LifestyleUNC Charlotte

Charlotte Teaching Graduate Caitlin McGennis Gifts Children The Ability To Read


Details are like flowers to our tree,” explains UNC Charlotte senior Caitlin McGennis to a class of third graders. For emphasis, she glides her arms open.

Smiling students are sitting in front of McGennis at Berewick Elementary School, located in south Charlotte. Curiosity and enthusiasm, characteristic of great elementary school classrooms, simmer. But there is a hint of concern as serious business must be addressed. 

These kids are trying to save Fun Friday. 

According to a letter the class read with McGennis the day before, Principal Kim King has canceled the beloved Berewick Elementary School pastime. It’s now up to the class to develop the moving pleas and savvy arguments that will convince the administration to restore the students’ right to relax at the end of the week.

McGennis, a dual elementary and special education major attending Charlotte on scholarship to teach reading, is leading her class in an interactive persuasive writing activity that will help them make their case. One that is an important part of the students’ journey to lifelong literacy and in their student teacher’s development of skills essential to success in the classroom.

In her final semesters at UNC Charlotte, McGennis is being directed toward more opportunities to apply what she’s learned and practice her craft through a curriculum that has been hands-on since she arrived at the Cato College of Education. An out-of-state student, McGennis arrived at the University from Pittsburgh for Charlotte’s elite dual-degree program in special education and elementary education.

Over the course of the writing lesson at Berewick Elementary, McGennis floats between groups to listen for student understanding and review their progress.

“T – A – P . . . topic, audience, parameters. We underline the topic, star the audience, and tap the parameters.” She stops to repeat and invites the young readers to join in: “Topic, audience, parameters.”

By learning mnemonic devices to understand the elements of a persuasive piece of writing, students are gathering the building blocks they need to become independent readers and critical thinkers.

McGennis, who is scheduled to graduate in May 2024, will become the third in her family to teach. She is driven to guide children to discover one of life’s greatest gifts: the ability to read.

After saving Fun Friday with her students at Berewick Elementary, she is eager to lead a class of her own in the fall.

MORE >>>