Loyola University Maryland

Literacy Leadership Awards

Recipients of Literacy Leadership Awards

Literacy Leader Award:

Literacy Educator of the Year Award:

Literacy Leaders

2018 Honoree - Sedrick Smith, M.Ed. ’15

Smith serves at the Director of Admissions for Baltimore City College, and previously taught high school social studies for Baltimore City Public Schools. Smith uses his own experience of growing up in Baltimore and attending Baltimore City Schools to connect with his current students and support his fellow teachers. He strives towards lifelong learning, both as a Master’s student at Loyola and as a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland – Baltimore County, and is a prominent member of the greater Baltimore literacy education community. As Director of Admissions, he visits other schools to recruit young scholars to join the Baltimore City College’s high-quality educational programs. He frequently publishes editorials in the Baltimore Sun regarding educational topics and the lives of Baltimore youth. Finally, Mr. Smith has been a successful member of the Loyola affiliate faculty, teaching literacy courses within our Master of Arts in Teaching program. His colleagues “feel lucky” to call him a colleague, and he distinctly embodies the characteristics of a Literacy Leader. 

2017 10th Anniversary Honoree - South Baltimore Learning Center

The South Baltimore Learning Center supports the literacy needs of diverse communities in Baltimore through their mission to improve the self-sufficiency and self-efficacy of educationally disadvantaged adults. For nearly three decades, SBLC has provided a nurturing and transformative education for adults of all ages and backgrounds who are eager to learn and committed to making a difference in their lives and those of others in the Baltimore area. In the 2016 alone, SBLC enrolled 923 learners, 91% of whom were at or below poverty level. SBLC annually holds nearly 50 ABE/GED classes on-site in their state-of-the-art learning facility in Federal Hill. Yet, as Baltimore is truly a city of neighborhoods, SBLC also offers offsite classes at partner locations for those residents who prefer to stay closer to home. They offer about 35 such classes at: All State Careers Institute, Bon Secours, Curtis Bay Recreation Center, Claypots, Harbor Hospital, Church on the Boulevard (Morrell Park), Franciscan Center, Paul’s Place, and the Vocational Service Program. The extent and exhaustive nature of these collaborations point directly to SBLC’s positionality as a leader for literacy across Baltimore City. SBLC is singularly focused on helping improve the lives of learners through education. In doing so, they demand culturally relevant and developmentally appropriate instruction for each learner. Further, they hold high expectations for all learners and staff – as they are intimately aware of how the Center impacts families, neighborhoods, and, ultimately, the entire Baltimore community. From lobbying the legislature for additional funding for adult literacy to collaborating with other community organizations, SBLC positions itself as a powerful voice for adult and community education in our city and region.

2017 Honoree- Jessica Bernacki, M.Ed. '15

Bernacki currently teaches first grade at South Baltimore Charter School. She has deep commitment to urban education, working effectively with students from culturally and linguistically diverse communities. She was quick to apply her growing knowledge as a reading specialist, gaining recognition for her commitment to literacy, particularly literacy practices that moved student learning. For example, concerned about the literacy and language needs of her bilingual kindergarten students. Jessica questioned and expanded her practice by using teacher action research inquiry process. She carried out an inquiry study to infuse literacy and dramatic play in her kindergarten classroom, which resulted in strong learning gains for her students, and she shared her research findings with her school in a professional development program, and presented her findings at the 2016 American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting. She practices modeling inquiry based literacy services and continuing her exemplary teaching in service of her students. She creates authentic and engaging learning expeditions which allows students to have cross-curricular experiences that directly relate to their world. Jessica fosters students’ deep learning, as they develop expedition projects that challenge them to think critically and take active roles in their classroom and community. She plans fieldwork opportunities for students to engage in real world problem-solve, and efforts make a difference in their world. Bernacki embodies the Loyola spirit of competence, compassion, and conscience and is a wonderful ambassador for the Literacy Program and for the Teacher Education Department of Loyola University Maryland.

2016 Honoree - Kaitlyn Weinberger, M.Ed. ’15

Weinberger graduated from Loyola in 2015, and currently works at Westside Elementary in Baltimore City Schools. She motivates her students by finding their interests and capitalizing them. For example, one of her students likes basketball, so she bought a hoop and would allow the student to make a shot every time he could decode a word correctly. Another student was not interested in reading at all, so she found an author she thought he would be interested in, she went to a book signing and had the author write a message to motivate that student to start reading. She also uses a variety of reading materials keep students interested. She uses magnetic letters to build words, a listening center as a model for reading, tablets for reading apps and a recording device to record themselves reading for fluency. Weinberger is a coach to other teachers. She often goes into classrooms to model reading instruction then helps her colleagues plan quality lessons. She is vocal with her administration on the needs across her building and has worked on a team to get those needs met. She represents the type of hardworking and dedicated community member all teachers should strive to be.

