Washington State & National Awards

Bonnie Campbell Hill National Literacy Leader Award

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and Children’s Literature Assembly (CLA) will honor two outstanding teacher leaders each year.  These may include a classroom teacher, literacy coach, or teacher educator dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of reading and writing in real world contexts in grades K–8.   The $2,500 grant may be used for professional development (not materials, except professional books for a book study).  This award is provided by the family of Bonnie Campbell Hill with the support of her colleagues.

National Literacy Leader Award Flyer

National Literacy Leader Award Application

Bonnie Campbell Hill National Literacy Leader Award Recipients

2016 award winner, Margaret Opatz, is a fourth grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah. Margaret distinguishes herself as a teacher-leader in her school community.  Working with a wide range of students and abilities, she is noted as being “thoughtful and sharing her ideas in respectful, yet challenging ways.”  Her plan is to develop a professional learning community that will establish shared goals for her school, then to attend the “Coaching of Reading Institute” to gain new skills and strategies that will benefit her team.   A key focus is “to teach reading of fiction and nonfiction in a more responsive and empowering manner.”

Fellow 2016 winner, Deanna Day, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Washington State University in Vancouver, Washington. An accomplished teacher and scholar of children’s literature, Deanna has worked for nearly three decades to share her knowledge, expertise, and passion for literature.  Her year-long project will engage 20 K-5 teachers to celebrate the power of picture books as participants build skills in reading, discussion, and analysis.   “My hope is that through this professional collaboration I would be able to support elementary teachers in using recent children’s literature, specifically picture books, in their instruction.”

2015 award winner, Cynthia Alaniz, is the school librarian at Cottonwood Creek Elementary School in Coppell, Texas. Cynthia takes her role as literacy advocate for her school seriously!  She is described as a “gifted teacher leader who strives to improve her craft, designs learner-centered experiences and truly has a passion for ensuring success of all learners and educators.”  Her grant funds were used to attend both the NCTE Convention in Minneapolis and the ALA Midwinter in Boston.  In particular, she notes enthusiasm for joining in the open discussion meetings of the ALA Notables Committee, then sharing her skills and experience through the mock Caldecott she organizes with her third through fifth graders.

Fellow 2015 award winner, Page Miller Fahrig-Pendse, is the Assistant Head of Curriculum and Instruction at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, PA. A dedicated teacher-leader in her school, Page is using her award funds to foster a professional learning community at Germantown Friends School.  A key goal of her project is to “think deeply about children’s oral language development, expanding knowledge of sound/symbol correspondence, and understanding and appreciation of narrative and nonfiction texts.”  In keeping with the spirit of the Bonnie Campbell Hill Award, the funds also helped Page and several colleagues broaden their connections to the world of children’s literature by attending the NCTE annual convention in Minneapolis.

2014 award winner, Karen Hayes, is the District Instructional Intervention Specialist at Alief Independent School District in Houston, Texas. Karen sought to invigorate writing instruction in her district by forming a cohort of ten teachers to develop themselves as writers and thus better teachers. “Through reading professional resources on writing and children’s literature as mentor text, we will examine authors’ craft in composing, sentence structure, word choice, conventions and development of concepts while examining themes of persistence, resilience and perseverance….”  Grant funds were used to purchase books and materials for her study group and to attend both regional and national conferences to share her work.

Fellow 2014 winner, Janelle Mathis, is a Professor in Teacher Education and Administration at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Through her work with area teachers and doctoral candidates, Janelle found a tremendous need for and interest in international children’s and young adult literature.  She formed a study group to “(1) expand and deepen our knowledge base in literature and its uses: resources, engagements, and the scholarly work that supports our endeavors; (2) to extend individual inquiries in the development of international literature-based multimodal text sets; (3) to share their work” at regional (UNT & TWU), national (NCTE), and international (USBBY) conferences.  Grant funds were used for professional books and literature, and to support participants’ travel to present their work.

2013 award winner, Alida Hudson, is a second grade teacher at Northgate Crossing Elementary School in Spring, Texas. Ms. Hudson is a literacy advocate for her school who is excited to mentor fellow teachers in conducting engaging Reader’s Workshops.  Award funds will be used for her to lead a book study group using The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller – including a live Skype session with the author, and to attend and/or present her work at the 2013 ALER, TALE, and NCTE conferences.

