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The Professional Lives of Reading Teachers in Non-metropolitan School Districts Open Access


Other title
Teacher leadership
Reading instruction
Reading specialist
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Reston, Mary Jean
Supervisor and department
Dr. Joyce Bainbridge, Supervisor, Elementary Education
Examining committee member and department
Dr. Marilyn Chapman, Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia
Dr. William Dunn, Secondary Education
Dr. Carol Leroy, Elementary Education
Dr. Katherine Willson, Elementary Education
Dr. Rosemary Foster, Education Policy Studies
Department of Elementary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Education
Degree level
ABSTRACT Research suggests that highly qualified teachers are an important factor in improving the reading performance of children. This study began with a question about how teachers with a reading specialization used their expertise to advance the quality of instruction in non-metropolitan schools and school jurisdictions. Very little research on the roles of reading specialists in Canadian learning environments is available. This qualitative study sought to give a voice to the experiences of three teachers who first became reading specialists because they wanted to be better at helping struggling readers. They then became teacher leaders, guiding other teachers in their schools and districts to provide quality reading instruction for students. Through multiple, extensive interviews with the three participants, I learned the stories of how they became engaged in advanced study of reading, what they were able to contribute to reading instruction and literacy education in their schools and regions, and what sorts of collegial experiences the reading teacher leadership had afforded them. When analyzed, the data revealed teachers who, throughout their careers, consistently sought ways to make literacy learning more relevant and more successful, who were eager to share their knowledge with other teachers, who were passionate about the work they did, and who were ultimately disappointed. The disappointment was precipitated by the realization that no matter what productive work the reading specialists were engaged in, district administrators placed limited value on teacher expertise. As a result, the non-urban school districts that traditionally had few teachers with specializations in any subject area, were prematurely stripped of their valuable teacher resources when, in reaction to their treatment, the study participants retired or left the district. In order to promote lasting, quality academic improvement among students, school district administrators need to formally recognize, through policy, that the best performance from students comes from classrooms with the best educated teachers, and thus encourage more teachers to pursue studies beyond a basic teacher education.
License granted by Jean Reston ( on 2009-08-17T20:58:55Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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