Trish Schappell of Rummel Creek Elementary School was named as SBISD T-2-4 Spotlight Teacher in January for her work and passion in creating the nonprofit group The Kids’ Reading Room, which has established several children’s reading rooms in area apartment complexes.
SBISD Board of Trustees recognized her on Jan. 26 at its monthly meeting. The T-2-4 Spotlight Teacher recognition is awarded to employees for ongoing efforts to embrace the district's goal to double the number of graduates who complete either military training, technical certification, or a two- or four-year degree.
Since November 2013, Trish, an interdisciplinary coach at Rummel Creek, has led highly successful efforts through The Kids' Reading Room to open book filled, children's reading rooms in several Spring Branch area apartment complexes.
Trish first formed The Kids' Reading Room with her husband, Vincent, after being inspired by a training program led by presenters from SBISD and the University of Houston.
Today, both high school volunteers and community adults serve as readers and mentors for reading room sessions held weekly at three big, area apartments as well as at Spring Spirit Baseball’s local center. The programs are always growing, and new volunteers are always needed.
The reading rooms are located at the Castlewood Apartments, 7000 Westview; Hammerly Walk Apartments, 8787 Hammerly Blvd.; and at the Gentry House Apartments, 9001 Kempwood. Spring Spirit Sports and Education Complex is located at 8526 Pitner Road.
The apartment reading rooms conduct weekly sessions where children check out and then return a variety of books and reading material on an honor basis. All the books, furniture and all supplies are funded by private donations.
Research shows that student access and exposure to books is a critical factor in a student's ability to read proficiently early and for them to do well in school. Many children served by The Kids' Reading Room have not had many books in their own homes.
Trish, who has served in public education for 20 years, aims to improve literacy for all. Describing her recognition as a “tremendous surprise,” she spoke about the need and mission involved in encouraging young readers. “Our mission is to promote literacy and instill a love of reading in kids,” she told Trustees, “and to hear from those children [tonight] and to see what a difference we are making, I’m just astounded.”
Sylvia Henriquez, an Edgewood Elementary mom who works at the Gentry House Apartments, told Trustees how popular her reading room is for her two children, Bianca and Juan. Her children visit the reading room often.
“We’ve been so blessed to have it. Just recently, one of the moms there came to me and told me what a struggle it was to for her to get her child to read with her on a nightly basis. She’s so grateful to see him get excited about reading with the reading room volunteer without having to be forced,” she said.
“And my children have had the privilege to help Mrs. Schappell set up the reading room because they are there every day.”
Also speaking in Trish’s behalf were Rummel Creek’s music teacher and choir director, Karen Donathen, and her son, Josh, an Eagle Scout who worked with the Rummel Creek community to donate more than 3,000 books and stock a reading room at the Hammerly Walk Apartments.
“Trish’s endeavor has united the entire district,” Karen said. Josh noted that The Kids’ Reading Room gives kids in the Northbrook High neighborhood a safe place to spend time reading with responsible adults and caring volunteers. Josh is now organizing National Honor Society students at Northbrook High to be volunteers in the nearby reading rooms.
Trish has held several positions at Rummel Creek, including math/science school improvement specialist and fifth-grade teacher. She’s taught in several districts, and was an assistant principal in Klein and Cy-Fair ISDs.
She earned her master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Houston, and she also earned a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. She holds a Principal’s Certificate from St. Thomas University, too.
“Being awarded T-2-4 Spotlight Teacher for The Kids’ Reading Room made all the challenges, sweat and tears all worth it!” Trish exclaimed after her recent honor. "Sometimes I get so caught up in the busyness of it all that I forget we really are impacting the lives of kiddos. Hearing the stories the speakers told reminded me that our efforts are not fleeting, and that meant the world to me.”
Under her leadership, The Kids' Reading Room has been awarded several grants. The nonprofit is now listed as a partner with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, among other honors.
Learn more about The Kids’ Reading Room.