In November, Columbia Public School’s Misha Fugit, a sixth grade English teacher at Jefferson Middle School, received a national award for her work in children’s literacy. KBIA’s Taylor Kinnerup spoke with Fugit about receiving the award and her plans for the grant money.
Kinnerup: Can you just tell me a little bit about the award you've recently received?
Fugit: Yes, I received the Bonnie Campbell Hill National Literacy Leader Award - it has a very long title - from the Children's Literature Assembly, which is a branch of the National Council for the Teachers of English. So, that’s a mouthful, but the award is really about helping teachers who have shown promise in the field, as far as their contributions to articles or thinking in the field, to learn and grow themselves as professionals in an area that they're interested in.
Kinnerup: Can you just tell me a little about what your application process was like and how you went about gaining that award?
Fugit: Sure, the application is actually online and it is really easy to find and so I actually started this idea when I heard about the award from my professor at MU, Dr. Angie Zapata. She has been really active in the Children's Literature Assembly and so she was telling me that there were these different awards and she thought I might be a good candidate for it. So she had me read the application, had me think about what I'd do with that kind of money and how I could grow. And so I read what the award was for, that it's about your own personal, professional development. Sometimes awards give you money to help your school grow, which is a great thing, but this award was really about helping the individual teacher grow as a professional and as a new avenue of their thinking, and so I looked into that. The application asks you to answer some questions about who you are as a teacher and a leader in the field of education, answering questions like, kind of, your philosophy and your background in education and those kinds of things. It asks you to write a letter explaining why you think you should get this award. You're asked to answer some basic questions about yourself and about your vision for literacy and children's literature in particular and how you might use the money.
Kinnerup: Can you just tell me a little about how you feel now that you've received the award and kind of the reaction that you've received from your colleagues and your students even?
Fugit: Well I'm deeply honored to be selected. I didn't know Bonnie, she died in 2011 from liver cancer but once I got the award several of my professors, like Dr. Carol Gilles at the University [of Missouri] and several other people had told me that they knew her and that she had this lively spirit, and was so kind, and caring, and generous with people. So they were like 'You were the perfect person, she would love that you got this award,' and so that was really an honor that people who knew her felt like I would be somebody she would have picked. So that was really incredible that I heard that from people. Then my colleagues have been helpful, and congratulatory, and enthusiastic about me winning. And then my students, I haven't said much to my kids. It feels kind of weird to be like, 'Hey, kids! I got this big award!' So they haven't said much but I did get this email from one of my students who must have seen the announcement on the CPS website and he just copied and pasted what was there from the CPS website and he sent it to me. He said 'Congratulations, I knew you were a great teacher' and so that meant a lot that he went to the effort to send me the email after he noticed it.
Can you tell me what your plans are for the grant money?
I really believe in teaching writing through books and so I've learned a lot about that, I've read lots of books about that, I understand that, but I always want to grow as a learner. So, I've got some money that's earmarked for professional books, for me to buy, and so I'm going to buy some books about teaching writing. Then the bulk of the money that is designed for me to go learn something - I'm going to go to the Boothbay Literacy Institute, that is held every summer in Boothbay, Maine. It's a four-day institute where the best minds, and the current people who read, and write, and think about teaching reading and writing, get together and they teach this small - 60 to 100 people - who attend. So you get this small one-on-one, small group kind of instruction from the experts in the field on how to do this teaching thing. So, I'm going to go up there this summer and learn there for those four days.