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Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award Recipient: Kelly Brizendine, L&L'10

Her experience as a literacy coach in Houston left Kelly Brizendine "so inspired, humbled, and confused" that she was compelled to continue her own learning. "I wanted to come to graduate school to begin to understand some of the struggles, successes, complications, and axioms of life that I had seen in Houston," she says. "I knew that good teaching and developing a culture of literacy could develop not only academic skills, but also social skills and self-esteem. I simply came to the Ed School to become better."

Brizendine's experience served her studies in the Language and Literacy Program (L&L) well, says Lecturer Pamela Mason, director of L&L. "In class she was willing to start the discussion and asked thoughtful, clarifying questions," says Mason. "Kelly's pondering a point of view that she had not previously considered would be written all over her face, and she was not afraid to put herself 'out there.' She was an active contributor in group activities and assignments and served as a resource for teaching strategies to other students. Kelly has a wonderful sense of humor and finds joy in teaching and learning. It's no wonder her classmates recognized her contribution to their learning."

This summer Brizendine will be working as a literacy specialist for Teach For America in Houston, and hopes to find a "dream job" in school reform, professional development, curriculum design, or literacy coaching. Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for L&L, Brizendine answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.

What was your favorite class at HGSE?
My favorite class was Supporting Teachers for Instructional Improvement with Professor Richard Elmore because I never quite understood what was going on! Therefore, my curiosity was piqued and the constructivist approach must have worked. (Feeling like you're swimming in the center of a well-designed fishbowl has its benefits for student engagement!) When the curtain was pulled and the wizard revealed, I realized that I had learned more about the implementation and application of the concepts through an imperfect group process than I had realized. It was a wonderful learning experience.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?
I've been struck by the idea of promoting learning rather than mastery for students and adults. It's a simple statement attached to a phenomenal value change that has the potential to make working environments so much more pleasant and supportive. I'd like to incorporate this idea into the culture of the next work environment [in which] I find myself.

Is there any professor who significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School?
Pamela Mason is fabulous and I was so lucky to work with her this year. She has been a model of commitment, compassion, professionalism, and fun. Dr. Mason clearly cares about her students and supports their endeavors at HGSE and after.

How did you stay inspired throughout the year?
I have had an amazing one-sided support system this year that I am so thankful for. When I have forgotten to return calls and emails, missed video chat dates and birthdays, never replied to snail mail, and generally acted as a preoccupied member of my social communities, my friends and family have persevered. When I expected angry messages, they sent their love and patience. Mom, Dad, Lyndsay, Kasey, Kenneth, and Jacob, thank you for your unconditional support. You are my inspiration.

If you could transport one person/place/thing in Harvard Square to your next destination, what would it be?
Sweet. Those cupcakes are insane! Any place where you can pour maple syrup over banana pancake flavored icing is friend of mine (maybe not Jamie Oliver's though).


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