Fellow 2013 award winner, Prisca Martens, is Professor of Literacy Education at Towson University, Maryland. Dr. Martens’ award will support her collaborative research project with area teachers that explores “how global literature supports the development of young children’s intercultural understandings and how the children express those understandings in art.”  The funds will enable her team of 10-13 teachers to share their work at the NCTE Convention in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Crosthwaite, a third grade teacher for the Clark County School District (Las Vegas, Nevada) was the 2012 award winner. She describes her project:

As a third grade teacher for the Clark County School District (Las Vegas, Nevada), I have come to understand the importance of instilling a sense of empowerment for our students; more importantly, one that can allow our students to see their role as global citizens and the opportunities to invoke change in their world. Social justice has been an important foundation of my literacy teaching and research as a doctoral student at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. More importantly, it has become a major focus of my students’ understanding of themselves, their community, and the world they live in. I believe that children’s literature with a focus on global themes can provide our students with a window to the world, one that will allow them to critically understand the injustices that exist and to delve into dialogue focused on envisioning possibilities for a more just world. As a recipient of this award, I plan on engaging a group of five teachers at my elementary school in a book club using the text, For a Better World: Reading and Writing for Social Action (2001) by Randy Bomer and Katherine Bomer. Additionally, our students will begin a social action project entitled Promoting Literature, Publishing for the World. Within this project, our students will write, illustrate, and publish children’s books to donate to libraries associated with Room to Read. I believe our school community can make a difference. Certainly, world change starts with educated children (Bonnie Campbell Hill Website); our students, through their own education about the world and recognition of their role as global citizens, can make this world change possible, one book at a time.

Saba Khan Vlach

A twelve-year veteran public school teacher from Arlington, Texas, 2011 award winner Saba Khan Vlach has been a leader of her grade level team for eight years and has served as a district staff developer on a variety of literacy topics, written language arts and math curriculum, served on textbook adoption committees for language arts, and taught the Early Literacy seminar for the district. This award will help further Saba’s ongoing classroom-based research on the response of African-American students to culturally conscious African-American literature. Saba writes that she is inspired by “Gloria Ladson-Billing’s conception of a culturally relevant pedagogy: one in which children thrive academically, maintain their cultural identity and are willing to challenge the status quo in society.”

Saba intends to present her research at three national conferences: in Chicago at NCTE’s Children’s Literature Assembly Post-Conference; in Jacksonville, Florida at the Literacy Research Association Annual Conference; and in Dallas at the Billie J. Askew Early Literacy Conference. The selection committee is proud to support Saba’s vision of a literacy-focused, inclusive classroom that helps all students develop a love of literature.

Dr. Mary-Kate Sabelski

Dr. Jackie Arnold

2011 award winners Dr. Mary-Kate Sabelski and Dr. Jackie Arnold currently lead and teach the Masters in Literacy program at the University of Dayton. They also work in cooperation with the university’s Center for Catholic Education, a center focused on cultivating collaborative relationships between university professors and local Catholic schools, in particular with the numerous urban elementary schools in the area. Last year, Mary and Jackie designed and implemented a one-day “Picture Book Read-In” to encourage urban schools and teachers who are passionate about literature, but in need of support, to find new, high quality reading material for their students. Over eighty teachers participated in last year’s read-in; this award will, in part, help support a similar event next summer.

During the read-in event, teachers will be able to discuss favorite books, curriculum connections, thoughts about their reading experience, and plans to integrate new literature into their curriculum for the upcoming year. Participants will then have the option to participate in a yearlong professional learning community focused on the reading and discussion of high quality children’s literature. Mary and Jackie are passionate about creating a group “grounded in the specific goals of the participants, resulting in an organically built professional development experience.” This professional learning community incorporates online discussions and other collaborative learning approaches and will meet on a monthly basis throughout the school year, concluding with a book luncheon for all participants. One of the participants will be awarded financial support, through a lottery, to attend and represent the group at the NCTE Annual Convention in Chicago. The selection committee was impressed by this teaching team’s creative approach to supporting urban schools and invigorating a network of teachers committed to the use of high-quality literature in the classroom.

With their thoughtful research, commitment to collaboration, leadership efforts within their professional communities, and love for great children’s literature, this year’s award winners exemplify the goals of the Bonnie Campbell Hill Award for Literacy Leaders. Their awards will be presented during the NCTE/CLA breakfast in November, at the NCTE national convention in Chicago.

Bonnie Campbell Hill Washington State Literacy Leader Award

The Washington State Literacy Association (WaSLA) will honor two outstanding teacher leaders each year.  These may include a classroom teacher, literacy coach, or teacher educator) dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of reading and writing in real world contexts in grades K–8.   The $2,500 grant may be used for professional development (not materials, except professional books for a book study).    This award is provided by the family of Bonnie Campbell Hill with the support of her colleagues.

