Through support from Mary and Allan Kollar, the English department has over the past few years engaged in partnerships with public school literacy educators.
At the UW Center for Teaching and Learning’s Annual Symposium in 2015, UW English faculty Candice Rai and Elizabeth Simmons O’Neill delivered a poster presentation titled the Kollar Literacy as Social Action Project. The presentation reports on a project involving graduate students and local primary and secondary school educators who together designed curriculum around the theme of “literacy as social action” for predominantly low-income and multilingual public school classrooms, and provided volunteer and material support for those classrooms. In June 2014, 75 K-12 students from those classes then worked through the planned lessons to produce “Literacy as Social Action Projects,” which they then shared in multi-modal poster presentations at the Kollar Symposium on the UW campus.
Exit interviews with participating students showed them to be strongly motivated by the social action aspect of their projects and by their responsibility in teaching Kollar Symposium attendees about the real issues engaged in their projects. Students came to profound understandings of composing multimodal presentations, of social action, and of their own developing identities as writers and agents of change.
Teachers meanwhile formed new bonds of mutual support across institutions that continue to thrive, having seeded ongoing service learning placements, new collaborative projects, and increased leadership and academic engagement by K-12 and UW students who participated. As one more important way the UW English department works to improve education in the greater community, the Kollar Literacy as Social Action Project deepened existing partnerships and created new ones for people committed to learning for their whole lives.