A Caring Teacher Whose Skills Really Rock
Rob Wherley, a teacher and reading specialist at the school who has worked at Hillsides for 23 years, is dedicated to the children of Hillsides. “I have such a heart for what I do.” he says. “Kids in foster care have such a need; they deserve everything we can give them.”
Wherley has used his talents as a singer/songwriter to develop a music program for Hillsides. Every four months, he creates a new band comprised of students from the school. “I’ve seen a lot of transformations with children through music,” he says. “It’s a joy to see a kid with low-self esteem get a boost from learning a song and performing it in a concert with a fog machine and lights.”
Wherley is also in charge of an innovative one-on-one reading program he created, Reading Rocks!, for low-achieving readers. What began with a few children being tutored at a picnic table outside the campus library has blossomed to a vibrant network of 32 students, 23 student tutors, and 10 adult tutors. Over the three years the program has been in existence, each child in the program has improved by at least one grade level and some by as many as three.
“My goal has always been to use the gifts I have in the best way to benefit the kids, and I feel like I have found that through the HEC band and Reading Rocks!,” says Wherley, who picked up a teaching degree and master’s in special education from Cal State Los Angeles while at Hillsides in addition to a master’s in theology from the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena he’d already earned. “I really want to make a difference in their lives, and reading is one key area that research has shown is hugely correlated with success in life.”
One of Wherley’s success stories is Marcell Jones, 11, who has not only learned to read through the program but is now a reading coach for two classmates and a class assistant for his teacher. “It’s fun building up other kids skills,” says Jones. “It makes me more confident, too.”