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Get to Know New Board Member-at-Large Rachael Gabriel

By Alina O'Donnell
 | Jun 04, 2019

qa-rachael-gabrielA former reading teacher and literacy specialist, Rachael Gabriel is now an associate professor of literacy education at the University of Connecticut, where she teaches courses on literacy methods, assessment, and leadership. She is a frequent ILA conference presenter as well as an author and reviewer for several ILA publications, grants, and awards.

Beyond her work with ILA, Gabriel develops local and international professional development partnerships; serves as the analyst for a U.S. networked improvement community focused on early literacy intervention; and sits on the editorial boards of six major journals. Her robust body of research—comprised of more than 40 refereed articles—centers on literacy instruction, leadership, and intervention.

We spoke to Gabriel about her interest in decision-making strategy; her plans to prioritize issues of access and equity; and the importance of asking the right questions.

On what ILA means to her

“As a practitioner, ILA is a connection to resources. Through ILA’s journals, conferences, and other opportunities to engage with literacy professionals, as a teacher, I found resources that shaped my understandings of literacy and the instruction I provided to my students. As a teacher educator, I often turn to ILA publications and events for resources, ideas, and inspiration.

“As a researcher, ILA is a support for almost everything I do. Because ILA supports studies directly through grants and indirectly by providing platforms to disseminate research in journals and at conferences, there is a lot of knowledge about literacy that wouldn’t exist if it were not for ILA. A lot of ideas in literacy education can be traced back to an article, book, study, conference session, or conversation that happened because of ILA. Membership in ILA has meant access to a shared knowledge base and a community of colleagues.”

On her hopes for the future of literacy education

“There are a lot of separate conversations happening about issues of equity in instruction. I would like to see more cross-pollination between perspectives and ways of thinking about the ongoing challenges of ensuring every child has access to affirming, responsive, robust instruction.”

On asking the right questions

“I think part of being a good Board member is being informed about individual issues and aware of the big picture. The Board is not involved on a day-to-day basis, so we get to step back and ask: What is working? When, how, and for whom? Are all efforts leading in the direction we intend them to? What else needs to be recruited, aligned, or revised to increase opportunities for more children to develop powerful literacies?”

On the experience she brings to the role
“I have spent a lot of time studying decision-making in education policy settings and committee meetings. I think about leadership and mentoring and how smaller interactions build into bigger patterns of interactions, assumptions, and understandings. The role of a Board member is an opportunity to apply that line of research in the context of my work on literacy and leadership.”

On what excites her most about this new role

“ILA has been such an important part of my teaching, research, and connection to the community of literacy professionals. I am proud and honored to be able to give back to the organization by serving in this role, and am excited to engage with and learn alongside international members, leaders, and partners. As a Board member, I am eager to support ILA’s efforts to advocate for the universal right to literacy by generating and disseminating research that has the potential to shape public understandings of literacy teaching and learning.”

Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

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