Reading specialist: “Literacy intervention can give freedom and choices” to the poor and disabled

Erin Grigg_HeadShot JJWomen with dark skin drew me to the field of literacy. In Bolivia, people with the lightest skin are considered to be more beautiful, educated, and wealthy. Their skin is light because they were afforded the luxury of going to school indoors, working indoors and wearing sunscreen. The majority of people in Bolivia, women especially, have thick, dark, wrinkled skin and strong bodies. They farm and rear children in the hot sun at 9,000 feet above sea level their entire lives. They do not have time for school, as they need to tend to their farm to survive while many of their husbands spend the money they have on coca leaves and alcohol.

The children of these women do not go to school regularly because they also need to help cook and farm and raise children. They are often translators for their mothers who do not speak Spanish, but a language called Quechua. I was honored to teach a group of these women emergent Spanish literacy with the help of a few of their feisty bilingual children. They shared with me their desire to learn Spanish so they could sell their beautiful hand-woven wool blankets to tourists and gain freedom.

When I returned to the United States, I was dedicated to learning how to effectively teach literacy to those who may remain oppressed by their illiteracy. I am now studying to become a reading specialist at Columbia University, a place I never imagined my ADHD self would be capable attending. I was not diagnosed with ADHD until I was 20 years old, after years of therapy and incorrect diagnoses. I moved to Bolivia in the first place because I had just finished college and needed some time away from the structure of school. I ended my undergraduate degree in English strong; however, everyone in my family was surprised I even graduated high school.

My experience in education was a long, frustrating process. I am only now really figuring out how to effectively study and organize my work. When I was first diagnosed with ADHD I was frustrated with my all of my previous teachers and my parents for not knowing what was wrong, or helping me learn in a way that I could be successful. Now, I am grateful for the hardship, and I believe it has made me a more unique and passionate educator. As a reading specialist, I plan to continue to work in elementary schools where early literacy intervention can give freedom and choices to students with disabilities and students in low-income communities who often do not receive the right kind of teaching to support their unique way of learning. I want to be able to help the students I work with, and also help other teachers learn how to understand and teach students with differences.

We are proud to announce Erin Grigg is one of the current JustJobs Scholarship finalists. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

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