I am wrapping up my first year as the coordinator of the Literacy Educators Program at UVEI. Throughout this year, I have continually been reminded of how grateful I am that our program exists for educators seeking to grow as literacy leaders in their schools and districts, as well as for all our students. During their time at UVEI, our candidates gain knowledge and confidence, increasing both their colleagues’ and their own abilities to develop students’ reading and writing skills.
For example, Emily, a first-year candidate of the literacy program, is serving on her school’s Literacy Leadership Committee. Emily’s school district chose to revisit and revamp their entire literacy program, from assessments to possible programs that would be used by all teachers in their district. Emily has found opportunities to contribute to the conversation in meaningful ways, using the research and foundational knowledge she has learned from her work with UVEI. When choosing the benchmark assessments for early elementary, Emily emphasized the importance of assessing phonemic awareness: “I understand the components of literacy as well as developmental stages in much more depth… I feel confident in what I’m teaching and assessing and why, because I know more about the research.” Because of Emily’s experiences in the first year of our program, she has confidently advocated for high quality literacy practices in her district’s curriculum decisions, with the research to back up her decisions.
Another unique component of our program is our focus on explicitly developing leadership skills during the second year. No matter what role our literacy candidates take on – interventionist, specialist, curriculum coordinator or coach – they will need to be able to facilitate meetings of teachers, coach individual educators on their literacy practices, and assure coherence of literacy programs across school and even district grade levels. During year two of the literacy program, our candidates learn how to facilitate teacher learning through practice with their peers. These experiences prove to be invaluable to our candidates and useful in their school communities. After facilitating a meeting of middle school English Language Arts teachers, Marisa shared that it was such a productive meeting that the group decided to continue to meet in order to better align their curriculum and grow in their literacy practice. While reflecting upon her experience, Marisa shared, “I will continue to make examining problems of practice a normal and accepted part of collaborative work” throughout future meetings. As a facilitator, I have the opportunity to set our group up to view our ELA teaching through an equity lens.” Through this work, Marisa gained important practice in her facilitation skills and strengthened her team’s collaborative process and growth as educators.
Before joining UVEI, I loved hearing “Just one more minute of reading time, Ms. Liu, please!” and seeing students grow as readers, both in their confidence and abilities. Now, I am fortunate enough to experience this joy multiple times through stories from my candidates – “Kristen, this student asked ME for more reading time, when I could barely get him to open a book at the beginning of the year!” I am so grateful to be leading this program and am honored to be a part of this incredibly important work and support our current literacy candidates.