Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters


About Towanda Harris, Advisory Team Member

Dr. Towanda Harris has been a teacher, staff developer, literacy content specialist, and an instructional coach. Currently an Instructional Leadership Coordinator and an adjunct professor of reading and writing in Atlanta, Georgia, she brings almost twenty years of experience to the education world. Towanda is the author of The Right Tools: A Guide to Selecting, Evaluating, and Implementing Classroom Resources and Practices. Educators rely on her wisdom about how to find resources that meet their teaching goals and match their understanding of their students’ needs. Teachers turn to her to learn how to employ those resources, blend them with best practices, and help all students reach their full potential. Towanda is a Heinemann PD provider, presenting One-Day Workshops, Webinar Series, and On-Site PD. Some of her workshops include the Wisconsin State Reading Association Conference, National Reading Recovery Conference, Indiana State Reading Conference, and the GDOE Impacting Student Learning Conference.

About Mary

I’ve been an educator for more than four decades with extensive experience as an elementary Reading Recovery, special education and resource teacher as well as a reading coach and reading specialist. As a literacy consultant and author, I’m honored to work with teachers and children across the country. I believe deeply in the power of committed, knowledgeable, and passionate educators and I’m so inspired by their dedication to do great work consistently designed to elevate the learning lives of our children. I am the author of three Heinemann books including RTI from All Sides and Good to Great Teaching. I feel such as sense of gratitude for professional learning and inspiration that is just a keystroke away. I’m active on Twitter @DrMaryHoward and co-moderate #G2Great weekly Twitter chat with Jenn and Amy.

How Literacy Lenses came to be from Mary’s Perspective

In December 2014, I received a Twitter message that changed my life. Amy Brennan and Jenn Hayhurst approached me about a Twitter chat that would revolve around my book, Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters (Heinemann, 2012). #G2Great chat was launched on January 8, 2015 as a short term venture that I would support from the sidelines. One year and forty-eight chats later, #G2Great continues to thrive within a shared co-moderator collaboration with my good friends Amy and Jenn. In support of #G2Great and our shared goals, we have spent countless hours on the phone, Google hangout, and Voxer, sharing our beliefs, hopes and dreams for education. We continue to be equally committed to Literacy Lenses as an extension of #G2Great that provides a forum for translating brief tweets into deeper reflections. We are honored to expand our passion for literacy learning and continued commitment to educators who bring our vision to life in classrooms across the country. I’m very excited that our deepest belief about joyful literacy will continue to grow through our collaborations with each of you on #G2Great and our blog, Literacy Lenses.

About Amy

As a lifelong learner, I am blessed to work in the field of education and everyday I am grateful that I am able to live my passion. While it seems like an intentional journey, my career path in education has mostly been serendipitous. I have worked with very young children in early intervention and pre-school in special education and also as a reading specialist in grades 5-8.  During my time as a literacy coach through my work with TCRWP I collaborated with co-­authors Maggie Beattie Roberts and Emily Strang Campbell to pilot a unit for the book Research Based Information Writing from Lucy Calkins’ series Units of Study in Opinion, Information and Narrative Writing Grade 6.  I had the honor of being recognized by Riverhead Central School District as The Distinguished Elementary Educator of the Year in September 2014.  Recently my educational journey has brought me an opportunity in a neighboring district where Jenn works to learn and stretch myself further as an educator in the position of Director of Elementary Education for grades Pre-K through 6th grade.  I co-moderate the weekly #G2Great Twitter chat with Jenn and Mary.

