Introducing our 2023 Science of Reading Star Award finalists!

It's time to meet some of the brightest luminaries in the Science of Reading.

By Amplify Staff | May 19, 2023

Roll out the red carpet and shine those spotlights—it’s time to meet the 25 finalists for our 2023 Science of Reading Star Awards!

These educators and leaders help light the way for the next generation. They’ve implemented Science of Reading principles and guided their students toward lifelong literacy. They’ve demonstrated expert change management and professional development. Get ready to meet some of the brightest minds in education as we celebrate their achievements and see what makes them truly stellar!

Join our virtual event and awards program on May 23.

But first…meet our 2023 finalists! Below, you’ll hear from the nominees themselves, as well as the colleagues who nominated them, about what makes them stars.

The Changemaker Award

For exemplary leadership in guiding a district through a shift to the Science of Reading.

And the finalists are…

Heather Campbell
Learning Coach, Sunset Elementary, Washington County District, UT
Why she’s a star: “Heather’s philosophy that all students can learn to read if given proper instruction has changed the data. Our school made the change and the data is showing our students are thriving.” —Shelli Campbell, Learning Coach

Javonna Mack
Lead Content Teacher, Caddo Parish School, LA
Why she’s a star: “Whether working with students or teachers, Mrs. Mack keeps best practices grounded in the Science of Reading at the forefront. She constantly strives to build teachers’ expertise in teaching students to read through content-rich professional learning communities, often on Saturdays or after the workday has ended.” —Shannon Southwell, Lead Content Teacher

Aaron Jura
Reading Interventionist, Bloomingdale, IL School District
Why he’s a star: “Aaron has been the catalyst for our entire district embracing this shift to the Science of Reading, and we are just at the beginning of this amazing journey.” —Nicole Gabany, Reading Interventionist

Nicole Peterson
Director of PreK–8 Education, Sampson County Schools, NC
Why she’s a star: “She has created, initiated, implemented, monitored, evaluated, and adjusted processes and systems to ensure that teachers have access to resources, training, materials, and professional development to ensure that all students gain equitable access to high-quality, evidence-based instruction.” —Matthew McLean, Director, PreK–8th Grade Education

Virginia Quinn-Mooney
Teacher, Northville Elementary School, CT
Why she’s a star: “Virginia has gone from one person with a personal commitment to advancing her literacy knowledge. She has now impacted countless educators, parents, etc., with her tenacity and learning journey.” —Nicole Gregory, Teacher

The Data Dynamo Award

For commendable use of data to align a literacy system and maximize student achievement

Shennoy Barnett
Kindergarten Teacher, South Smithfield Elementary, NC
Why she’s a star: “My objective is to help as many children as I can become fluent readers and critical thinkers. As a literacy specialist here for just four months, I made great strides with literacy with my students.” —Shennoy Barnett, Kindergarten Teacher

Anne Elizabeth Carter
Kindergarten Teacher, Wake County District, NC
Why she’s a star: “Through systematic and explicit phonics instruction as well as targeted language comprehension instruction—using texts that incorporate science and social studies content as well as build knowledge systematically—my kiddos were TRULY learning how to read accurately and fluently.” —David Gaudet, Principal

Bethani Ploegstra
Kindergarten Teacher, Union Colony Elementary, CO
Why she’s a star: “She takes data from mCLASS® DIBELS®, Lexia, and SchoolPace (part of our reading curriculum), as well as formative feedback from what she hears and sees students doing daily in the classroom, to immediately adjust what she presents next to students, whether individually, in small groups, or whole class.” —Mandy Bailey, Assistant Principal

The Knowledge Builder Award

For showing the world that the Science of Reading is more than just phonics, and empowers students with knowledge from elementary to middle school

Corey Beil
Instructional Interventionist, Quakertown Community School District, PA
Why he’s a star: “He incorporated literacy into his daily math instruction by providing our students with opportunities to understand and connect with the content more deeply. Our students were exposed to practicing literacy concepts while expanding their mathematical knowledge and foundational understanding.” —Julianne Pennabaker, Teacher

Kim Smaw
Principal, Rosalyn Yalow Charter School, NY
Why she’s a star: “She was able to persuade the learning community to adopt the Science of Reading, firmly convincing them that this curriculum could empower students to gain rich learning experiences.” —Deirdre Frost, Reading Intervention Specialist

Angie Dutton
Instructional Coach, Onslow County Schools, NC
Why she’s a star: “Her positive attitude about the Science of Reading is contagious and is most likely why other educators feel comfortable reaching out to her for questions and guidance.” —Stacey Horne, Instructional Coach