Washington State Literacy Leader Award Flyer

Washington State Literacy Leader Award Application

Bonnie Campbell Hill Washington State Literacy Leader Award Recipients

2013 award winner, Melissa Thienes, is the ELL Facilitator/Literacy Specialist at Bow Lake Elementary in SeaTac, Washington. Bow Lake Elementary is a racially and economically diverse school located in Highline School District, just south of Seattle.  They have a large number of students who are bilingual and/or have special needs, and around 81 percent of their children receive free or reduced lunch. Melissa developed, organized, and implemented a school-wide literacy intervention program which monitors student progress.  She trained staff on how to use the process and continues to guide them as needed, challenging and supporting individual teachers in changing their practice.  She has also brought about change through providing teachers with professional development targeting areas of growth on the individual and school level.  Melissa is also effective at building relationships which support her in helping staff improve their practice. In her dual role as ELL facilitator and literacy specialist she meets and collaborates with other ELL facilitators, literacy specialists, district curriculum department heads, and administrators.

Douglas F. Neufeld, Principal at Bow Lake Elementary commented, “When you talk to Ms. Thienes, it becomes clear that she has a wealth of understanding around effective teaching practices.  In Tukwila she was a very successful teacher who achieved excellent results with her students.  She has brought that knowledge to Bow Lake and has shared it with our teachers.  Ms. Thienes has built positive relationships with members of the Bow Lake community, including teachers and students.  She has done this with teachers by knowing when to support and when to push.”

Melissa plans to use the award money to pay for training at the Teacher’s College Coaching Institute, which focuses on increasing reading development through the Common Core Standards. The training emphasizes increasing comprehension and rigor through the use of performance assessments. Her district has launched a P-3 initiative, which set a goal that 95% of next year’s kindergartners will be at grade level before they leave third grade. One way students will achieve this goal is that teachers will be given professional development which focuses on common vocabulary, common materials, high quality strategies, and best practices. Teachers will also need support in using assessments to inform instruction and progress monitor students. Melissa’s professional development plan is to use the knowledge gained at the Teacher’s College Coaching Institute to better support her district’s goal. Although the goal is focused P-3, she would be providing professional development both individually and at the school level to all teachers so they can improve their practice. Also, she will be focusing on the components of these steps by providing ongoing guidance in the classroom, giving additional training as needed, and providing resources.

The second 2013 award winner, Sara Betts, has worked in the Highline School District in Seattle, Washington in a variety of capacities since 2004.  She joined White Center Heights Elementary as a Reading Interventionist and After School Program Coordinator in 2012.  As a reading interventionist, she has collaborated with teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals to organize and deliver reading instruction to their striving readers.

This position allowed Sara to get a broader look at literacy across K-6, collaborate with staff across grade levels, as well as try a variety of instructional strategies in small groups of students.  In addition to delivering instruction to students, she worked with grade level teams to examine student growth through deep analysis of both formative and summative assessments.  The staff used her findings to create focused small instructional groups for students, as well as to seek out resources to further their own understandings of student needs.  Because many of their students are served by paraprofessionals, Sara also worked with her interventionist colleague to design weekly trainings around delivering guided reading instruction and interventions.

Dr. Anne Reece, Principal at White Center Heights, remarked, “Sara consistently delivers high-level, effective literacy instruction to her reading groups, positively impacting student learning and growth.  Sara is a reflective practitioner who consistently supports and challenges her colleagues to do the same.”

This year, Sara’s school is adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Her school uses the balanced literacy model to deliver literacy instruction.  One of the questions they have is how to integrate the CCSS with this model.  Particularly, the staff is curious about the emphasis the CCSS places on ‘complex’ literary and informational text.   Her proposal asked the question: How do we design and deliver rigorous K-6 literacy instruction using complex text while still scaffolding the learning and reading skills needed and requiring authentic and high quality reading tasks? While this is a layered, difficult question, seeking the answers to this question will help further their professional understandings of CCSS as well as create more focused, demanding teaching and learning for students.  Sara plans to attend the WORD and IRA conferences with a colleague to seek out resources and information to bring back to staff.  They will lead staff through a book study of Text Complexity:  Raising Rigor in Reading, encouraging the sharing of ideas and methods within the school and improving cooperation amongst staff. They will also continue their leadership in the school’s professional development activities next year.

2012 award winner, Colleen DeLorenzo, teaches in the Snohomish School District.  A district leader and a school-based leadership team member, Colleen has immersed herself in the professional development resources available, and strives to ensure that colleagues feel similarly inspired about high quality literacy instruction.  Taking a workshop-based approach that includes conferences, small strategy-groups, and whole group mini-lessons, Colleen fosters the development of independent readers who feel passionate about school.

