1) What do you do?
After receiving my master’s degree from Teachers College Columbia University, I became a New York City public school teacher. During that time, my passion for literacy instruction developed. I was often involved in curriculum writing and the piloting of new curriculum in partnership with The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Ultimately, I decided to take the leap from being a classroom teacher to being a literacy consultant. In this role, I have the great honor of sharing my passion for literacy with teachers and students around the country. My greatest joy—aside from being the proud mother to my two young children—is helping students see themselves as readers and writers (even, and especially, when they aren’t yet reading and writing conventionally). And as one of the co-founders of The Living Literacy Network, an organization that offers personalized professional development services within the framework of balanced literacy, I strive to help students find the books that will change their lives and then write the stories that beg to be captured on the page.
2) Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
I am helping teachers find ways to bridge their instruction with media literacy. It is common in my line of work to incorporate ways that students might closely observe and analyze images during social studies or reading workshop, or synthesize the information from various text features by asking questions such as, “What does the author think about this topic? What does the author want me to think about this topic?” My goal has increasingly become to help teachers apply these techniques to digital images and information in the media as well. There is a close relationship between the critical and close reading of books and the critical and close reading of the digital environment. Regardless of what students are reading—a paperback or an online article— I encourage them to ask the necessary questions such as, “Is this story fair? Who is included and who is left out? How does this text deal with individuals and with groups?” In doing so, I hope to do my part in creating a more democratic and socially conscious society.
3) Why is media literacy important to you?
Media literacy is all about equipping people to make sense of and evaluate the texts we are inundated with on a daily basis. Since we receive most (if not all) of our news through digital and electronic media, it’s crucial that we know how to separate the sensational from the serious, the fabricated from the factual. I’m compelled to do this now more than ever! I have always valued and respected writers and journalists, and I am deeply troubled by the trending concept of fake news. Not only do I want to be a more informed citizen myself, I see how critically important it is for the students I work with to also hone their ability to sift through the information they receive from the media in order to evaluate the credibility of it and take a stand!
4) What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
I’m excited about being more socially engaged and helping my students be more socially engaged as well. I want to continue to focus on the merging of critical reading, opinion writing, and activism within my professional practice. Doing so puts students in control of the media they consume, rather than the other way around.
5) Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?
I want to support the freedom of the press in any and all ways I can! As a writer myself, I so value the communication of ideas and information. NAMLE is helping—in a huge way—to cultivate an informed public. We cannot blindly accept what we read as truth. Rather, we must think critically (and for ourselves) about what we read and see and hear through all forms of the media. I greatly appreciate how NAMLE is calling out biased and propagandized messages, and keeping the creators of such content on their toes.