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Dr. Debra Goodman Wins Lifetime Whole Language Award

Dr. Debra L. Goodman, Associate Professor of Literacy Studies in Hofstra University’s School of Education, has recently been awarded The Whole Language Umbrella’s (WLU) 2016 Lifetime Membership Award. WLU is a National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference made up of whole language support groups and individual professionals interested in holistic and learning centered classrooms and schools.

The WLU Lifetime Membership Award is presented to a member who has, throughout his or her career, made an outstanding contribution to whole language in general and/or the Whole Language Umbrella in particular.

“Debi is just such a person,” said WLU President Caryl Crowell. “As an elementary school teacher, she was a dedicated whole language practitioner, helping her students to build their literacy in authentic and powerful ways. As a college educator, she continues to engage her students in developing a deep understanding of language and literacy. Her research in miscue analysis has sparked new practices in classrooms and further research. Moreover, her tireless involvement with the Whole Language Umbrella has helped our organization remain vibrant and relevant over the years.”

Dr. Goodman was a founding board member of WLU in 1990 and was the first editor of the WLU newsletter. She’s served two terms on the NCTE executive committee, first as the elected chair of the NCTE elementary section committee and more recently as the 2013-2015 WLU president.

“Whole language is a curricular approach that believes that children read and write within authentic learning experiences — building on their worlds outside of school,” Dr. Goodman said. “I ran for WLU president because the organization supports teachers and learners during a time when public education — and teachers in particular — have been under attack. I believe in professional teachers and democratic classrooms.”

During her tenure as president, Dr. Goodman was an integral part of NCTE’s 7th annual National Day on Writing, which was held on October 20, 2015. “There was a lot of interest, including some celebrities,” she said. “My own meme got a lot of attention, lots of compliments, and more shares than other posts on the WLU site.” She also staffed and grew WLU’s Facebook page, which she has continued since her presidency ended in November 2015.

Dr. Goodman has integrated her participation in WLU with her role as a Hofstra professor. Each year, WLU runs a Literacies for All Summer Institute, which is a small conference that invites educators from early childhood to college to explore issues through conversation and social action.

“The 2013 Literacies for all Summer Institute took place at Hofstra – and the local committee included many of our Literacy Studies doctoral students and faculty,” Dr. Goodman said. In fact, “about 25 to 30 people from Hofstra Literacy Studies or Elementary Education attend and/or participate in the NCTE conference each year,” she added.

At the 2015 institute, Dr. Goodman shared the work of her graduate students evaluating young children.  “It’s very hard to separate NCTE or WLU from my courses at Hofstra since they are my professional communities, and most of the scholars that we read [about] in our courses — and the projects that we do in class — build upon these connections,” she said.

Dr. Goodman will be presented with her WLU Lifetime Membership Award at this year’s WLU Literacies for All Summer Institute in St. Louis, Missouri, during the opening session on July 14.


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