Working in a school where over half of the student population receives free or reduced lunch presents many challenges as a teacher, Colleen finds ways to encourage parent involvement, plan field trips, and surround students with a classroom library that inspire a genuine love of reading in her students.   Colleen has supported her colleagues’ work with Daily 5, CAFÉ, Words Their Way, and Writing Workshop, and plans to continue her professional growth through further book studies among colleagues, and by attending IRA and WORD conferences to gain further insight into implementation of cutting-edge literacy research in real-world classroom settings.

The second award of 2012 was presented to David Lowe, a Head Teacher and Literacy Staff Developer from the Seattle School District.  David has trained staff district-wide in the implementation of Reading and Writing Workshop, and works as a literacy coach at Olympic View Elementary, providing staff professional development sessions, teaching model lessons in classrooms, and coaching both individual teachers and grade-level teams.  Additionally, David has built a conferring notebook app for mobile devices called Confer, which allows teachers to track students’ individual and small group progress more closely, enabling them to then plan more focused differentiated instruction.

The principal of Olympic View Elementary believes that David “approaches all that he does with curiosity, profundity, and tenacity, whether it’s his work supporting students’ academic and behavioral success, coaching and co-planning with teachers, or leading professional development for groups of educators,” and that his “unsurpassed understanding of how students grow as readers and writers is a powerful catalyst for the growth of [the school’s] collective practice in literacy.”

David intends to use the award as an opportunity to, in collaboration with Gina LaPorta, one of Seattle’s leading literacy coaches and director of the Olympic Hills literacy labsite, engage in a practical, yearlong study of the best practices in coaching and professional development for elementary literacy.  They plan to attend the Teachers College Literacy Coaching Institute, after which they will develop a creative vision for how to incorporate new practices into a district wide system of literacy support.

BuildinDawn Christiana and Pam Pottleg a grass-roots movement in the Bellingham School District to improve teachers’ professional development from the inside out, Dawn Christiana and Pam Pottle are leading the charge to redefine the district’s core curriculum. Dawn and Pam have taken on leadership roles within the school district as members of the Literacy Advisory Committee and the Literacy Steering Committee, as well as leadership positions as District Level Literacy Advisory Facilitators.

Pam is a primary teacher with many years experience coaching, teaching, and leading colleagues to stronger instructional practice, as well as a deeply nuanced understanding of the Bellingham school district. Dawn is an intermediate teacher whose career has taken her from Pennsylvania to Washington State. Her range of classroom experience, along with her experience providing seminars with the Bureau of Education and Research throughout the United States and Canada give Dawn a broad national perspective on education. As two of the state’s finest literacy educators, the award committee was struck by the depth of collaboration that they’ve built into their projects.

In their role as District Literacy Advisory Facilitators, Dawn and Pam conducted a district-wide survey that identified major inconsistencies in approaches to instruction, as well as a number of resources being used in classrooms that did not mesh with a balanced-literacy approach. They tackled the issue head on, using their positioning within the steering committee to build a stronger foundation for literacy district wide. They wrote:

“To us, common core curriculum is defined as powerful core instruction, standards-based, intentionally focused on comprehensive literacy assessment and evaluation. We also believe that no common core curriculum can be guaranteed or viable without the foundation of strong, systematic, sustainable professional development for all teachers.”

Their commitment to enhancing professional development district-wide and to including all stakeholders in open and transparent lines of communication is providing teachers with vital support and opportunities for growth in the Bellingham region.

Kate Norem MorrisKate Norem Morris is an intermediate classroom teacher and a Title I reading teacher from the Everett School District. Kate has drawn on a workshop model to build students’ love for literacy in her classroom at Horizon Elementary, a school with a free and reduced lunch rate of over 90% and a large ELL population. Kate’s work reflects her belief that “literacy instruction based on clear models and demonstrations, engaging texts and discussions, and student choice and goal setting will foster proficient readers and writers regardless of student background or circumstances.”

Kate has reached out to others in her school as a professional mentor, facilitating professional book clubs, modeling guided reading, and leading classes throughout the district for her fellow teachers. She also built a school-wide system that uses formative running records to create intervention groups for struggling readers, a clear example of the ways in which Kate confronts new challenges with tremendous enthusiasm. Kate’s project is truly localized and personal; the award committee was struck by its great potential to positively impact student learning. Kate will be reaching out to a new student population next year at the Bush School in Seattle, where she plans to foster a commitment to social justice and global citizenship through students’ meaningful engagement with literature.

We are truly inspired by these teachers’ work and look forward to seeing the ways this award will allow them to continue to grow as leaders within their professional communities over the course of the next year.

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