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To Connect and Inspire: Katie Wingert, L&L'19

The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for Language and Literacy reflects on her time at HGSE and looks toward the future.
Katie Wingert

Photo by Jill Anderson

The Intellectual Contribution Award is an honor that recognizes 13 Ed.M. students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. The award will be presented at Convocation on May 29.

Learning to support reluctant readers and writers was at the top of Katie Wingert’s list of things she wanted to accomplish as a student in the Language and Literacy (L&L) Program, but she’s ending her time at HGSE with a broadened perspective — and a new goal.

“Rather than simply seeking out ways to support reluctant readers and writers, I also aspire to see and embrace these students more wholly — as more than the label of ‘reluctant,’” she says. “During seasons of research and practice in my life, I aspire to see each and every student through a strengths-based lens.”

“Katie Wingert entered the Language and Literacy Program seeking to guide students in finding joy in making meaning through reading and writing,” says Senior Lecturer Pamela Mason, faculty director of L&L. “She committed herself to exploring and understanding the theory behind effective practices and to grappling with how to leverage them in the service of English learners. Coming from a secondary English background, Katie immersed herself in the developmental trajectory of literacy teaching and learning. She has been recognized by the faculty and her peers as an insightful learner and a collaborative colleague.”

Wingert enrolled in L&L, she says, to gain the knowledge that would help her become a more inventive, compassionate, and effective teacher of reading and writing, and she hopes in the future to find a way to combine this love with her passion for college athletics to become an agent of change in higher education.

“I have yet to discover an existing template for such a role, but I hope that a variety of experiences — including coaching swimming, building connections with agents of change in education, and eventually pursuing a Ph.D. — will allow for the possibility of this type of role,” says Wingert, a former college swimmer, who will work this summer as an aquatics director and swim coach. “Academia and athletics are far too often conceptualized as counter to one another, but I am passionate about the ways that mind and body intersect.”  

Here, Wingert reflects on her year at HGSE and looks at her future in education:
What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?
At the start of each session of Writer’s Workshop (a J-Term course), the one and only Nancy Sommers would ask us to write beautiful sentences on the classroom whiteboards. Once students had written their sentences — both self-authored and discovered — we would take a moment as a class to read the sentences aloud. There is so much from this practice that I will carry with me. First, it is a perfect example of strengths-based pedagogy. Second, it is a reminder that language shared in community has real power and meaning. Third, the beautiful sentences remind me that, for all of the analysis and research my discipline has done on literacy, there is still an innately breathtaking, unanalyzable element of literacy — an element of wonder that makes me want to continue exploring this field.

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? I am not exaggerating in saying that every professor and class significantly shaped my experience at the Ed School. That said, I will forever cherish my experience in Catherine Snow’s course on adolescent literacy. We not only combed through research for up-to-date best practices for supporting adolescent literacy, but we also had critical, practical conversations about what it means to be literacy leaders for the benefit of emerging adults. My colleagues’ years of experience in education settings all around the world allowed for so much collective learning. We did not always agree with one another, but we had terrific, practice-transforming conversations.

What will you change in education and why? Within my spheres of influence, I aspire to transform patterns of communication within education. We need faculty, administrators, coaches, and others — across all disciplines and sectors of education — who communicate better with one another. No discipline or extracurricular activity is an independent narrative in and of itself. Students deserve to be seen for all of the nuances of their identities, and that will only be possible through better communication between education’s stakeholders. I don’t have a quick fix to this systemic problem, but my first step to disrupting the norm is to hold myself accountable to listening and communicating in an innovative, interdisciplinary manner in my spheres of influence.

What advice do you have for next year’s entering class? Take walks, both communal and solitary. In snow and in rain. In frigid darkness. You won’t need to remember to take walks when it’s sunny and warm. You will, however, need to force yourself to take a walk sometime around October 25. The sun will set around 3:30 in the afternoon; your midterms, which will all somehow reference Stanovich (1986), will be due; and you will be ready to drink your fifth cup of coffee. Walk instead. Walk down Brattle Street past Appian Way, past Longfellow’s house, and past the shadow of the H-word, until you can fully remember the richness of who you are and why you are here.

The number one, biggest surprise of the last year was … The number of unanswered questions I have written down in my notes. I look forward to a lifetime ahead of seeking answers to these questions and, in turn, discovering new and better questions to ask.

Read about the other recipients of the Intellectual Contribution Award and learn more about HGSE Commencement 2019.