Nicole Brodie
ELA Grade 7 Teacher, Long Middle School, GA
Why she’s a star: “She encourages her students to use their [voices] for change and impact and supports them in their learning process academically, [socially, and emotionally].”
—Renee Dawson, Grade 7 English Language Arts Teacher

The Intervention Innovator Award

For admirable use of intervention strategies to get at-risk readers back on track

Suzanne Maddox
RTI Teacher, Robertson County Schools, TN
Why she’s a star: “Mrs. Maddox reviewed individual student data, worked with teachers, and began using CKLA Skills and the intervention materials provided with this curriculum to continue a sounds-first approach to meeting the individual needs of students.” —Brooke Callis, RTI Teacher

Sara Thornton
Reading Interventionist, Senior Team Lead, Schmitt Elementary, CO
Why she’s a star: “Sara’s enthusiasm for and dedication to her work has been an inspiration to all involved and has resulted in a successful transition to the Science of Reading—as evidenced by our students’ amazing academic growth!” —Hayley Gunter, Reading Interventionist, Senior Team Lead

Markaya Aga
Reading Interventionist, Merit Academy, CO
Why she’s a star: “Since she has come on board at our school, the mindset around literacy and the growth of our programming [has improved] ten-fold. We need more educators like Markaya!” —Allison Hanson, Reading Interventionist

The Language Luminary Award

For outstanding success in developing the skills and strengths of emergent bilingual students

Wanda Ramirez
Grade 2 Teacher, El Sol Science and Arts Academy, CA
Why she’s a star: “We used to emphasize to students that what they know in one language cannot be used in the other language. Now, as a dual-immersion educator, I have the opportunity to change that mindset, teach my students to embrace their native [language], and empower them to use their entire linguistic ability. It’s a very powerful thing to be able to do.” —Wanda Ramirez, Grade 2 Teacher

Esmeralda Martinez
Kindergarten Teacher, Compass Community Schools, TN
Why she’s a star: “She has consistently worked on improving her teaching methods, tried new ways to engage the class, and worked diligently to support all of our students.” —Rachel, Marinari, Teacher

Christine Black
ESL Teacher, North Dover Elementary School, NJ
Why she’s a star: “We have a rapidly expanding ESL population, and Mrs. Black works tirelessly to ensure that her students are expanding their ELA skills in accordance with the major tenets of the Science of Reading.” —Dawn Gawalis, ESL Teacher

Rookie of the Year Award

For showing the world that the Science of Reading is more than just phonics, and empowers students with knowledge from elementary to middle school

Caitlyn Cockram
Teacher, Patrick County Schools, VA
Why she’s a star: “We have offered professional development in vocabulary and implementing SOR strategies, and Caitlyn is always one of the first teachers to sign up. She is dedicated to improving student achievement through research and evidence-based practices.” —Callie Wheeler, Teacher

Andrea Mason
Academic Interventionist, County Line Elementary School, GA
Why she’s a star: “Making the shift from balanced literacy to the Science of Reading hasn’t always been easy. But I continue to research and implement these best practices with my students because I can see that they are now on a path to becoming strong readers.” —Jennifer Ezell, Academic Interventionist

Mallory Pendergast
Phonics Teacher, Literacy Interventionist, Circle City Prep, IN
Why she’s a star: “As a kindergarten teacher, she led 100% of her scholars to be reading on grade level in the first quarter and maintained that momentum through the first semester.” —Sami Hyde, Senior Instructional Coach

ESSER Ace Award

For notable and innovative use of stimulus funds to help kids rediscover the joy of reading

Stephanie Hurst
District Literacy Specialist, Maple Avenue Elementary, NH
Why she’s a star: “She is also a voice on the utilization of [the] ESSER Fund—using the distribution of funds per federal protocol to ensure that the district’s lowest-performing schools have access to quality instructional materials and professional development all grounded in the Science of Reading.” —Mark Blount, K–12 Literacy Specialist

Callie Wheeler and Sara Vernon
Instructional Coaches, Patrick County Schools, VA
Why Callie’s a star: “Mrs. Wheeler played a key role in creating a culture of literacy within our schools, where the Science of Reading is central to the education of our students.” —Sara Vernon, Instructional Coach
Why Sara’s a star: “Sara has worked tirelessly to make the shift from the vision that was grounded in balanced literacy to one that is now making waves in Southwest Virginia with its Know Better, Do Better, Be Better approach to reading instruction.” —Callie Wheeler, Instructional Coach

Edie Bostic
Literacy Coach, Gallia Local, OH
“As a teacher, district Title I coordinator, elementary principal, and now district literacy coach, she continually champions the students under her care and is passionate about those students receiving the highest levels of instruction.” —Leslie Henry, Principal

Inspired? We are! Register to join our May 23 Science of Reading Star Awards virtual ceremony!

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