Raising the Bar: Literacy Educator of the Year Sets Standard in Classroom and as Mentor
Preparing to host their third annual Literacy Leader award ceremony and lecture, an event designed to honor the most accomplished graduates of Loyola’s reading specialist master’s program, the University’s literacy faculty decided to expand the event to highlight the finest educators in the literacy field—regardless of where they earned their educations. Their new award, the Literacy Educator of the Year, would recognize a current Maryland public or private school educator who demonstrates accomplished practice and innovation in the area of literacy teaching and learning; fosters a literacy-rich and welcoming classroom community; models lifelong learning as a member of the school community; enhances the literacy development of all students; collaborates and shares best practices with colleagues; and exhibits principles practice in the classroom, school, and/or community.
The honoree? Kerry Avenia Raup, ’03, M.Ed., ’06, who earned both her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Loyola.
Less than 10 years into her teaching career, Raup has already become well-known for her remarkable skills and commitment to her students at Pleasant Plains Elementary in Towson, Md., where she has taught since landing an internship there as an undergraduate.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” says Raup, a native of Shelton, Conn. “There was a daycare in my high school, and I just fell in love with the spark kids have when they’re learning new things.”
Raup’s interest in literacy came later. Pleasant Plains, located in Baltimore County, is a Title I school, meaning it receives federal funding since more than half of its students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. “I started out teaching third grade,” she says. “My students were coming in each year with less and less reading skills [than expected for their grade level]. I realized literacy was something I wanted to learn more about, and I needed to learn more about how to teach them skills and strategies in reading and writing as well as to help them foster the love of reading.”
Raup began the reading specialist master’s program at Loyola two years into her teaching career, finishing it two and a half years later. She’s now in her fourth year as a reading specialist at Pleasant Plains. “I work mostly with kindergartners through second graders,” she says. “I get to see them going from not being able to read at all, to getting to know the letters and sounds, to starting to grasp it, until they’re just flying, putting it all together. Those little steps make it all so rewarding.
“Literacy is so important in life,” she says. “If kids don’t have the skills, they won’t be able to thrive.”
As Raup’s expertise and interest in literacy deepened, she took on new roles at her school, and at Loyola. She mentors new teachers on current instructional methodology and models best practices in demonstration lessons for seasoned teachers. She’s served as site liaison for Loyola’s Professional Development School program at Pleasant Plains, as well as the site coodinator for a program called the 100 Book Challenge that puts books into kids hands each day. She has taught many classes in the reading specialist graduate program at Loyola, including Language Arts: Theory and Instruction, Materials of Reading, Literacy Assessments of Individuals, and Literacy Assessment of Groups. She is also overseeing Pleasant Plains’ summer school program for the fourth consecutive year.
“Ms. Avenia’s knowledge of reading instruction is evident as soon as you see her at work with students or other professionals,” wrote Deborah Anthony, who coordinates Loyola’s Professional Development Relationship with Pleasant Plains, in nominating Raup for the award. “Even more evident is her enthusiasm as she engages youngsters in their pursuit of literacy. High achievers and struggling readers all benefit from Ms. Avenia’s passion for learning and teaching.”
Raup, who got married this past June, credits her Loyola education, and, in particular, the field experiences she completed, with preparing her for the challenges she faces in the classroom. “We had so many field experiences and internships, and in very different schools, urban and suburban,” she says. “I really believe that the practicum I completed at the end gave me a very good understanding of what kids need after you assess them.”
Raup’s approach to her work, and her approach to her students, help validate the School’s approach to teacher education.
“She truly embodies what we want our students and alumni to be, the ideal of men and women for others,” said Afra Hersi, Ph.D., director of Loyola’s literacy program. “We are also thrilled she’s decided to stay in Baltimore and devote her talents to students in our area.”
Nominations for the 2012 Literacy Leader and Educator of the Year will be accepted beginning in January 2012. For more information on this program, contact Mark Lewis, Ph.D., of the teacher education department, at 410-617-5277, or firstname.lastname@example.org.