“My mission is simple. I believe in serving teachers.” These simple words from our co-recipient of the Individual Literacy Award, Erin Brown, English Language Arts Consultant from the Muskegon ISD, explain her passion for teaching, teachers, and believing their role is one of the keys to the future of our society. Erin’s teaching experience began in a 5th grade classroom, but she knew that she wanted to help other teachers reach their goals. She is active in district, regional and state initiatives. She developed and implemented online modules to instruct teachers with best practices in literacy instruction. She leads the MAISA ISD ELA Leadership Team and has been invited to speak with our new State Superintendent. She has been extremely helpful in saving Western Dunes Reading Council. She helped put together a team of presenters for their Interactive Read Aloud Night, set up the email invitation and promoted it throughout Ottawa and Muskegon counties. Without her help this council may have folded. Her simple mission of serving teachers has Erin reaching into her own time to make things happen.
“I believe in the power of story, in sharing and in letting these stories shape who we are as individuals and as communities.” These powerful words are from this year’s co-recipient of the Individual Literacy Award, Dr. Deborah VanDuinen, professor in the Department of Education at Hope College in Holland. She was the recipient of the prestigious Hope Towsley Award in 2013. This award honors a junior faculty member who shows great promise in their field. Dr. VanDuinen has done research, published, and presented in the Education Department by organizing and facilitating monthly research colloquies. She connects her pre-service teachers with teachers, colleagues and community members to study literature resources, opportunities and networks. She has made a significant contribution in the Holland community as the program director of The Holland Big Read program, which has brought together the Herrick Library, local high schools and businesses to focus on two important pieces of literature – To Kill a Mockingbird and The Things They Carried – in the last two years. She is an exemplary literacy scholar and the Michigan Reading Association congratulates her on the Individual Literacy Award.
"We live in a world of budget cuts and smaller salaries, and I feel it is more important than ever for teachers to professional development into their own hands." These words from this year's Individual Literacy Award, Colby Sharp, tell us why he is constantly trying to keep himself up-to-date through Twitter and his blog SharpRead. He shares his reflections to encourage teachers to take the next step. In his third grade classroom, he teaches and allows his students to lead conversations about reading. He has helped teachers throughout the country with his Nerdy Book Club, Nerd Camp Jr., and Nerd Camp Michigan. Not only are these camps an example of progressive professional development, they are free to participants! As one person stated in her letter, "Colby Sharp is the kind of teacher that I would want my own children to have."
Described as a fierce advocate for literacy in sheep’s skin, this year’s honoree is not afraid to fight for Michigan students and educators on issues of importance. Carol Paul, the Director of English Language Services at Summit Academy Schools in Romulus, is this year’s award recipient of the Michigan Reading Association Literacy Award. She is an active member of MRA, MCLA, and President of Wayne County Reading Council. When she is not working with students and staff at her school, Carol is working with students at Henry Ford Community College on English/reading skills. In her own words, Carol has stated, “The field of literacy has much to offer, and I am honored to be a part of it. Although any discipline is going to come with challenges, I believe these tests will make us all stronger literacy leaders.”