By Chelsea Weeks, News Editor (Courtesy photos/Rebecca Farley)
With a passion for literacy and a desire to help students grow, Rebecca Farley, assistant professor of education, started the Oklahoma Baptist University Greater Shawnee Area (GSA) Literacy Collaborations with the intent to connect education students and area teachers.
The last Tuesday of every month, a group of teachers, professors and education students gather in Shawnee Hall room 205 to share ideas and develop as educators and members of the community.
“A big goal of ours is helping our teacher education candidates connect with area teachers so that they can make deeper connections of what they’re learning in the classroom about literacy and what is occurring in the actual authentic classroom setting,” Farley said.
The GSA Literacy Collaboration is a new organization that was started this semester and is open to any major. The Collaboration was founded by Farley and has no membership dues or fees.
GSA Literacy Collaborations take place on and off campus. There have been presentations of how to address Oklahoma Reading Sufficiency Acts made by Starla Howard at Will Rogers Elementary School and OSAT training presented by Kathleen Peercy.
The next meeting will be April 24 with guest speaker Lori Locke, a reading specialist at Mustang Schools and presenter for the Oklahoma Literacy Association. She will be presenting on the topic of guided reading.
“This helps in several ways: one, it helps us have a positive impact on our community, which I think helps OBU in general,” Farley said.
“It helps our OBU students find ways to minister within the community and assisting teachers that are already in place and serving. Overall, literacy in general, helps with the spread of the Gospel because people are able to read the Bible and interpret the scripture through the leading of the Holy Spirit.”
Katherine Cole, a junior double major in early childhood and elementary education, was contacted by Farley last fall, asking for help setting up the GSA Literacy Collaboration. Honored by the invite, Cole decided to be a part of the group.
“My experience with the Collaboration has been very positive,” Cole said. “The ladies who have been at our meetings are very nice, and we have been able to share things with each other. It is a different dynamic than when you are just taking an education class. We are all seeking to learn from each other.”
Through the GSA Literacy Collaboration, Cole has had the opportunity to share knowledge she’s gained from an Oklahoma Literacy Association conference, obtain new knowledge and grow as an academic professional.
“Being a part of this Collaboration has given me a good opportunity to develop more as a professional,” Cole said. “OBU has a very good Teacher Education program already, and I believe that this collaboration just adds more good to my experience. It gives me the opportunity to collaborate with others who have more teaching experience that I have, and to learn from them.”
Cole already plans to use this group for advice to help her in her field after graduation.
“Education is a very collaborative profession,” Cole said. “Good teachers seek out the advice of others when they are struggling to help a student. Good teachers also continue to learn about new and different ways of teaching to see if they could be beneficial to their students.”
Traci Gokey, a reading specialist for grades Pre-K through 6th grade at McLoud schools, heard about the GSA Literacy Collaboration from professor Farley. She chose to be a part of the group because she saw how it can fulfill a need.
“I believe we become better teachers when we are able to talk with other teachers and share ideas and learn from each other,” Gokey said. “I don’t care how long you have taught, there are still things you can learn from others that will help you do a better job for your students.”
Gokey says her favorite aspect of the GSA Literacy Collaborations is the opportunity she has to meet teachers, whether experienced or new, and learn from one another.
“I leave with new ideas to try with my students,” Gokey said. “I am meeting new people and I have the opportunity to have great discussions and feedback from other educators that are in the trenches just like I am every day doing our best for our kids.”
For more information, contact Farley at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their Facebook page, OBU and Shawnee Literacy Collaborations.
“We would love to have anyone come who is interested in learning about teaching literacy,” Cole said. “Even if you are not an education major, but feel that you have an idea to offer to the Collaboration, we would love to hear about it!