After 28 years in the classroom, Angela Baylor is readying herself for new challenges as a reading specialist. A graduate student in the MA in Education program at Eastern Mennonite University, she now has some financial help to make her dream come true: She is the 2017 recipient of the Linda Heatwole Bland Literacy Scholarship.
Baylor taught third grade for 23 years, and then first grade for five, at W.H. Keister Elementary School in Harrisonburg. Along the way she supported her husband’s professional growth and parented three children who are now teenagers. With the help of the scholarship, Baylor’s own goals of earning a master’s degree and reading specialist endorsement — and working as a reading specialist at Keister — are about to become reality.
In her new role, Baylor will collaborate with other teachers at various grade levels to help struggling readers. Baylor says her nearly three decades in various classrooms help her see the bigger picture of reading development.
“When children are learning to read, they need different pieces of what we call a reader’s diet. My years in the first- and third-grade classrooms equip me to better understand what children need as they move through the emergent, beginning, transitional and intermediate reading stages,” she said.
Those decades also deepened her appreciation for her ongoing studies. “I bring a ton of experience to my coursework, so it all makes sense,” she said. “I feel like it’s very real.”
Administrators at Keister, including Principal Julie Zook and Assistant Principal Mark Miller, supported Baylor’s scholarship application.
Baylor is “highly respected,” “innovative,” and shows “incredible leadership,” Zook wrote. Miller added that Baylor is a “lifelong learner.”
Those qualities contribute to motivation for a teacher-student who as part of her coursework completed a 60-hour literacy practicum and in the coming year will undertake action research.
“The drive for ongoing professional learning and growth is essential for any teacher,” said Meg Sander, director of EMU’s MA in Education program, “but the experience brought by veteran teachers who rise to new challenges — as Angie is doing — can make them especially effective.”
“It’s a good thing to stretch yourself, no matter what your age,” Baylor said.
The Linda Heatwole Bland Literacy Scholarship is awarded annually to a local educator enrolled in graduate studies at EMU. A retired reading specialist and administrator, Bland says she learned to value literacy education and the benefits of professional connection while earning a degree in elementary education at EMU.
“I was especially thrilled when I learned that Angie Baylor was the recipient of the literacy scholarship,” Bland said, “because she was a teacher with whom I worked in Harrisonburg City Schools. She was an exemplary classroom teacher and will be a wonderful reading specialist and role model for other teachers in her school.”
After graduating in 1964, Bland taught in Ohio and West Virginia before returning to Virginia. She worked in Augusta, Shenandoah and Rockingham county schools, and joined Harrisonburg City Schools as a reading supervisor in 1986. She eventually led the division in establishing the English as a Second Language program and piloting the city’s dual-immersion programs until her retirement in 2002.