How Literacy Lenses came to be from Amy’s Perspective

Of all the days that I have attended conference days at TCRWP I never knew that this one particular workshop on RTI would take down a new road on my educational journey.  I think back to the conversations with my two colleagues, joking about how similar my thinking was to Dr Mary Howard. They teased me endlessly that day. Only later would I come to find out that I was on my way to finding my tribe.  I sat in the audience and when Dr. Mary Howard mentioned she was on Twitter, of course I followed her.  Later I joined in a chat with #teacherfriends that Mary was moderating. I participated in the chat, was instantly inspired by the conversation that crossed the Twitterverse that night and won a copy of Mary’s book, Good to Great Teaching.  Days later the book arrived with a beautiful note card from Dr. Mary Howard.  I placed the card with the book and tweeted out a thank you to Dr. Mary Howard.  Almost immediately I received a tweet from @hayhurst3, she inquired about the book and asked if I would like to co-moderate a chat with her. We were fast friends, connected through our passion for literacy and quest for always learning. Winning the book was nothing compared to the win that came from our connection. Jenn came up with the hashtag and we started planning questions around each chapter.  When we went live with the chat, I never imagined this would turn into an amazing professional learning network. Dr. Mary Howard honored us each and every week and soon as the three of us co-moderated the #G2Great chat our connection was turning into an ever growing group of excellent educators.  Later I taught a collegial circle in my school district and brought in an extension on @Voxer.  I asked Jenn and Mary to join in the Voxer group and while it changed so many teachers I worked with and grew them exponentially in a professional sense, I would have never thought possible.  The collegial circle ended but the Voxer group continued, it grew and grew and even on this day I am amazed by the people in my PLN, and grateful for the serendipitous way we have all come together and continue to learn and grow.  I often say that I think better in the company of others and these words hold true each and every day.

About Jenn

I am a Literacy Coach from Long Island New York.  My work as an educator has been the result of a great deal of effort, reflection and some really good timing.  I have presented locally with the Long Island Language Arts Council (LILAC), and EdCamp Leader I will be presenting nationally at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) National Conference.  I believe we can meet the challenges before us and our greatest resource is each other. I have co-authored an article for Heinemann’s Digital Campus: An Interactive Learning Wall Promotes Writer Independence, and a Teacher’s Guide for The Green Umbrella scheduled for release in September 2016.  I co moderate, a weekly twitter chat #G2Great, Follow me on Twitter @hayhurst3 and I’ll follow you back.  Let’s connect and learn together.  

How Literacy Lenses came to be from Jenn’s Perspective

There is an expression that I remember seeing many years ago “Access is key.”  An administrator I worked for used it as a tagline under her signature. Twitter granted me total access – it’s a free pass to research, for new thinking, and connectedness to others who share similar beliefs.  As it happened one night I saw a picture pop up from @brennanamy excitedly announcing the arrival of a book that she won on the #teacherfriends chat.  I don’t know if there was something in her tone or the title that grabbed me.  For whatever reason, I tweeted back to  @brennanamy and said I would buy the book and asked if she wanted to do a twitter chat – she said yes, and to both our surprise, Dr. Howard (Mary) asked if she could be part of it.  The rest is history.  I see this blog as a continuation of our work and a genuine celebration of the work teachers do every day.  It is my hope that this blog will grant access to teachers to share their stories.  I hope that it will here to champion and elevate the work of teachers.  What is happening in the classroom? What reflections are there to share about that work?  What can be done to elevate our work for tomorrow?  Let’s catch a glimpse of what is happening in the schoolhouses across our nation. I just can’t wait for all the meaningful discussions we will have and all that we will learn together.

About Fran

I’m an independent literacy consultant in southeast Iowa who continues to be passionate about the need for equity of quality literacy instruction for ALL learners . . . of ALL ages.  I’ve been taking classes and attending professional development for over four decades and I am still in search of better methodology to improve my own pedagogical skills.  Our democracy depends on highly literate students and adults.  My passion is to continue to help teachers grow and develop both their own skills and the skills of their students, families and communities.  Together we can and will do this.  In past lives I have been an elementary teacher, a special ed. teacher (K-12), an elementary principal, a curriculum director, a professional development coordinator and a literacy consultant for multiple districts in a regional agency.