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How My ILA Membership Supported My Transition to a District Literacy Coach

By Staci Kaplan
 | Dec 01, 2016

LT343_ReflectionsI began a new position as a district literacy coach this fall after 13 years as an elementary school teacher.

How did I get here?

It’s largely thanks to the International Literacy Association (ILA), which helps educators move from teacher to leader by facilitating teacher growth through open dialogue about literacy and a commitment to increasing literacy in their communities.

I first heard the title literacy coach while studying for my master’s in literacy education at Teachers College. However, it was my membership and involvement with ILA that inspired me to become one. I joined ILA in December 2014 and two months later received my first copy of The Reading Teacher. For several days I proudly displayed the journal on my coffee table, too excited to open it. Then on a cold and sunny winter morning, I sat down, coffee in hand, picked up the journal and began to explore. Enthralled, I read page after page.

In “View From the Chalkboard,” teachers welcomed us into their classrooms. I knew I wanted to do that; I wanted to share. A month later, my first-ever article was accepted for publication. I wrote about my experiences with classroom talk, a practice that transforms a collection of students into a community.

ILA allowed my voice to be heard and made me realize teachers as leaders matter.

That was a big moment for me. I changed my focus from being an elementary school teacher for a classroom of students to becoming a teacher leader. I was motivated to dig deeper and find ways to connect with other teachers and make an even greater impact on students’ achievement in literacy. In March 2015, I received my first copy of Literacy Today. I gazed at its full-page advertisement for the ILA conference in St. Louis. I wrote a letter to my administrator requesting funding, it was approved, and off I went. During my four days at the conference, my brain was buzzing with new ways to make a difference.

After returning, I ran into my principal’s office holding a book I purchased at the conference, telling her how it can help teachers with feedback and goal setting. “Why don’t you give a Lunch and Learn?” she said with a smile. My principal shaped my professional learning plan and, by November, I was surrounded by a group of 15 teachers who all wanted to connect, learn, and grow. Their enthusiasm encouraged me to expand and share with teachers across our district.

I returned from the ILA conference in Boston in July, this time focusing on literacy leadership and engaging classroom instruction. After hearing Linda Gambrell of Clemson University at the Research Institute, I was inspired to embark on a yearlong mission to increase students’ reading motivation through access, relevance, and choice. I participated in sessions on mind-set, making learning visible, coaching for growth, and thinking like a leader.

With ILA by my side, I am learning to be a leader who creates knowledge along with administrators, principals, teachers, parents, and students, to be a literacy coach who designs a space with love, hope, trust, and humility.

From teacher to leader, that is how I came to be here.

staci kaplan headshotStaci Kaplan, an ILA member since 2014, is a literacy coach for Summit Public Schools in New Jersey. Along with crediting ILA for guiding her in her career, she is also very thankful for the support and guidance of Lauren Banker, principal of Washington Elementary School in Summit.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2016 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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