2015 Honoree - Zachary Reed-Harris, M.Ed. ’15

Zachary Reed-Harris graduated from Loyola in 2015 and is currently an English-Language Arts teacher at Marley Middle School where has taught for the past nine years. He serves as a mentor teacher for Loyola interns who consistently praise him for his leadership and support to ensure their own teaching success. Reed-Harris promotes literacy in formal teaching strategies and has independent reading time incorporated into nearly every class period. He even has a stationary bike that students can use while reading. He sees his students as individuals and has a knack for understanding and reaching each child. His classroom environment is positive and respectful. He is also a leader within the school community, serving as the interdisciplinary leader for the sixth grade team for the past four years. Finally, he serves as a model teacher for novice teachers within the school district, illustrating the positive possibilities for literacy instruction and student learning.

2014 Honoree - Debbie Francis, M.Ed. ’07

Debbie Francis graduated from Loyola in 2007 and became the reading specialist at Our Lady of Grace Catholic School. She has continued to embrace the Karl Heldrich Reading Center which was established in the Fall of 2004 to service the students of OLG, as well as children in northern Baltimore County. She has continued to reach out to other organizations and institutions in the community to enhance the KH Reading Center and its ability to service the community. She administers and evaluates screening and assessment of students, provides support or enrichment for students, and mentors teachers within the building through staff development and modeling exceptional literacy teaching.

2013 Honoree - Kristine Scarry, M.Ed., '95

Kristine Scarry earned her Master’s degree from Loyola in 1995 and is currently the coordinator of reading K-12 for Harford County Schools. She is passionate in her commitment to literacy as the essential component to success in life. Her dedication to the cause of enriching the lives of all students with the gift of literacy is evident to the teachers and administrators in Harford County Public Schools who have attended her professional development sessions and reflected on their own practices in post-observation conferences with her. She continues to build upon her own knowledge base by staying current with the latest research and attending national conferences. She "translates" the research for teachers by modeling lessons and supporting collaborative lesson planning with grade-level teams. Finally, Scarry especially loves getting back into classrooms to model for teachers how to help students use close reading strategies, support their interpretations, and identify universal themes in literature.

2012 Honoree - Kelly Casagrande

Kelly Casagrande is an alumna of the Loyola’s Master’s in Literacy program and is an accomplished reading specialist at Graceland Park Elementary Middle School. She has started a business working with children who need help with literacy skills called Hand in Hand Tutoring. Casagrande has also worked to develop and implement the summer school literacy curriculum for Baltimore City Schools.

2011 Honoree - Erik James Sunday, M.Ed. RSP, '10

Erik James Sunday is a high school social studies teacher and reading specialist, M.Ed. RSP (’10) with more than 13 years of experience teaching diverse learners in Baltimore City. In 2011, he designed a comprehensive literacy program for the charter school that he cofounded, Independence School Local #1. He currently serves as his school’s literacy lead and chairs his school’s instructional committee. In addition, he volunteers time tutoring struggling readers after school. Sunday is a firm believer that the most important skill that he could impart to his students is a confidence and desire to improve oneself through reading.

2010 Honoree - Carmella Mary Antonino, M.Ed. RSP '08

Carmella Mary Antonino is an English teacher and reading specialist, M.Ed.RSP ('08) teaching at-risk/high-risk high school students in Baltimore City. She serves on the School Improvement Committee, the Instructional Leadership Team, the Attendance Committee, and is the English department team leader. In addition, she teaches developmental reading at the Community College of Baltimore County and is an affiliate professor at Loyola, where she works with the McGuire Scholars and MAT graduate students. This is Antonino’s 13th year teaching. Prior to Baltimore City, Antonino worked for the Pittsburgh Public Schools and Orange County Public Schools in Florida. An accomplished urban educator, Antonino has extensive experience teaching diverse students and works vigorously to meet their instructional, emotional, and curricula needs. Antonino’s motto for working with challenging students is, “Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I really need it.”

2009 Honoree - Keturah Nilsson, M.Ed., '04

Keturah Nilsson completed her M.Ed. as a reading specialist from Loyola in 2004. Her teaching experience has been primarily in the area of elementary education in Baltimore City schools. In 2006, she teamed up with Erika Brockman to form Southwest Charter School located in a high needs area of Baltimore City. The mission of this school is to “develop eager learners and critical thinkers who are committed to personal success and the success of their communities.” As director of instruction for the Southwest Charter School, Nilsson continues to be at the forefront of literacy instructional leadership and innovation.

2008 Honoree - Lisa Lewis, M.Ed., '06

Lisa Lewis is a master teacher who is committed to continuous self improvement and growth. For 10 years, Lisa has worked at Baltimore Lab School in various capacities including classroom teacher, reading specialist, case manager, and director of tutoring services. Since 2008, Lisa has been an instructor and division director of Loyola's Literacy Scholars Program in which she serves as a mentor and supervisor to graduate students in Loyola's reading specialist masters program. She works with the graduate students in constructing a vibrant, productive learning environment in which children from the community receive individualized instructional support to strengthen their literacy skills. As a division director, Lewis fosters a collaborative community between graduate students, deeping their expertise and professional confidence. More recently, Lewis has worked to expand the Literacy Scholars Program’s family/parent engagement, establishing partnerships with parents and other family members to initiate and reinforce children’s literacy practice at home.

