Center for Educator Preparation faculty member receives literacy award

Cerissa StevensonCenter for Educator Preparation Assistant Professor Cerissa Stevenson received the 2017 Celebrate Literacy Award from the Colorado Council of the International Reading Association. The award recognizes Stevenson’s significant impact through instruction, mentoring and research, and its positive influence on teacher candidates. The award also recognizes her work with the Colorado Department of Education Dyslexia Work Group.

“To be recognized by the CCIRA is truly an honor,” said Stevenson. “I believe it is a reflection of the strength of the partnerships with our schools that I have established and how we support one another.”

Stevenson has always been passionate about teaching students. Starting at a young age, she had the opportunity to interact and be involved with kids’ learning, as her mother ran an in-home childcare program. Stevenson chose to study education at the University of Northern Colorado, and later started her career as a first-grade teacher.

“In first grade, one of the primary responsibilities you have is teaching children how to read,” she said, “so my passion for teaching children how to read really emerged.”

Today, Stevenson focuses on instructing future educators about teaching children to read. As coordinator for CEP’s Early Childhood Education licensure specialization, she teaches courses rooted in research-based practices, giving her students a foundation that includes a clinical practice component.

These teacher candidates not only learn the theory, but they are paired with local elementary students, ranging from kindergarten to third grade, getting the opportunity for hands-on practice in working with students to improve their reading skills.

Stevenson also conducts research in this field relating to educator preparation. Her goal is to know more about the design of clinical practices, the partnership between CEP and local schools, and how to best prepare teacher candidates for the realities of teaching.

She was asked to join the Colorado Department of Education Dyslexia Work Group to represent teachers in higher education. Composed of a diverse group of educators, researchers and administrators, the group works to improve the outcomes for students with dyslexia. They are currently focused on increasing awareness by building stronger communication to inform others of their work.

“We have accomplished a lot of our goals,” Stevenson said. “We’re working to get teachers and administrators to become aware of what they can do for students with dyslexia. I’m hopeful that Colorado really will be able to do a better job serving students with dyslexia.”

The work that Stevenson, her colleagues and teacher candidates are doing is making a difference. Students are engaged in the courses they take with Stevenson, and it shows. Stevenson’s research measures the impact teacher candidates have on their paired students; most are reading at grade level by the end of the year.

For now, Stevenson will continue to study the efforts to prepare future teachers, and she’s following her students as they graduate and move into the classroom to observe long-term outcomes.

“I serve on several committees and engage in advocacy work to improve outcomes for students with reading disabilities,” she said. “It is nice to know that it is perceived to be making a difference. Watching CSU students practice the work they learn in the classroom gives me hope for the future of education.”

The Center for Educator Preparation is part of the School of Education, an academic unit in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.