Program of the Month Q&A: M.S.Ed. in Literacy Program Director Dr. Jennifer Sharples Reichenberg


Dr. Jennifer Sharples Reichenberg

“No program or curriculum can replace the expertise of a knowledgeable literacy teacher.”

M.S.Ed. in Literacy and Advanced Certification in Literacy Program Director Jennifer Sharples Reichenberg, Ph.D. has had a passion for teaching literacy and for supporting teacher development from the time she began her career as a primary school literacy specialist.

Here, Dr. Reichenberg discusses her own experience, what makes Medaille’s literacy programs so unique, and how the definition of literacy is expanding in today’s digital age. She also offers advice to students who are interested in a career in literacy education, emphasizing that both the M.S.Ed. and advanced certificate programs at the College lead to eligibility for certification as a literacy specialist in New York State.

 

What drew you to a career in higher education, specifically to teaching education and literacy classes at Medaille?

I began my career as a primary school literacy specialist in Pembroke, NY. I loved working with the children, teachers and parents. I have always been interested in research about children’s literacy development, and had questions of my own that were not yet answered. This curiosity prompted me to pursue doctoral studies in literacy at the University at Buffalo. After completing my Ph.D., I was drawn to teaching at Medaille because of the College’s commitment to individualized attention to students and its emphasis on real-world experiences within the literacy program.

 

You come from a background as a literacy specialist, literacy coach and literacy consultant. What sparked your passion for that area of education?

As a primary school literacy specialist, I worked with children in many different classrooms throughout the school. I also had the opportunity to coordinate professional learning experiences for teachers. I found working with teachers to be both challenging and rewarding. Since that time, I have consulted and coached in various schools in the region, from pre-kindergarten through high school. These experiences led to my research interest in high school literacy coaching and teacher reflection to support students’ learning. No program or curriculum can replace the expertise of a knowledgeable literacy teacher. This is why I have been passionate about supporting teacher development across my entire career.

 

What sets Medaille’s M.S.Ed. and advanced certificate in literacy programs apart from others of its kind?

Our literacy programs are special in many ways. We provide individualized guidance, beginning with the application process and on through to graduation. Students will benefit from instructors that have real-world experience as literacy specialists and coaches. We have developed strong, mutually beneficial partnerships with area schools and have a Reading Center on campus that serves the community. These partnerships ensure our graduates receive high-quality experience within a supportive environment.

 

What can future graduates of the literacy programs expect to find when entering the education field in coming years, in WNY and beyond?

Both the M.S.Ed. and advanced certificate in literacy lead to eligibility for certification as a literacy specialist in New York State. Future graduates can anticipate an extremely exciting time in literacy education! As the importance of digital literacy grows, we will see more demand for those knowledgeable about how to teach students to read and create digital and others types of text. The definition of literacy is expanding to include reading and creating images, video, webpages, etc. The ways students express themselves is also expanding. We need literacy specialists who are knowledgeable about how to explicitly teach students to be critical consumers and creators of these new types of text.

 

What advice would you give to current and future students who are interested in a career in teaching with a literacy focus?

Working with children who find reading and writing challenging is extremely rewarding, and there will never be a dull day on the job. The expertise you possess with a literacy degree will make you a valuable asset to any school.  

 
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