Standerford Award


Dr. N. Suzanne Standerford has received the Michigan Reading Association (MRA) Teacher Educator Award for 2008. The award was presented to Dr. Standerford at the MRA Conference in Detroit on March 15, 2008. Dr. Standerford is a professor in the School of Education, Leadership and Public Service at Northern Michigan University (NMU) where she has taught since 1992. She is also one of the Directors of the Upper Peninsula Writing Project (UPWP), a site of the National Writing Project.

Dr. Standerford was selected for this award based on her work as a teacher, her scholarship, and her service to the profession. She has developed fifteen courses for preservice and inservice teachers in reading, language arts, and writing instruction since coming to NMU. Dr. Standerford has been a leader in developing field-based programs for undergraduate students and in sustaining strong partnerships with teachers in K-12 districts. She strives to involve her students in Academic Service Learning each semester so that they develop a commitment to professional service early in their careers as they make valuable contributions to local schools. As Director of the UPWP she teaches summer institutes in writing instruction for teachers K-university and develops professional development programs for teachers across the Upper Peninsula. Under Dr. Standerford's leadership, the UPWP has brought over $275,000 in grant funds to NMU since 1996.

Dr. Standerford's scholarship has resulted in 31 publications in books and professional journals and 47 presentations at international, national, regional, and local professional conferences. She has received numerous awards including the Michigan Association of Governing Boards Distinguished Faculty Award (2000), the Northern Michigan University Distinguished Faculty Award (2001), and the NMU Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning with Technology (2004).

Dr. Standerford has been Co-Editor of the Michigan Reading Journal's column of children's literature reviews (2005) and professional book reviews (2006-2008). She has served on various boards and committees including the editorial review boards of The Reading Teacher and the Michigan Reading Journal, the executive board of the Language Experience Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association, the NMU Presidential Search Committee, the College of Health Sciences and Professional Studies Dean Search Committee, and the School of Education, Leadership and Public Service Standing Committees.

Across Dr. Standerford's 36 year career, she remains most proud of being a teacher. When asked about her choice of career, she said, "Seeing the light come on in a student's face as he or she understands a new idea or sees a new possibility is the greatest reward I can imagine. Being a teacher is an honor and a gift like no other. I am absolutely certain that teaching was the right choice for me."

This picture was taken at the Recognition of Award Winners and MRA Past President's Dinner at the MRA Conference, March 15, 2008.

From loft to right: Sue Szczepanski (MRA Board Member), Suzanne Standerford (Teacher Educator Award Recipient), Karen Angeli (MRA Secondary Reading Teacher Award Recipient), and Erin Donovan (MRA Board Member).

Thank you for MRA Teacher Educator Award


Written by

N. Suzanne Standerford

March 2008

Lee Iacocca stated "Life is a team effort" in his recent book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?Mr. Iacocca states that a good leader surrounds himself or herself with good people. I have been fortunate beyond measure in my life to be surrounded by good people who have nurtured and supported each step I that I take. This award is a recognition of "team" accomplishments and I thank my family, my students, my colleagues, and my mentors for being on my team.

As I complete my 37th year as an educator, my teaching practices continue to evolve with changing times and increasing demands. I've learned to teach online, to blog, to navigate the internet, and to answer emails at all hours of the day and night. I've learned that literacy instruction, just like life, goes through peaks and valleys as schools and teachers respond to the latest policy initiative or new idea.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens' opening in A Tale of Two Cities: It is both the best and the worst of times. We have tremendous possibilities and extremely complex, difficult challenges. However, as an educator, certain beliefs remain the core of my teaching. Deep understanding of big ideas and issues in the subjects we teach is necessary, but not sufficient. Continuously searching for better ways to reach all students is a requirement, not a choice. Perseverance to stay the course when one answer leads to three new questions is essential. Believing in the potential of each student and showing that you truly care about each individual is crucial. Trusting in yourself as a teacher and in your students as learners is paramount to all that we do.

The foundational beliefs that guide my work remain the same despite the changes and pendulum swings that I've seen. Teaching is intimate work between people. Teachers define their work anew each day as they greet those faces that enter the classroom door. Sometimes, long after students leave my classes, their faces appear again in my mind. I smile, shed a tear, or chuckle a bit. And, I know beyond a doubt why I continue to love being a teacher.

Thank you for this wonderful acknowledgment of the work that I do and of all those who participate in that work.