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Jennifer Allen is a literacy specialist in Waterville, Maine and has worked in education for more than twenty-five years. She started as a classroom teacher in the primary grades and has been working as a literacy/specialist coach for the last sixteen years.
Jennifer received her undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont. After beginning her career in the classroom, she pursued a graduate degree at the University of Maine in literacy.
In 2000 Jennifer left the classroom and started her journey as a literacy leader. Jennifer understands that coaches wear many hats and no one job description looks the same. She embraces a layered coaching framework in thinking about the various ways that coaches can support literacy and learning within a school. Jennifer believes that teachers know best what they need for support and professional development. She also believes that literacy leadership should be responsive to the needs of a school community. She works to inspire and energize teachers while keeping students and their learning at the heart of her work. She believes in the importance of making meaning together and is always looking for opportunities to bring teachers and administrators together to the table for learning.
Designing professional development that meets the needs of teachers is a passion. She works to create experiences that meet the needs of teachers whether they are voluntary or mandatory, always working towards meaningful engagement and beyond compliance. The ultimate goal of professional development is to refine instructional practices that increase student achievement.
But Jennifer’s work reaches beyond the walls of classrooms, using her layered coaching framework as her guide, she works with administrators to ensure that the coaching layers implemented within the schools are aligned to school and district initiatives. She believes that the role of the coach is one that can build capacity within the school and is an integral role in sustaining and maintaining change initiatives.
Jennifer lives in Winthrop, Maine and when she is not working she can be found jogging, biking, or hiking. She also loves to relax, digging in the garden, and cooking in the kitchen.
In this second edition of Becoming a Literacy Leader: Supporting Learning and Change, author Jennifer Allen reflects on her work as a literacy specialist and how the role has evolved in the decade since she wrote the first edition. Her experiences can apply to all school leaders including principals, coaches, teachers, support staff, and office administrators. Allen focuses on three ideas to describe her work:
Layered Leadership, the multitude of supports in place for teachers to encourage learning and change within schools
Shared experiences that develop community and develop common understanding of practices, curriculum, and assessment
Importance of “rowing in the same direction” in that literacy coaches and leaders stay interconnected and aligned to the goals of the school
Allen knows the challenges of teachers face and advocates literacy coaches implement these layers of support within a school, including in-class support, curriculum support and assessment, study group facilitation, and the cultivation of teacher leadership. In Becoming a Literacy Leader, she provides an explicit framework for implementing these layers of coaching and explains how administrators can use the literacy leader position to build and sustain change within their schools.
This book will be the road map for how literacy leaders and coaches approach their work with purpose and intention. Online videos that accompany the book bring the text alive by showing readers what coaching looks and sounds like.
A Sense of Belonging
Too often, new teachers enter the profession excited to make a difference in the lives of children only to find themselves disillusioned and overwhelmed with the expectations of the classroom. In A Sense of Belonging, Jennifer Allen shares her stories and journey in creating an infrastructure of support for new teachers within her school district.
A Sense of Belonging provides research-based, practical ideas on how to support new teachers while honoring the innovation, idealism, and optimistic enthusiasm that they bring to the classroom. From supporting new teachers early in the year with administering and analyzing literacy assessments, through using student work to guide instruction, to offering ongoing help with curriculum planning, Jennifer shares strategies on:
• Fostering relationships with new teachers, starting before school even begins • Creating learning environments for new teachers to be reflective practitioners • Coaching new teachers in their classrooms and providing opportunities for them to observe their peers in action • Supporting new teachers beyond their first year through gradual release of support over their first several years in the classroom • Facilitating professional development opportunities where new and veteran teachers learn alongside one another
Allen believes, and her book demonstrates, that when schools embrace, encourage, and celebrate the work of new teachers, they establish a supportive environment that fosters excellence and improves retention.
Mathematizing Children’s Literature
Sparking Connections, Joy, and Wonder Through Read-Alouds and Discussion