When I thought about a tagline for this website that captured what I hope to achieve through providing services related to literacy instruction, I thought about how I got to where I am today. The road to literacy is not a simple one, neither for students nor their teachers. Reading and writing are actually not processes that come naturally to us, and by extension, nor is teaching them. Literacy instruction is also a current hot button topic for many stakeholders that have a vested interest in raising the proficiency levels of their children, our youth, who will go on to contribute to society in an ever changing world. Given the complexities surrounding literacy, it can be overwhelming to know where to start or to determine shifts you can make that will have the greatest impact on your level of success. Having a guide to support and lead the way for us, whether we are a student, a parent or an educator can provide not only meaningful growth but also set us on the right path. This is why I believe in starting “Guiding Literacy Growth”.
Here is my story…
I entered the field of education in 2006 after realizing I wanted to make a positive difference in other people’s lives, especially young learners. Having previously worked in government, I saw firsthand how lives are impacted and shaped by action, or even, inaction. Teaching was the catalyst that ignited my passion for literacy learning and it allowed me to discover and tap into a deep curiosity about the topic that has continued for over 16 years. My experiences also provided me with the ability to deeply empathize with and relate to the challenges both teachers and young readers face when putting together the pieces of the intricate literacy puzzle.
In 2007, I was thrilled to have landed my first job as a basic skills reading interventionist for Grades 1-3. The thrill, however, was short lived as I recognized soon after that despite being in a room filled to the brim with resources, I was actually struggling to understand how to best make use of them and in ways that could also meet my learners’ extremely varied abilities. Certainly, I could follow the plans set forth in the many different programs provided, but they didn’t seem to be making an impact on my students, who were also those with the greatest needs. Despite having had the requisite two years of graduate school for an M.A. in education and the subsequent student teaching work to make this career shift, I realized through this first experience, and painfully so, that I was not equipped with the instructional knowledge nor the moves required to effectively teach reading.
You might be wondering why I would tell this story when I am promoting myself as a practitioner for your child or a consultant for you or your staff. To be honest, to this day I still cringe and think back to the many nights I questioned if I could be an educator, had serious doubts about my decision to become one and worried about the damage I might be causing to those I was meant to help. I tell my story because, sometimes, we need a guide in our learning to uncover hidden potential or to realign and realize our goals.
Though I faced challenges initially, I resolved to learn all I could about literacy instruction and was fortunate to have met my first mentor, or guide, who helped me navigate some of the complexities. She pointed me in the direction of professional books which I voraciously read and was a sounding board for my many questions and wonderings. Her guidance set me on my own pathway toward literacy learning growth.
In 2008, I was grateful to be hired as a first grade teacher in another school district after I had dedicated myself to this learning. The school became a seven year home for me and also allowed for a metamorphosis in my teaching. In being a part of this critical, foundational year, I was able to observe how very unique and varied young learners really are, no two are alike. I was fascinated with understanding how some children seemingly learned to read effortlessly, like the flip of a switch, while others continued to face challenges when wiring the same circuits, despite what would be considered good teaching. It was during these years that I returned to the cocoon of higher education to specialize in early literacy and a whole new teacher emerged. I learned how children and their brains develop in reading and how to collect more meaningful data to drive my instruction which also provided deeper insight into my learners. I recognized ways I could leverage individualized instruction within the context of the whole class setting to maximize learning. I built the capacity to finally start putting those complicated pieces of the literacy puzzle together so that my young readers could progress and flourish.
I was fortunate, once again, to have had another guide who changed my life and allowed a big shift in my thinking through advancements she made in our school’s philosophy and approaches to literacy instruction. She further challenged me to extend myself when she suggested I would be a strong candidate for an Orton-Gillingham certification program through Fairleigh Dickinson University’s center for Dyslexia Studies and in collaboration with a Masonic Dyslexia Center. After 5 years as a first grade teacher and professional routes taken that allowed me to more effectively target and reach my learners, I moved into the role of reading specialist for grades K-3 to help a community of learners. It was at this juncture that I realized I had another passion, being able to serve as a guide or facilitator for other educators on their own literacy learning pathway. I found enjoyment in digging through the breadth and depth of pedagogical and developmental research and finding ways to make this information more accessible, relatable and relevant to teachers’ own day-to-day practices, all while also meeting them where they were in their voyage.
After seven incredible years filled with rich opportunities and meaningful signposts in my learning, I made the decision to move abroad and work with international learners. For me, it presented another opportunity to evolve as I would be able to experience how research and practice function in even more diverse school communities. I also stretched my thinking by working to discover ways to integrate best practices in literacy with the content areas and Global Education. This led to an award winning design of year long plans and units anchored around the UN Sustainable Goals and that promoted a sense of global literacy in students.
I have now been overseas for nearly as long as I was a teacher in the States and there is one thing that I have found to be a universal truth and the same across oceans and borders, it only takes one small shift on our learning paths to promote positive changes and to make a difference. Whether you find that your child is in need of a change in course to be fully reached as a learner and to build their confidence or as a professional you are in search of new approaches to empower your teaching and to sharpen the tools already in your instructional toolbox, I would be honored to be a part of your learning journey.