SUNY Cortland professor wins award from national literacy group

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CORTLAND, N.Y. – SUNY Cortland Associate Professor Nance Wilson was honored recently for her service to the American Reading Forum (ARF), a professional organization devoted to furthering ideas and research related to literacy.

Wilson, who has taught in the College’s Literacy Department since 2014, earned the Brenda S. Townsend Service Award during the ARF’s annual conference held Dec. 9 to 12, in Sanibel, Fla. The honor recognizes individuals who have served the organization in different capacities for at least 10 years. Including Wilson, only eight people have received the award.

Nance Wilson, pictured at right, earned the American Reading Forum's Brenda S. Townsend Service Award.

Nance Wilson, pictured at right, earned the American Reading Forum's Brenda S. Townsend Service Award.

“Not only has Nance served as the chair for two years, but she is the first one to volunteer to help with any job that has to be done,” said Joyce Fine, an associate professor of teaching and learning at Florida International University and the chair of the service award committee. “It seems she is the ‘energizer bunny’ who is willing to do whatever needs to be done, and she does it well.

“She is the kind of member who ensures that the organization will go on.”

Wilson currently serves as parliamentarian of the ARF as well as its coordinator of graduate student mentorship. She previously chaired the organization from 2012 o 2014.

“Everybody else who has won the award has been instrumental for 20 to 30 years, so I thought I was another 10 or 15 years away from consideration,” said Wilson, who has been involved with the 300-member group for 11 years.

At the College, Wilson primarily teaches graduate-level courses in literacy. She said her students, who often go on to become reading teachers or continue teaching in a different discipline, also benefit from her work with the ARF.

“All of the conference talks make me think about how I teach as a college educator and what I can take back to my students,” Wilson said.

This past year, participants considered the language used to discuss reading and literacy, especially as it relates to struggling readers with unique learning needs, children’s literature and positioning students. Wilson led a study that considered content area literacy and the meaning of language in secondary classrooms.

She said she often teams up with colleagues at the conference to come up with new publication ideas, such as recommendations for how to assess the best type of children’s literature to introduce the topic of climate change.

“Very rarely do I leave without an article idea or something else coming out of it,” Wilson said.

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