New literacy institute plans July conference, offers reading specialist program for area teachers

Memphis Teacher Residency is establishing a new teacher training program called Memphis Literacy Institute. The goal to better equip local teachers to teach reading skills.

They will hold a literacy conference, offer state-level reading specialist certification program, and facilitate professional development for educators.

MTR is a faith-based nonprofit that trains teachers to provide children in Memphis with a quality education, regardless of their school or neighborhood. Through their selective residency program, teachers receive support and training in a range of subjects including math, science, history, and English through a partnership with Union University.

Residents also have access to mentoring, job placement guidance, and professional development. Their offices are located in the Crosstown Concourse.

David Montague is executive director of MTR and said their new Memphis Literacy Institute program will be focused on training educators in the science of reading.

“[Many] teachers have not had the exposure and the time dedicated to being taught how to teach kids to read,” said Montague. “What we think Memphis needs is for us to be the holder of research-based best practices in the science of reading. And then we need to provide multiple access points for teachers to take advantage of those resources.”

The institute will host its first Memphis Literacy Conference on Saturday, July 31, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Crosstown Concourse.

Registration is open to the public and will offer an introduction to the organization and their programming. Montague said teachers, administrators, and anyone interested in literacy are welcome to register.

Registration is $50 per person and includes lunch, a shirt, a virtual swag bag, and access to conference materials after the event. Attendance is capped at 200 spots so MTR can enforce COVID-19 best practices.

The keynote speaker is Kelly Butler, CEO of Barksdale Reading Institute in Jackson, MS.

“[BRI has] programs that improve teacher training and literacy, and they have been offering it throughout the state of Mississippi,” Montague said. “Mississippi is now nationally known as the state that has had, by far, the highest reading gains, largely due to the impact and influence of the Barksdale Reading Institute.”

Sixteen literacy advocates are also speaking at the conference, including representatives from the Tennessee Department of Education, Memphis educational institutions including Rhodes College, and MTR staff and former residents.

Registrants will be able to choose which speaker sessions they would like to attend.

A graduate of the Memphis Teaching Resident program teaches literacy skills to elementary students. MTR is launched a new literacy institute to reach more educators outside of the residency program. (Memphis Teaching Residency)
The institute will also provide an educator's state-level reading specialist certification program.

“That's 18 credit hours and 15 months of study with a praxis exam. At the end of it, you get a Tennessee Department of Education reading specialist endorsement," said Montague.

Courses will be taught on site at MTR by staff members who have been hired as Union University adjunct professors. This state certification is also offered by university teaching programs across Tennessee.

The institute will also offer professional development opportunities and general support to teachers that are usually only available to members of the residency program. MTR is working on plans to offer literacy programming at the school level, which will help individual teachers implement best practices school-wide.

Montague hopes teachers interested in the literacy institute will start with the conference.

“There's a sense of community building, energy, motivation, and inspiration,” he said.

“You’re in a classroom by yourself, sometimes you can feel alone and isolated, and it's hard. And we come to a conference, there's lots of people there, there's exciting trainings, and there's a vision for what can be. I think you can go back into the classroom two weeks later with a little bit of a renewed sense of hope.”
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Read more articles by Sarah Rushakoff.

Sarah Rushakoff was raised in Memphis and is a graduate of White Station High School and the University of Memphis. She is a longtime member of Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe and works professionally as a graphic designer, writer, and photographer.