NIU’s Donna Werderich fell in love with reading and writing at an early age.
“I have always enjoyed reading and writing,” said Werderich, a professor of Literacy Education, “how authors can craft words to persuade, entertain, inform and touch the heart, and how we make sense of the world through words.”
The Illinois Reading Council has chosen Werderich as its Reading Educator of the Year. This award recognizes outstanding teachers who make contributions in promoting literacy among students, colleagues and school communities.
Werderich remembers the days when she was excited to take honors English classes in high school.
After majoring in English at Concordia University, she began teaching 20 years ago. Her career began in a kindergarten classroom; after one year, she moved to the middle school level, where she taught language arts for six years.
Before coming to NIU six years ago, she taught at Rockford College, where she received the 2007 Excellence in Teaching and Campus Leadership award.
Werderich teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in language arts and writing methods. Her research interests include adolescent literacy, motivation and strategy instruction in writing and teacher education.
“The best thing about teaching is the ability to connect with students,” Werderich said. “I continually strive to develop their skills as writers and teachers of writing, and, equally important, a love for words and writing. I want them to carry on this passion to their own classrooms.”
Her own passion is clearly visible to students.
“When I read aloud to my students, or even talk about the power of writing, I often get goose bumps,” she said. “Really I do, and I even tell them about the goose bumps and show them the tiny little bumps covering my arms.”
Werderich will travel March 15 to the IRC Conference in Springfield, where she will be presented with the award.
She was nominated by a fellow colleague, and had letters of support from a former student, the associate dean of the NIU College of Education and the Student Program director of the Illinois Education Association (IEA). She has served as faculty adviser of NIU’s Student Education Association, part of the IEA/NEA Student Program.
by Brandon Grosz