By Anita Hernández
For the Sun-News
Posted on Sun-News: 03/10/2015 03:39:12 PM MDT
In 2009, Carlsbad banker Don Kidd and his wife, Sarrah, gave a major gift to New Mexico State University to establish the Don and Sarrah Kidd Endowed Chair in Literacy in the College of Education. For Don Kidd, reading opened many doors of opportunity for him and his family and reading allowed him to compensate for not completing high school.
As the son of a house painter, he decided a paycheck was more important than earning his high school diploma. After taking extension courses, he landed a job in an investment company in San Angelo, Texas. While working for the investment company, he realized the value of a high school education. He went on to earn his GED and began taking additional courses that led him to banking, where he now is CEO of his own bank.
As he reflects on his trajectory he realizes that through reading he was able to learn more in an industry he knew nothing about and become successful in the process.
The living legacy of Don and Sarrah Kidd makes possible the Kidd Chair in Literacy, which has as its mission to provide leadership in the state and at the national level for literacy education.
In 2010, I was selected as the inaugural Kidd Chair. During my five years as the Kidd Chair in literacy we have grown the annual Don and Sarrah Kidd Literacy Conference, which provides a professional development opportunity to local teachers, future teachers, and graduate students.
The endowment allows for national scholars to be invited to interact with local teachers and graduate students. The conference — this year on Saturday, March 14, at the Student Resources Building of the East Mesa campus of Doña Ana Community College — also encourages local teachers to present their work with youth to other teachers, teacher-to-teacher leadership model. If you attend a Kidd Literacy Conference you will feel the synergy that happens when local educators talk with one another, with future teachers and with the invited scholars.
Another goal of the conference is to provide resources for educators to enhance the teaching of critical literacy. This year’s conference theme is: Cultivating Literacies: Mapping Literacies and Mapping Lives. The teaching of literacy has now expanded to multiple forms of literacies that values literacies children experience in their home and community and to encourage students to question the world around them. This year’s speakers are Maria Franquiz, dean of the College of Education, University of Utah and Rosario Ordonez-Jasis, associate professor, California State University, Fullerton. Both will be sharing how they cultivate literacies and map literacies.
A five-year, $1.8 million national professional development grant will allow additional teachers to earn their reading endorsements, bilingual/TESOL endorsements, national endorsements, and graduate degrees to improve the education of bilingual learners. Thus far, 50 teachers have earned degrees, reading endorsements. Five teachers have earned National Board advanced teaching certificates.
Another important goal for Kidd is to promote adult literacy. NMSU is also the recipient of a $15,000 foundation grant that works with second- and third-grade teachers working with parents and children to promote biliteracy through the distribution of high quality bilingual books in Hatch and Garfield. Through the bilingual books, parents and children can discuss the books at home. Because families in Hatch and Garfield do not have access to bookstores, and during the planting and harvesting season they work long hours, providing an avenue for additional books becomes significant in these communities.
Additionally, I work with the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, which works with adults who desire to improve their own literacies.
The latest project was being selected to coordinate the Children’s Choices sponsored by the International Reading Association and Children’s Book Council. I partnered with 11 local schools in the Las Cruces Public Schools and Gadsden Independent School District to have children read and vote on their most favorite books. The best part of this project is that children become excited to read new books and to have a national vote on which books make it to the Children’s Choice book list.
In the last two years, 8,000 books have made it to the school libraries at César Chávez, Sunrise, Dona Ana Elementary, Hermosa Heights, Hillrise, University Hills, Lynn Middle and Academia Dolores Huerta and in Gadsden to North Valley Elementary, Berino Elementary, and Vado Elementary. For schools, the best part of the Children’s Choice project is that they can keep the books and continue to circulate them in their school libraries.