August's International Reading Association Member of the Month is Kimberly Kimbell-Lopez, a 21-year IRA member who also belongs to the Professors of Reading Teacher Educators Special Interest Group (PRTE) and the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG). After years as a classroom teacher for both high school and elementary levels, she began a career as a college professor at Louisiana Tech. Her research has been published and she has presented at several conferences, often with Louisiana Tech colleague and IRA Past President Carrice Cummins. She shares her road to the doctoral degree and her passion for literacy education in this interview.
How did you begin your career, and what led you to your current position at Louisiana Tech University?
I received a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Gifted Education, and I began my career teaching high school gifted students. I really wanted to work instead with elementary students, so I accepted a job to teach at Alief Independent School District in Houston, Texas. During my time in Alief, I taught 2nd grade, multiage 4th/5th, was a Language Arts Specialist, then also served as a grade level specialist. One of my career goals was to get my doctorate degree, so I enrolled at the University of Houston and focused on curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in reading/language arts. Once I finished my degree, I was offered a job at Louisiana Tech University. One of my passions has always been working with teachers to develop and implement curriculum and working in higher education has enabled me to do just that.
What do you consider to be your proudest career moment?
Graduating with my doctoral degree is a memory I will always carry with me. Both of my daughters were born during the course of my program. When I finally graduated, Reghan was three years old and Kendall was about one year old. They were at my graduation ceremony with my husband along with all of my other family members. I could never have finished the program without the help from my husband, his family, and my family. It was definitely a shared degree!
What's the most valuable advice you can give to someone entering the education field?
I tell the teachers, both preservice and inservice, that they must have a passion for teaching and learning. That passion for teaching and learning is what will sustain them throughout their teaching career. I truly believe that great teachers never stop learning, and great teachers never lose that passion for sharing what was learned with their students and other teachers.
How long have you been a member of the International Reading Association, and how has membership influenced your career?
I joined IRA when I was in my doctoral program, so this would be about 21 years. The influence that IRA has had on my career would be that I am able to keep current in the field through reading of the various journals as well as attending sessions at the annual convention. IRA also provides me with a way to network with other educators through SIGs and committee opportunities. I truly believe I would not be the teacher I am today without having access to the resources provided by IRA.
You're a member of IRA's PRTE Special Interest Group. How long have you been a member, and how has the experience been?
I have been a member of the PRTE SIG group for about four years. The PRTE session each year at IRA always features a guest speaker who shares their expertise, then we have break out sessions where we can listen to what other members are currently researching. This group has been a wonderful way to share ongoing research in the field.
Are you excited that the 2014 IRA Annual Conference will be in Louisiana this year, and do you plan to attend?
I will definitely be attending IRA’s conference in Louisiana this year. New Orleans is a fabulous city to visit—I always look forward to experiencing the culture, especially eating the food!
What do you like to do when you're not wearing your educator hat?
I am an avid reader—I rotate between professional reading and just good old leisure reading. I also love to work out—weight training and cardio! It is a great stress reliever.