Laurie Elish-Piper, David Paige honored by fellow literacy educators, researchers

Laurie Elish-Piper
Laurie Elish-Piper

NIU College of Education Dean Laurie Elish-Piper and David Paige, director of the Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic, were honored Nov. 6 by the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers (ALER).

Elish-Piper received the A.B. Herr Award, which celebrates the distinguished service of a professional educator who has made outstanding contributions to the field of reading. Past recipients include College of Education retirees Jerry Johns (1995) and Norm Stahl (2009).

Paige was given the ALER Laureate Award, which recognizes influence on other reading professionals, longevity of membership in ALER, scholarship that involves collaboration with students, teachers and other professionals and participation in ALER conferences and activities.

“It’s truly an honor, and it really shows NIU’s strength as an institution in the area of literacy education,” Elish-Piper says.

“We have a long history of faculty who have been leaders in the profession, who have been leaders in the professional associations and who have made significant contributions to the body of knowledge and to the broader field of reading and literacy education.”

Formerly known as CRA – the College Reading Association – the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers strives:

  • To stimulate the self-development and professional growth of teachers and reading specialists at all educational levels.
  • To encourage the continuing improvement of college and university curricula and encourage preparation programs for teachers and reading specialists.
  • To encourage the continuing improvement of administrative, clinical, diagnostic and instructional practices related to the learning process.

Journeying to South Carolina to accept the organization’s top award took Elish-Piper full circle.

“CRA was really my professional introduction to the field of literacy education in higher education, and so I really grew up in that organization,” says Elish-Piper, who eventually served a term as its president.

“The very first professional conference I ever attended as a graduate student was CRA; at that conference, I was a doctoral student, and I gave my first professional presentation,” she adds. “That was the organization where I first served on a committee for a professional association, where I first began as a proposal reviewer for the conference, and where I had an opportunity to then become a committee chair.”

She found “very much of a family feel” and “wonderful mentoring.”

“In this association, we’re all literacy teacher-educators. We’re all interested in preparing teachers, reading teachers and reading specialists. Our research focuses on the preparation of these professionals to work with children, young adults and college students in reading,” she says.

“Therefore, this award is incredibly meaningful because I received so many great opportunities in this organization and so much wonderful mentoring. Many of my colleagues and collaborators are people who I met through this association.”

David Paige
David Paige

Paige is one of them.

“ALER is a vibrant organization that strives to welcome and include those new to higher education, as well as those with decades of experience. ALER provides a great platform for professional growth through collaborations with those both new and experienced in research,” says Paige, who served eight years on the board of directors, including as president in 2016-17 and three years as treasurer.

“Over the years, I’ve met members who’ve become both professional and personal friends. I’ve been privileged to have conversations with many who have contributed significantly to the field and have learned from others who have graciously shared their expertise with me,” he adds. “In short, ALER has always felt like a professional home, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”

With Paige now at NIU – he joined the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in 2020 – the Huskie connection to ALER remains a robust one.

Many former doctoral students have received ALER’s Dissertation of the Year awards, including Michael Manderino, who later became a member of the College of Education faculty.

Now, thanks to her presence at the annual meeting, Elish-Piper is feeling invigorated like she did during her doctoral years.

“As dean, it’s difficult for me to attend conferences in my own discipline, so this reminded me of the importance of continuing to invest in my own work. I’m still very engaged in scholarship. I’m still publishing,” she says, “and this reminded me just how incredibly supportive this association is, and of the amazing opportunities. I’m looking forward to bringing some of my own doctoral students to this association to help them make some of these connections.”

She also felt an impetus to position her status as a Member Dean of the national Deans for Impact organization and as someone with legislative contacts in Illinois.

“In talking with my colleagues at the conference, we talked about the changing tides in the field of literacy education, and the importance of advocacy and taking leadership in pushing on important issues or pushing against mandates that we think are counterproductive in the preparation of reading professionals or the way that we teach reading,” Elish-Piper says.

“That’s how I can contribute to this association,” she adds. “I’m already thinking about a presentation next year that would focus on taking leadership and advocacy roles, as literacy professionals, to the state level to advocate for, and get involved in, crafting policy.”

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