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Grosse Pointe Woods

January 31, 2013

North administrator honored for dedication to literacy education

By April Lehmbeck
C & G Staff Writer

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Helping students become more proficient readers is something that is near and dear to Grosse Pointe North Assistant Principal Kate Murray.

It was something she enjoyed as an English teacher at North for 15 years and something she continues to promote as an administrator these last two years.

Her efforts in the trenches and as a leader, when it comes to literacy education, have not gone unnoticed. The Michigan Reading Association is presenting Murray with an Administrator Award during the association’s annual conference this March.

“I am very honored to receive this award and am extremely grateful to work with such a talented … staff,” she said. “Grosse Pointe North has an exceptional staff. Our teachers put students first.

“It’s the essence of who I am,” Murray said, when asked about the importance of teaching reading skills to students. “To say that it’s important to me would be an understatement.”

Murray was nominated by several people in the district, including a couple of teachers at the school and interim Principal Tom Tobe.

“Your nominators provided much evidence of your powerful influence on students, teachers, administrators and parents in your community,” Michigan Reading Association President Grace Velchansky stated in a letter to Murray about the conference and award. “Your dedication to your profession is highlighted by these efforts for literacy education and promotion.”

They are not the only ones who feel Murray deserves accolades for her hard work.

“Our very own AP, Kate Murray, was selected by Michigan Reading Association as Administrator of the Year for the State of Michigan!” the Grosse Pointe North Parents Club stated on its Facebook page. “Our esteemed leader is getting her due notice! Well done!”

Ahmed Ismail, a parent, commented on that Facebook status, as well, with high praise for Murray.

“Kate is one of the finest teachers my sons ever had in their years in the GP schools,” he stated. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that she is being recognized on a statewide level. Congratulations, Kate!”

Murray’s work to promote literacy extended from her daily work as an English teacher to a special program several years ago that she helped create with former Principal Tim Bearden.

“We recognized that we had more and more students arriving at North who were reading below grade level,” she said.

To help students boost their reading skills, they created Freshman Assist, which was a course that focused on literacy support and learning skills to help students succeed in high school, among other components.

And it’s been working. Students are succeeding through the program with an average of about half of the students in the class reading at grade level after only one year in the program.

“It’s grown throughout the years,” Murray said.

Now, students work with a team of teachers in the four core courses, which all work together to help students succeed in the program.

“The success of the program lives in the dedication and talent of that team of teachers,” Murray said.

That program was such a success, it spawned another program where selected juniors and seniors act as mentors to those freshmen in the program, among other requirements.

Some of those juniors and seniors were in the program when they were younger, which shows how much that earlier program works to boost students’ reading and academic success.

“As an administrator, I’ve been able to support that from a different perspective,” Murray said of the program to help students achieve success as readers. “It’s like planting a seed and being able to step back and watch the tree grow.”

Now she works with teachers in the school on teaching literacy across the curriculum because she recognizes the importance of literacy in academic success in all subjects.

Murray explained that students who struggle with reading will struggle with story problems in math or chemistry experiments and other subjects, as well.

“Teachers across the curriculum recognize that literacy affects every classroom,” Murray said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer April Lehmbeck at alehmbeck@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1043.