Kara Macie is the lead speech-language pathologist at the Near North District School Board, and she was recently honoured by the Ontario Chapter of International Dyslexia Association with an award for Literacy Leader of the Year.
Six educators received the award this year and hundreds were nominated.
“It felt incredible,” Macie said of receiving the award. “It’s nice to be recognized by colleagues, and it’s part of a bigger story that’s happening now,” she added, referring to some “big changes” coming to Ontario’s curriculum, changes influenced in part by the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s
Right to Read Inquiry.
This Right to Read report made strong recommendations to make learning to read more inclusive for students with reading challenges, including dyslexia. Essentially, the report highlighted the need “to support all children’s right to learn how to read.”
These new methods – which will be incorporated into curriculum beginning next fall – were familiar to Macie, and in many ways, her work helped other organizations improve their own practices.
Macie was honoured by the Near North District School Board at its last meeting this past Tuesday. While introducing Macie, Superintendent Melanie Grey emphasized how “Macie had worked tirelessly for many years in early learning and literacy and has been willing to share her knowledge with other early learning organizations.”
Student Achievement and Well-Being Principal Steve Krause was pleased to see that as a board, “we are beginning to see the impact of this work and it is exciting.”
For Macie, the new curriculum will allow greater access to reading for all students and allow educators to help students with difficulties at an earlier age. Overall, Macie and her team have been able to “really shift what we’re doing and make sure we’re supporting every student in an equitable way.”
The school board detailed how Macie “has been a strong and persistent voice calling for change” to how the education system supported students as they learned to read and write. The board noted that Macie, ahead of the curve, “recognized that the approach being used in Ontario did not align with decades of scientific research and therefore was unlikely to deliver results for all students.”
And positive results are what she craves, and the earlier an educator can intervene the more support a student can have. Also, for those with learning and reading disabilities, the methods used to teach literacy are often exclusionary, and the changes coming will address those systemic issues.
With positive changes ahead, her pending retirement is bittersweet. After over 30 years with the board, Macie is leaving this year, although she does plan to keep an eye on how the new curriculum unfolds, and she’s proud that her efforts helped to inspire some of those changes.
“It’s a big story in the province right now,” Macie said, speaking of the curriculum ahead. “And I had a role in that, and the Near North Board is sort of being seen as a trailblazer board for doing this work.”
“The most rewarding part of this work has been working with the incredible teachers we have at NNDSB,” Macie said. “Their willingness and eagerness to embrace this new work have been inspiring to see.”
“Teachers want the best for their students and feel it deeply when their students struggle,” Macie said.
“Teachers now are reaching out to me saying that they are seeing the impact of this work and students are developing the skills needed to be proficient readers.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.