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Action for Literacy Through Teacher Preparation, Professional Partnerships

In the College of Community Innovation and Education at the University of Central Florida (UCF), we view partnerships as one of our core values. The UCF Literacy Symposium, an annual conference with a mission to be at the forefront of literacy learning, is one example of a strategic partnership between our college and in-service educators. The event creates a space for bringing together teacher and PK-20 educators to connect, share, advocate for, and learn about literacy.

This year, we celebrated our 20th annual event with the help of 768 educators and other stakeholders who share a common interest in literacy instruction and learning. The symposium is well known across the state of Florida, and every year we attract educators from various Florida universities and school districts as well as from other states. Participants at the 2018 symposium included PK-20 teacher educators, in-service and preservice educators (including school administrators, specialized literacy professionals, school counselors, and other support staff), local superintendents and school district personnel, state Department of Education officials, and others (e.g., legislators, publishers, and representatives from research and educational centers).

The overarching principles of this event are to (a) view literacy as the cornerstone of student learning across grades, content areas, and contexts; (b) create strong and long-lasting literacy partnerships between the college of education and practitioners in the field; (c) create a professional learning community space that is welcoming, inclusive, rigorous, and collaborative; (d) strategically weave in policy, research, and practice; and (e) plan with the needs of preservice and in-service educators in mind.

The symposium is designed by an event committee composed of 12 interdisciplinary faculty, staff, and students. These expert and diverse members are selected to provide leadership that reflects the theme and annual goals of the conference. For each symposium, we strategically invite four to six keynote speakers who are national literacy scholars, and we also invite teachers of the year, award-winning school administrators, and community leaders. Sample event themes include Disciplinary Literacy, Informational Text in the Age of New Educational Standards, Literacy in STEAM, and Celebrate the Power of Literacy to Transform Lives.

As the founder and committee chair of this event, my goal has always been to have a literacy conference that is full of moments that matter to preservice and in-service educators. These moments translate in making sure that our presenters’ and attendees’ voices are heard and celebrated and in creating a program that is aligned with current policy, research, and practice. Every year, on the first Friday of April, three education buildings are filled with approximately 120 professional presentations that provide the participants with knowledge, direction, and resources that are designed to elevate literacy teaching and learning.

This event reflects the core mission of the College of Community Innovation and Education–our goal is not only to impart knowledge but also to create experiences that transform lives and strengthen communities.

Vicky Zygouris-Coe is professor of reading education at the University of Central Florida. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

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Vicky Zygouris-Coe

University of Central Florida