Early Childhood Education

Seasoned teacher explores new specialty, earns higher rank along the way


Jackie Bilotta is only in her second year as an ECE classroom teacher at Bloom Elementary, but she is no stranger to working with students—so much so that she just received her Rank I designation this past December. “This is my 20th year in Kentucky public schools, but [the Rank I] was my ultimate goal,” she explains. “I wanted to have a little more flexibility in what I do, and to do intervention outside just special education.”

Bilotta has the kind of well-rounded background schools love: she has a bachelor’s degree in music, but then she pursued psychology. That history, along with a love of teaching discovered after a seven-year stint substituting in Bullitt County beginning two decades ago, is the basis of a toolbox that she gets to dip into extensively throughout her week. “I do more music therapy with my ‘little bitties’ (kindergartners), doing a lot with song,” she says, “and psychology gave me a much better idea of where my students are coming from and how their disabilities can impact their lives in school and out of school.”

The literacy leadership coursework offered at Bellarmine appealed to Bilotta’s love of teaching and its various modalities. “I want to be a better teacher,” she says of her decision to pursue her Rank I here. “I didn’t want a program that I was going to coast through, get the paper and not really learn anything. I wanted to have some sense of effort and say, ‘This is my new knowledge base and this is how I’m going to use it’ ... not just get the pay raise. I have students who really struggle with reading, and [the literacy training] really helped me make a good impact on students.”

As a person who has observed education as a teacher and assessor, teacher trainer, ECE implementation coach, and parent (she has a kindergartener and a 3rd-grader at Bloom), Bilotta reaps the benefits exponentially. “It was well worth the time and effort. I can see every day the impact it’s having on my kids—having a new and deeper understanding of literacy and how reading and writing work together. I really felt I got that with Bellarmine.”

Even though Bilotta has no plans to get another degree, she is considering sitting for the literacy specialist endorsement test. Regardless of yet another official designation beyond Rank I, she is glad to have learned what she did at Bellarmine—even if it was not in person. “It was challenging,” she says. “It was very rigorous and challenging and I learned so much. I loved Bellarmine. Even the online experience was phenomenal.”

Tags: Early Childhood Education , Education , Literacy , Rank I



Located in the historic Highlands neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky, Bellarmine University is a vibrant community of educational excellence and ethical awareness that consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities. Our students pursue an education based in the liberal arts – and in the distinguished, inclusive Catholic tradition of educational excellence, the oldest and most rewarding in the western world. It is a lifelong education, worthy of the university’s namesake, Saint Robert Bellarmine, and of his invitation to each of us to learn and live In Veritatis Amore – in the love of all that is beautiful, true and good in life.