The teachers' assistant
School of Education
A unique partnership brings together the work of Loyola students, local authors, and teachers across the state
By Scott Alessi
Last year, Anne Bond received what may have been the most daunting assignment of her college career. Bond and her classmates in Loyola’s reading teacher program were each tasked with crafting a curriculum for books selected by Illinois Reads, an initiative of the Illinois Reading Council that promotes literacy by highlighting the work of local authors. But this was more than just a classroom exercise—the students were told that their work would be made available to teachers statewide for use in their classrooms.
Bond admits to being a bit nervous about creating something that would have such a broad reach. But she also recognized that it was an excellent opportunity to hone her skills as a teacher. For her book she selected The Detective’s Assistant by Chicago author Kate Hannigan—which is aimed at the same elementary grade levels that Bond hopes to one day teach—and she began developing a curriculum that includes thematic discussions, Smartboard activities, and a vocabulary review. Her goal was to create engaging activities for students and an easily accessible guide for teachers, and Bond and her classmates helped each other make their lesson plans as classroom-ready as possible. “We all thought about what we would want to pick up if we were teaching,” she says.
The assignment stemmed from a collaboration between Loyola and Illinois Reads, which each year selects a group of books aimed at age levels from pre-K through adults. Loyola professor Jane Hunt developed the project as a way for students to gain experience in designing curriculum materials while supporting literacy education in Illinois. Over the past two years, 17 Loyola students have completed teacher guides that are currently available for download on the Illinois Reads website.
“It has been a really great way for our undergraduates to become involved in a statewide project,” says Hunt. “There are so many teachers who are hired who never write any kind of curriculum that is even shared at a school or district level. And our teacher candidates are working on materials that teachers anywhere can have access to.”
For Bond, the project had another unexpected benefit. She decided to send a message to Hannigan through the author’s website and was pleasantly surprised to receive a prompt reply. The two struck up a conversation, and Hannigan was able to provide insight that allowed Bond to expand her work on the book’s themes. She also added information to her guide on how teachers can connect with Hannigan for school visits or Skype chats with their classes. And when Bond shared her work with the author, Hannigan was so impressed that she asked permission to post a copy of the guide on her website, too.
“I think the partnership between all of these people who really care about reading and who care about kids getting a quality reading education is so beneficial,” Bond says. “It has created so many great guides for teachers to use, and great relationships with authors and teachers all around the state. So many children have benefitted.”
Tammy Potts, chairperson of Illinois Reads, agrees that the collaboration has been a big success. When she’s shown the guides created by Loyola students to teachers, Potts sums up their response in one word: “Wow!” She says that’s a testament to the talent and creativity of the students, which in turn has furthered the mission of Illinois Reads.
“It’s a win-win,” Potts says. “Students get to learn and practice in the Loyola environment, and the teachers in Illinois get to reap the benefits.”