Gerri Settoon is the newst state coordinator for the Louisiana Reading Association. She shares what the role means to her and her excitement about the upcoming convention in nearby San Antonio with Reading Today.
When did you decide you wanted to become an educator?
Modeling by wonderful teachers who really made a positive impact on students such as myself influenced me to become an educator. When I entered college as a freshman, my goal to make a difference in the lives of young people was already established.
Which books influenced your decision to become an educator?
Roland Barth’s books helped guide my decision to be an educational leader. His stories beguiled me in a vicarious manner to experience the same effects in my art and craft as a Teacher Leader, which is the Principal’s true role. By mentoring and guiding the classroom instructional leaders to become the best they could be in their own craft, students would be impacted through exposure to quality educational practices. Effective teaching ensures that students are truly engaged in learning and encourages them to become life-long learners.
When did you become involved in IRA, and how has your involvement influenced your career?
My first attendance at an IRA conference was the most memorable and life-changing educational experience that I had ever had in professional development at that point in my life thirty years ago. I immediately came home and joined my local reading council and the Louisiana Reading Association. Professional development became vital to me and enabled me to reach my educational goals over the years. That scenario probably would not have occurred without that awesome awakening/happening achieved at my very first IRA conference.
Congratulations on being elected IRA state coordinator for the Louisiana Reading Association. What are the state coordinator's responsibilities, and how does the role differ from council board members and other officers?
As State Coordinator, I envision this position as a more global role than the other council board members and officers. According to IRA, the basic job is one of assisting with the formation and maintenance of local and special interest councils in the state/province. Each officer has a designated job to perform. It may be to organize and run the meetings, record the minutes of the meeting, or pay the bills of the association. However, after reading all the requisites for the State Coordinator, the position is more of a generalist. I really believe the true encompassing role of the State Coordinator is to serve the LRA members and especially support the work of the State and Local Reading Council Officers such as offering ongoing support and guidance to local/student/special interest council officers. A team approach is vital in all working together to achieve the goals of the organization. As a team, we have the power of many brains working on solutions for the good of the state and local reading councils. Organizations today seem to struggle in their ability to attract younger members. The State Coordinator can help by increasing her/his visibility and communication throughout the state in promoting the benefits of our organization for all members. By doing so, we hope to stabilize established councils and our state organization and generate interest in the formation of new local councils in un-served areas. Encouraging interest in the organization by appealing to the interests of new members whether through social media exchanges, virtual conferences, or other communication events which excite or motivate younger members to participate in will hopefully grow our organization.
We hear you're going to the IRA Annual Convention in San Antonio. Which sessions or events are you looking forward to attending at the convention?
My interest in sessions and events at the IRA Annual Convention has changed over the years. In my early years as a teacher, I was glued to sessions on improving literacy in my instructional practices. When I became a Principal, I attended similar sessions to acquire information to share with my staff as well as sessions useful to school leaders. Now that I am retired, I look forward each year at the IRA convention to attending the leadership sessions, legislative advocacy sessions, technology sessions, community literacy involvement sessions, as well as the instructional practices events.
What's the most valuable advice you can give to someone entering the literacy education field?
For beginning teachers, I would recommend looking for the highest quality professional growth activities that you can participate in to become knowledgeable in literacy education. A college degree is only a beginning. To hone your skills as a literacy educator, read professional books, network with your fellow teachers in job-embedded activities, observe highly skilled educators’ instructional practices, attend professional development opportunities such as your State Association Annual Conference and the IRA Annual Convention, and become receptive to new ideas that help you to involve your students in meaningful learning experiences each day in your classroom.
What do you consider to be your proudest career moment?
My proudest moment as an educator was being selected as “Outstanding Achiever in Education” by the Bureau of Government Research Organization in our area. A beautiful framed award and $1,000 monetary gift accompanied the recognition. This selection was based on my high-poverty school’s turnaround academic achievement. Over a period of several years, we went from a score of around 38 to a score of 98. We were in competition with the top scoring schools across the district and managed to come in first or second during the years I was at the school.
What do you like to do when you're not wearing your educator hat?
Even when you retire, you can’t take the love of reading away. Reading for pleasure as well as knowledge is a daily practice. Many years ago, I met a man who was successful at everything that he achieved but he never attended college. For years, he worked as a self-trained engineer before becoming interested in the silver mining process. He learned all his knowledge in the library as a voracious reader. Where there is a will, there is a way, through reading and determination! For more active fun, I enjoy fishing. Even if the fish “aren’t biting”, it is lovely being on the water, rocking in a boat, and daydreaming in the sunshine!