002). Cognitive coaching. 2nd edition. Norwood, MA: Christopher Gordon Publishers.
  • Ellison, J. & Hayes, C. (2003). Cognitive coaching. Weaving threads of learning and change into the culture of an organization. Norwood, MA: Christopher Gordon Publishers.
  • Gulamhussien, A. (2013). Teaching the teachers. Effective professional development in an era of high stakes accountability. Center for Public Education.
  • Joyce, B. & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development. 3rd edition. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Hasbrouk, J. & Denton, C. (2005). The reading coach. Longmont, CO: Sopris West.
  • Knight, J. (2007). Instructional coaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  • Walpole, S. & Blamey, K. (November 2008). Elementary literacy coaches:  The reality of dual roles.  The Reading Teacher 62, 222-231.
  • Walpole, S. & McKenna, M. (2013). The literacy coach’s handbook. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.