This past September, The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education held its 12th annual Reading Conference at the beautiful Oklahoma City University. The topic of the conference this year was “Joy, Power, and Possibilities Through Diverse Literature.”
The event was headed up by some major names in the field of reading instructors, including Dr. Suzi Parsons-Oklahoma State University Literacy Education Professor and Dr. Elizabeth Willner-Oklahoma City University Professor and Director of Teacher Education. They talked about “Philosophy in Children’s Books” and “Morals in Children’s Literature.”
To begin the conference, The Oklahoma School for the Deaf Ambassadors presented “The Star Spangled Banner” in American Sign Language majestically.
Missy Foster, Chairperson of the Reading Conference, asked me to lead a breakout session based on my book, Little Loksi. She was such a firecracker and an integral part in the furthering of reading education in the state of Oklahoma that I asked her to an interview right here on the Read Local Oklahoma Blog.
Hello Missy. Welcome to Read Local Oklahoma.
What is your background and what do you do now?
I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was in kindergarten in Ada, Oklahoma. That dream came true eventually and I was an elementary teacher in Oklahoma City Public Schools. First grade was my absolute favorite as I love a vast array of children’s literature and teaching children how to read is the best!
After that, I did some historical acting and began summer camps in Edmond at the 1st Territorial Schoolhouse as an 1889 School Marm.
Then I went back to college and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling. Currently, I am the Coordinator for Teacher Education Programs at the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Through our grant programs that I oversee at various universities and our Teach Oklahoma high school class, I inspire others to consider becoming a teacher for our state!
What is the reading organization you are a part of/leader of?
I am the chair of the reading conference that we host each year through the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The specific department that I work for is the Oklahoma Teacher Connection.
Who are the founders, principle agents, etc… of the organization?
Senate Resolution No. 70 created the Task Force on Reading Curriculum and Instruction to conduct a study to gain data on the teaching of reading and the Reading Sufficiency Act. The task force recommended that the Oklahoma State Regents, in conjunction with higher education institutions, offer a reading conference that would focus on substantive reading professional development. We have an outstanding reading committee that makes the conference all come together seamlessly and they volunteer diligently over eight months getting ready for the best professional development conference possible for the state of Oklahoma.
What do you do?
I work in conjunction with the outstanding reading committee to plan the annual conference. My responsibilities are to carefully listen to the committee’s needs and suggestions, gather speakers, coordinate and plan the monthly meetings, oversee and fine-tune the myriad of details, help market the conference to the state, solicit door prizes, and plan the event so that it flows well for all.
How could we all collaborate as Read Local Oklahoma/Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators and your reading organization to challenge Oklahoma to be the best at reading and writing children’s literature?
Attending literacy conferences or reading events where we can meet and discuss our common objectives is an incredible way to start. Another way is to have individual, in-person meetings where you can share your vision with others and see how everyone can come to the discussion to help promote reading statewide. We are a state that is passionate about education and literacy.
Have you ever wanted to write a book?
I wrote a historical fiction children’s book about the first Territorial School House. The title of it is The Camera Shop Kid. I am working on another book as well, but it is in the birthing phase!
What is your favorite book ever?
That is like asking what is my favorite flavor of ice cream.
I have a different “favorite” for different seasons. I love absolutely adore children’s literature, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is probably one like none other and definitely a favorite. Every year I reread The Meaning of Life by Viktor Frankl. I also deeply appreciate the message in The Pearl by John Steinbeck and anything by C. S Lewis is wonderful. Currently, I am reading, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, by Brian Kolodiejchuk.
Thank you so much Missy! I hope to see you at next year’s conference, if not before!