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Get to Know New Board Member-at-Large Laurie Sharp

By Alina O'Donnell
 | Jun 11, 2019

get-to-know-sharp-2A member since 2004, Laurie Sharp has spent 15 years in roles of increasing responsibility and visibility at ILA—she’s attended various ILA committees; held leadership positions in two special interest groups (Professors of Literacy and Teacher Education and Specialized Literacy Professionals); served as a Board member, vice president, president-elect, and chair of ILA’s Texas chapter, the Texas Association for Literacy Education; and in July, she starts a new chapter as Board member-at-large. 

In addition to her many contributions to ILA, Sharp is a former classroom teacher, a teacher educator, and a prolific scholar, having contributed more than 80 publications to the literacy community. She recently accepted a new role as associate professor and assistant dean of undergraduate studies for first- and second-year experience at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX.

We spoke to Sharp about the value of professional associations, cultivating effective partnerships, and what it really means to be a literacy leader.

On what ILA means to her

“I’ve been an ILA member since 2004 during my enrollment as an undergraduate preservice teacher at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Donna Camp was one of my mentor professors, and she encouraged us to become involved in a professional organization. I chose ILA and have not regretted it since.

“Throughout my entire career, both as a classroom teacher and a teacher educator, ILA is my go-to for both evidence-based research and high-quality professional learning. I’ve gained so much from going to the professional conferences each year. But most of all, ILA has given me is a valuable network of professional colleagues. I’ve made professional and personal connections with literacy professionals from all over the world. I’m so excited to give back to an organization that has given me so much.”

On her hopes for the future of literacy education

“One of the areas that I’ve really become attuned to is literacy leadership. Rita Bean and Diane Kern have done quite a bit of work in this area, especially for specialized literacy professionals. In today’s schools, it’s equally important that classroom teachers are literacy leaders. Classroom teachers must be equipped to advocate for all students, high-quality literacy practices, and increased support for continuous professional learning.

“ILA has been such a strong voice for effective literacy instruction among literacy professionals. In moving forward, I see great opportunities to invite other literacy stakeholders into the fold. Cultivating strong partnerships with administrators, policymakers, community members, parents and caregivers, and so many others is a vital step to advance literacy learning and teaching.”

On promoting ILA’s mission of literacy for all

“In both my practice and research, equity is always a concern at the forefront of my mind. Every learner should have access to highly qualified teachers who create culturally responsive, inclusive learning spaces. However, schools are currently experiencing teacher shortages and a lack of teacher diversity. To achieve literacy for all, it is essential to recruit, develop, and retain diverse literacy professionals of the highest caliber.

“In terms of literacy teacher education, all things are not equal. There are great differences across teacher education programs, such as size, funding, and access to diverse school contexts. ILA is well positioned to provide literacy teacher educators with the resources and support needed in their work with preparing teachers for the world of literacy.”

On the most valuable experience she brings to the role

“Definitely my experience as a classroom teacher. I am a teacher at heart, and I see great value in maintaining strong connections with those who are closest to students: the teachers. I really admire that ILA has embraced practitioner-oriented research within its journal publications. Essentially, practitioners can read these articles and easily say, ‘I can implement that tomorrow.’

“It’s about staying closest to where the magic is happening, which is in the hands of teachers.”

What most excites you about this new opportunity?

“Everyone I’ve interacted with through ILA and the Texas Association for Literacy Educators is so passionate about literacy and committed to excellence. Through these interactions, I have learned and grown tremendously. As a Board member, I look forward to meeting many more amazing literacy professionals from all around the world to further enhance my understandings of literacy learning and teaching.

“I have to tell you, this is really just a surreal experience. ILA has been so good to me. To be involved in professional service as a contributor and a learner is just so exciting.”

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

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