Literacy Educators

2018 Honoree - Melissa Simmons

Simmons teaches third grade at Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore City Public Schools. She spearheads the collaboration between Lakeland mentor teachers and Loyola student interns as part of the school’s plan for supporting students’ literacy achievement. For example, she designed a reading enrichment program for 3rd-5th grades with support of Loyola teacher candidates, and she uses data from this program as part of her facilitation of professional development sessions. She has also chaired Lakeland’s Family and Community Engagement Committee which organizes school-wide conversations on building communication avenues with students’ families, and plans events around Hispanic Heritage and Black History months. Finally, Ms. Simmons serves a mentor for new teachers in the Baltimore City district, as well as a mentor teacher for Loyola interns. She is a leader in designing professional development for literacy teaching and learning for both Lakeland and Baltimore. 

2017 Honoree - Patricia Escarfuller

Escarfuller currently works as a Lower Elementary Guide at Greenspring Montessori. Her first priority for her students in literacy is developing a love of story, books, and their own voice. Her passion for and knowledge of children’s literature results in her inspiring students through picture books, novels, and nonfiction from culturally diverse materials. Her students analyze the illustrations, the language used, the relationship between the words and pictures, and the ways in which they can model their own writing after their reading. She merges knowledge of where her students are on the continuum of literacy development with her awareness of what motivates them to build an engaging instructional model. Escarfuller is developing the dual language model at her school and ensuring that her students are gaining skills and confidence in both English and Spanish. Her passion for understanding dual language growth, including the development of literacy in both languages, has resulted in her seeking research and best practices in this area. She has visited other dual language schools and constantly studies her practice in the context of providing a multilingual experience for her students. She is a leader in her school for learning how to implement a dual language program. In addition to being an instructional leader and passionate teacher, she adds to her school community by being compassionate and caring toward everyone, including not just her students but parents and guardians as well as other staff members.

2016 Honoree - Kristie Horn

Horn is currently the literacy coach at Havre de Grace Elementary School in Harford County Schools, which she has been doing for three years after spending several years teaching primary elementary grades. She has a commitment to teaching and learning with a work ethic that her fellow teachers admire. In her literacy leader role, she consistently and skillfully demonstrates her ability to teach using creative and innovative techniques to meet the needs of students and staff. She provides professional development that is differentiated and researched based in order to increase student achievement in the area of reading. She integrates the arts, celebrations, rigor, and differentiation into her professional development and model lessons she does for teachers. She motivates our students and staff at Havre de Grace in fun and exciting ways that encourage all to have a love for reading. Horn is an inspiration for both her colleagues and the young students that she works with on a daily basis.

2015 Honoree - Julie Quintana

Julie Quintana is a fourth grade teacher at Chevy Chase Elementary School where she has taught for the last three years. She is devoted to maintaining a standard of excellence in every aspect of education. She develops and delivers a structured instructional literacy program in a meaningful way for her students. She keeps a visual, ongoing list of books that the class reads to motivate all students to keep reading, and it is likely to observe all her students engaged in meaningful discourse about stories and storytelling. As a teacher in the Highly Gifted Center, Quintana challenges bright and curious students to grow as readers and writers by enlivening the curriculum through classroom visits from local historians, authors, parents, and politicians. She challenges her students to write and present their own TED-ED talks, as well as authentically connect to current social, cultural, and political issues. Quintana is a wonderful representative of the type of literacy teacher every student deserves.

2014 Honoree - Kristina Collins

Kristina Collins is a middle school literacy educator at Archbishop Borders Catholic School in Baltimore. She has assisted in providing professional development to her fellow teachers on the language and literacy development of culturally and linguistically diverse learners as her school serves a predominantly Latino and African American population. Collins’s knowledge of culturally relevant pedagogy and her use of culturally relevant practices serve as a model to other teachers at her school and in the broader community of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. Collins also has coordinated and assisted teachers in implementing the use of EasyCBM as a formative assessment tool that would help teachers use data to learn about the literacy strengths and needs of their students. She also is a leader in guiding the teachers at the school to develop effective lessons and implement best practices in literacy education.

2013 Honoree - Kathleen Maher-Baker

Kathleen Maher-Baker represents all that a teacher should be. She dedicates herself to bettering her students, her scores, and herself. She is constantly thinking, creating, and revising lessons to better meet the needs of her students. She has taught the range – from AP 12 to 9 Standard Inclusion, with her fair share of electives as well. She loves working with fellow teachers to improve the literacy instruction and student learning at Loch Raven High School.

2012 Honoree - Tammy Chilipko

Tammy Chilipko is a first grade teacher at Solley Elementary School with 23 years of experience. She is a mentor teacher for Loyola University and has mentored 26 interns in her 13 years of teaching in Anne Arundel County Schools. She is primary lead teacher and has presented several workshops to her entire staff. She operates on the philosophy of “catching her students being good” and getting children to believe in themselves.