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Le Moyne Literacy Advocate Wins Transatlantic Grant

SYRACUSE, N.Y., (FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE...)A transatlantic team lead by Dr. Patricia R. Schmidt of Le Moyne's Education Department has been awarded a two-year grant under the unique European Union-United States Atlantis Program to prepare five education professors each from five European nations and five different regions in the U.S.

The professors will be trained to work with Schmidt’s “ABC’s of Cultural Understanding and Communication,” a model developed over 16 years and adopted in teacher education programs on five continents. “The scholarship involved in this grant could be considered my third child. This is the culmination of my life’s work,” Schmidt said. 

Schmidt’s ‘culturally responsive literacy teaching’ is premised on the belief that adult literacy must begin in a sense of deep respect for the context of the learner. Le Moyne provides a key context for her thinking, she explains, through the Jesuits’ long history of emphasizing culture and language as central to understanding other human beings. “The whole spirit of this project is based in the Jesuit tradition, and also rooted in my own doctoral work long ago on the challenge of trying to change dispositions.” 

The grant request was fully funded at $76,000, enabling the group to develop and implement methodologies which promote Schmidt’s method of drawing upon students’ diverse cultural backgrounds in order to help them make meaningful connections with the curriculum. Schmidt was quick to praise the excellence of all members of her team: Dr. Claudia Finkbeiner at the University of Kassel in Germany, Dr. Patricia A. Edwards, Distinguished Professor of Teacher Education and a Senior University Outreach Fellow at Michigan State University, and Josep-Maria Cots, senior lecturer in the Department of English and Linguistics at the University of Lleida in Spain. 

The group will travel to a range of sites, including Le Moyne, when Schmidt hosts the visitors in spring 2010. Part of the project entails collecting qualitative and quantitative data from present and future teachers, which will be analyzed by Le Moyne’s Center for Urban and Applied Research. Atlantis is jointly funded by the U.S. federal government and the European Union.

Much work still lies ahead: ProLiteracy, a Syracuse-based literacy agency, estimates that around the globe, 774 million adults are illiterate in their native languages, and of that number, two-thirds are women. Within the U.S. alone, about 14 percent of the population or 30 million people over the age of 16, lack the skills to read a newspaper story or fill out a job application.

posted on: 8/19/2009