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Connecting the Dots Between Engaging Literacy Instruction/Intervention and Empowered Student Voices

2021 Utah Teacher of the Year and 2021 Finalist for National Teacher of the Year
Updated on
Modified on June 2, 2023
  • Literacy Instruction
  • Literacy Intervention
  • Student Empowerment

John Arthur teaches at Meadowlark Elementary School, a Title I school in Salt Lake City. The school’s students have gained national recognition as advocates for children and immigrants through the videos they create and share on their YouTube channel, 9th Evermore.

I’ve been fascinated by this question all week—Who are you, and why are you reading this? As the 2021 Utah Teacher of the Year and a finalist for National Teacher of the Year, I’ve been fortunate to write for a variety of audiences and organizations; however, I’ve never written a blog post for a company so focused on literacy success for all children and providing teachers with the tools to make it happen.

I assume you share this passion for literacy and belief in every child’s ability to find success and joy in their reading life, so I know I’m in good company. And if you’re reading this, you must also believe teachers need to provide all students with targeted, effective reading instruction and interventions, no matter what challenges or barriers they bring with them into our classrooms. And if you read my opening sentence and thought, “That’s actually two questions,” then somewhere along the way a wonderful teacher taught you to read critically, and you’re now personally and professionally invested in paying it forward to the next generation of readers.

That’s why I’m here, too, and I’m excited to share that next week, I’ve invited two of the nation’s top teachers to join me on the EDVIEW360 podcast for a conversation about Student Engagement, Empowerment, and Literacy Learning: Strategies of Three Award-Winning Teachers. My friends Alisa Cooper de Uribe (New Mexico) and Anthony Swann (Virginia) both earned the titles of Teacher of the Year in their states in 2021, thanks in part to the incredible growth in literacy and writing achieved by their students. We will share our favorite classroom strategies and innovative practices any teacher can use to motivate students in overcoming literacy challenges, feel seen and heard, and gain new literacy skills that will serve them for a lifetime.

As educators, we all share a special love for students and readers who struggle, so we will be emphasizing the strategies that have proven most effective for our multilingual learners, students with IEPs, and those with specific reading difficulties like dyslexia. These students are often the toughest to engage and require the most rigorous interventions. Our goal in this conversation is to provide other teachers with practical tools for improving literacy instruction for these students and connect the dots between engaging literacy instruction/intervention and empowered student voices.

What do we mean by empowered student voices? The classic answer is that empowered students enjoy choice and voice in the classroom, as well as agency and ownership of their learning. However, in our conversation we will each share what empowerment looks like/sounds like in our own classrooms, for the students and ourselves. Empowered teachers empower students, and what sets Anthony and Alisa apart is they believe in their own abilities to move struggling readers beyond the often-limited expectations of others and bring in whatever tools they need to get the job done. For us, improving student literacy skills and scores is just the first step in a larger project of empowering our children as leaders and learners—improved literacy is the means, not the end.

I hope you join us for this conversation and you’ll put the lessons these exceptional educators share to good use in your own classrooms and education spaces. I promise you’ll love it!


About the Author
John Arthur
John Arthur
2021 Utah Teacher of the Year and 2021 Finalist for National Teacher of the Year

John Arthur is the 2021 Utah Teacher of the Year and 2021 National Teacher of the Year finalist. He is in his tenth year of teaching at Meadowlark Elementary, a Title I school in Salt Lake City. Arthur is a national board certified teacher, a Utah Teacher Fellow with the Hope Street Group, and an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education at Westminster College.

Learn more about John Arthur