RIC professor presents, sends student volunteers to "Literacy for All" conference

Martha Horn, an assistant professor of elementary education at RIC, was determined to find a way for her students to get involved in the community for class credit, and without spending a lot of money.

Students in Horn’s Elementary Education Reading and Writing Methods course recently volunteered at the 22nd annual “Literacy for All” conference at the Rhode Island Convention Center that ran for three days, beginning on Nov. 6.

Martha Horn
The conference – hosted by Lesley University in collaboration with the University of Connecticut, New York University and the University of Maine – is the leading pre-K to eighth grade literary convention and reading recovery professional development event in the Northeast.

At the conference, leaders in the field of reading and writing come to present, learn and share, said Horn, who also gave a presentation at the event on talking with elementary school writers.

Horn was first invited to present at the “Literacy for All” conference in 2007. She contacted Sharon Winston, the project manager for conferences and events at Lesley University, about how her students could attend the event at minimal cost.

Many of Horn’s students work 30 or more hours per week in order to put themselves through college, she said. Winston suggested that students volunteer for one day at the conference, allowing them to attend the conference free of charge the next day.

“It is a great opportunity for [students] to step into this aspect of the profession of teaching, learning along with classroom teachers who continue to learn and grow,” said Horn.

Horn’s presentation, titled “Conferring with Young Writers,” was given with Chrissy Ahern, Julie Slater and Natasha White, all first-grade teachers in the Providence Public School system who meet with Horn once a week for professional development.

“Conferring with Young Writers” focused on children from kindergarten to second grade. Horn, Ahern, Slater and White discussed the importance of the classroom environment and how it should be organized in order to help children become more confident and independent writers, Horn said.

“The experience was great,” said Andrew McVay, one of Horn’s students who volunteered on the second day by maintaining order in the audience during the keynote, and assisting teachers with other small tasks.

“After spending only six hours volunteering, I left with a renewed sense of purpose and significantly more motivation to be a successful teacher,” said McVay, who had the opportunity to speak with several educators who gave him advice about his future teaching career.

Shealyn Gamba, another of Horn’s students, volunteered on the first day of the conference by setting up the registration booth. She was able to attend several presentations the following day.

“It was great to see so many teachers from all over the country gathered together with the common goal of bettering themselves, so they can better their students,” said Gamba.

McVay said that overall, the conference was not only interactive and informative, but eye opening as well. Teachers at the conference, who came from all over the country, each had one thing in common: caring about the students they teach, he said.

“It offered a positive and inspiring atmosphere for teachers and aspiring teachers alike,” McVay said.