It would be a huge understatement to call Susan Kosko an animal person. The elementary reading specialist and 2016 National Humane Teacher of the Year hosts Reading with Rover visits and motivates her struggling readers through the 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project, an environmental program offering lesson plans and live webcasts. Her students jumped in to raise funds to rescue a dolphin, and, in the process, boosted their reading, writing, and STEM skills!

The Basics

School: K–6 reading specialist, Crafton Elementary School, Pittsburgh
Career Path: Susan Kosko has taught for 27 years, the last 17 as a reading specialist. In 2011, she and her students became involved with the 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project, which she continues to be a part of today.  
Teaching Philosophy: “Teach empathy. When students see that they can impact the world by their actions, that the world is bigger than just their community or their street, they feel empowered.”

Cool Project

Oil spill re-creation: I asked kids what they knew about oil spills and their effect on animals, and then had them read Oil Spill!, by Melvin Berger, and Prince William, by Gloria Rand. Then, I passed out cups of water and asked what would happen if we added oil and dipped in feathers. They observed the effect, writing down how the feathers felt. We dipped new feathers into clean water and talked about the difference. It helped them comprehend what they’d read!

3 Tools to Save the Dolphins!

10,000 Islands Dolphin Project: Teachers interested in participating should reach out to Captain Chris:

The Academy of Prosocial Learning: Professional development and certification for educators promoting social-emotional and student-centered learning.

Donors Choose: A popular resource to fund almost any project a teacher could dream up. Kosko has had three projects funded through Donors Choose.

How did your work with the Dolphin Project motivate your struggling readers?

“They carried out research projects and became leaders among their peers—something kids receiving support services don’t normally experience.”



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Photo: Leah Carlson/Aphe