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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Amy Azano

   

The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Amy Azano, assistant professor of Teaching and Learning, for her teaching abilities in terms of her content knowledge, ability to work with students from across a range of disciplines, and her overall classroom performance.

Dr. Azano’s teaching follows a clear three-step model of explanation, demonstration, and student participation in a workshop-based format. In short, essential understandings regarding the theory and practice of literacy work are explained and connected to students' prior knowledge, literacy strategies are then explicitly demonstrated/modeled before students are provided with the time and room to actively process, consolidate, share, and reflect upon their developing knowledge, skills, and dispositions regarding content area reading within and across their disciplines.

Dr. Azano teaches EDCI 5264: Comprehension and Content Area Reading, which is made up of graduate preservice teachers from across a wide range of licensure programs (including agricultural education, music education, math education, English education, science education, History and Social Science Education). The course is a licensure requirement for all secondary preservice teachers and is designed to: (1) help beginning teachers recognize and value the cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity of the students they will be teaching; (2) illustrate the importance of giving learners opportunities in all aspects of literacy; and, (3) allow students to learn to identify and employ strategies and techniques to stimulate interest, promote reading growth, foster appreciation for the written word, and increase the motivation of learners to read widely and independently for information, pleasure, and personal growth across disciplines.

Her workshop-based instructional format highlights the value Dr. Azano places on scaffolding and making student learning visible and creating an environment for individual and group reflection and feedback. Her use of “Strategy Share” sessions and the “creative zone” project stand out as signature pedagogies that prepare beginning teachers for the type of systematic and sophisticated critical literacy work that illustrates the importance of teaching young people (within all disciplines) how to read both the word and the world--past and present.

One of Dr. Azano’s colleagues was able to observe her teaching EDCI 5264: Comprehension and Content Area Reading, and noted: “Virginia Tech’s core values include freedom of inquiry, mutual respect, life long learning, a commitment to diverse and inclusive communities, and personal and institutional integrity. I believe Dr. Azano evokes these values within her classroom as she seeks to make real world connections between literacy and disciplinary content while stressing a climate of care and mutual respect. Evidentiary warrant for this came the week after the April 16th remembrance and the Boston marathon bombings. That week I had been in discussions with secondary teachers in the field about the difficulty of preparing teachers and students to discuss and address traumatic events in classrooms. In response to these discussions, Dr. Azano described how in her course she had introduced and modeled the concept of the responsive classroom or ‘responsive teaching’ with her students; a simple pedagogical approach that allows space and time for students to respond (or not to respond) and share (or not to share) their reactions to the swirl of overwhelming events going on beyond the classroom walls. The success of the strategy was built upon her approach to the course as a whole; in her teaching, Dr. Azano creates a safe space within the four walls of the classroom for her students to engage in literacy activities that open the possibilities for genuine discussions and sharing around questions that matter. The class itself clearly resonated with her students who were impacted by the events. As one student noted in an email:
‘As I sat in class last night I realized I was (probably) the only person who was on campus six years ago. Last night was exactly the type of class we needed. . . . I appreciate you sharing your story yesterday. . . . I also went out for a run yesterday afternoon and it was simply because I can and ran for those who cannot.’”

What the class also did for prospective teachers was provide an initiating image of what it means to be a caring and responsive teacher. A teacher not just of content, but more importantly of students; a teacher who is ready, willing, and able to negotiate the emotional geographies of teaching and learning. Her efforts to do that were recognized by her students, as one wrote:

“Thank you so much for sharing your passion for teaching. It truly has been inspiring and has made me unafraid to learn, participate, and I have even seen teaching music in a new way(s)! I’m not usually a very talkative person, or one that shares very personal parts of my life like I have in this class. But you have provided an environment that I don't think I’ve ever been a part of outside of a music room (and sometimes not even in a music room). This has been one of the best classes I've taken since I started college back in 2007. :) Thank you for everything.”

Homepage: http://www.soe.vt.edu/literacy/faculty/azano.html





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