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Here’s my story-
I chose to retire from classroom teaching because I had become frustrated with the gap in services often found in the public school system. Students and adults alike need instructional support in literacy of all kinds. More important, young students need to be encouraged to access assistance without stigma. Why does our society denigrate levels of literacy and language? My mission as a literacy teacher has always been to work against this caste system called illiteracy when, in the case of many, students are not illiterate but multi-literate.
For my own education story, I grew up in various places in Texas and was well-educated in the Texas public school system. My father was a Protestant minister and college graduate and my mother a stay-at-home Mom and church leader. My siblings are all college educated as is most of my extended family. While I can not make the claim of being a first-generation college student, I nonetheless struggled through high school and my early college years.
My education story covers years of an inner battle and how my early years laid the groundwork for troubling teen years and young adulthood. But the final story lies in my love of learning and the foundation for education laid down by my family. I returned to college in my mid-30s and instantly became reacquainted with my love for reading and writing. Beginning at my local community college. I soon transferred to the University of Massachusetts Boston where I found like-minded students and faculty, many of whom were women from similar backgrounds. College life awakened my mind and my love for reading, especially the study of 19th century American History, Literature, and philosophy.
I still occupy this teaching and learning space today and my students often wonder how I could be such a nerd in American History. But my professional career took a turn toward the teaching of writing as I earned my Masters and Ph.D. degrees in English. While I spent many years in the classroom my real passion developed in the administration of Writing Centers. I learned that my strength and talent lie in teaching and mentoring with the individual student on all levels of reading and writing.
Now I am in a new phase of my career. As I mentioned in my opening statement, I became quite disillusioned working in both private and public higher education when seeing too many high school students not ready for college reading and writing. As teachers and administrators we too often assume that adolescents have the literacy skills necessary to function in a literate society. To complicate matters, many of our unskilled students and workers hide their lack of ability. We assume too much, I believe, about our students’ abilities to participate in a democratic, literate society.
As the owner of Broad Star Tutoring, my goal is to intervene in literacy learning in all subject areas as a way changing the tide of literacy learning in this country. As Barbara Bush once said and I paraphrase: many of the problems in our society can be solved through literacy.
Elaine Hays, Ph.D.
Owner, Broad Star Tutoring, LLC