News

Portland State student and Portland Teachers Program participant earns $1K scholarship
Author: Jillian Daley
Posted: February 26, 2020
Portland State University College of Education (COE) student and local educator Wesley Guy recently learned he had received the $1,000 Literacy Educator Scholarship from the Portland Reading Council.
 

“Winning the Literacy Educator Scholarship is an honor as an aspiring educator of color looking to foster a love for reading and writing,” said Guy, a student teacher at Ockley Green Middle School in North Portland. “This discipline has the power to unlock potential and liberate the voices of youth who sometimes feel like their voice might not hold any value in a larger society.”

Guy is in the Secondary Program of the COE’s Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP). He is also one of the students selected to attend the COE through the Portland Teachers Program, a longtime partnership of the COE, Portland Community College and area school districts designed to recruit and retain educators of color to helm local classrooms. Guy’s GTEP specialty is English/Language Arts, and this choice is affirmed with his recent accolade.

Guy submitted one of 11 applications for the Literacy Educator Scholarship. Applicants attended not only PSU, but Concordia, University of Portland, and Lewis & Clark College. The other winner, Alexis Lawrence, attends Lewis & Clark.

“I am here today because my family, instructors, and mentors told me that, ‘my voice matters,’” Guy said. “I am blessed to be an advocate for literacy and writing as I look forward to refining my pedagogy to teach in order to empower.”

Portland Reading Council Board member Penny Plavala said she and the other Board members were encouraged by all of the applicants’ “future plans as literacy education leaders.” The organization promotes literacy and a lifelong love of learning through activities and programs, such as professional development events, books groups, awards, and the scholarship Guy won.

Applicants for the Literacy Educator Scholarship are nominated for the award based upon these criteria: Professional Practice, or demonstrating innovation in promoting literacy as a teacher; Contribution to Literacy, or impacting literacy in the community; and Attention to Diversity, or honoring diversity through one’s interactions with readers. Winners have not only been teachers like Guy, but administrators, instructional assistants, librarians, and community members.

‘A Passionate Educator’

COE Assistant Professor Maika Yeigh said PSU’s 2020 winner “is a passionate educator.”

Guy, who is in the one-year GTEP track, said he plans to teach in North or Northeast Portland near his childhood stomping grounds. He attended Vernon Elementary School, a K-8 in the Portland Public Schools district, before going to two Portland area private schools: St. Andrew Nativity School and then Central Catholic High School.

Guy said his love of writing ignited because of his fifth-grade teacher, Jasmine Barcelona, who taught at Vernon and is now at K-5 literacy coach at Wilburn Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Barcelona, who earned her Master of Education from the PSU COE, made him president of her fourth-fifth classroom and had him and another student weigh in on decisions such as the seating chart. (Guy’s fellow leader was Matthew Dodier, now a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.)

Guy “was level headed and he was fair and he was whip smart, you know the kind of leader you want anywhere,” she said. “I’d still vote for him for president.”

Barcelona said that she adored him and remembered him right away when asked about him, even after all of these years.

“He was an incredible little kid, and he was already so wise at 9, 10,” she said. “He blew me away.”

Lessons Learned at the PSU COE

Guy said he has had many other amazing teachers throughout his career, including Matthew Ruddy, an adjunct instructor who teaches classroom management in the PSU COE. Classroom management involves methods for running a class, and the teachers role in that has shifted from an authoritarian holder of knowledge to a facilitator who makes ideas accessible to students, Ruddy explained.

“Any of the kids who end up in his future classroom are going to be incredibly lucky,” Ruddy said.
 

Why so lucky? Ruddy noted that there are few African American teachers to serve as role models for students of color and as models of success for all students, but Guy can serve as a role model and as a living testament to achievement. (The Oregon Department of Education’s Statewide Report Card for 2018-19 indicated 0.6% of teachers identify as black, and 71% of teachers identify as female.) Guy is also a natural leader from whom other graduate students seek guidance, and his gentle way of offering kindness and support to those who learn makes him an especially gifted teacher, Ruddy said.

“That gentleness counts so much as a teacher in a school, particularly one in a struggling neighborhood,” Ruddy said. “Life is already hard enough and the old school model of being the boss of the classroom and ordering students around is not what students need right now.”

Ruddy said students need someone like Guy. Guy is interested in adjusting to students’ needs. He said one of the most important concepts that he learned in his classes centered around Universal Design for Learning — an educational framework that is flexible and can accommodate students’ individual learning differences. He said the COE’s focus on inclusion also influenced him.

“As a student teacher it’s about making a difference with my instruction and challenging myself to find multiple ways to convey meaning for students with different learning styles,” Guy said.

In addition to his student teaching at Ockley, he works for Center for Autism and Related Disorders as a behavioral therapist for children with autism. In his sparse spare time, he spearheads music production projects and enjoys family time with his wife and 1-year-old daughter.

In the near future, he plans to become a secondary-level English teacher. Later in life, he would also like to pursue additional higher education, potentially becoming a professor at a college or a school district administrator.

Guy is also intrigued by a professional position in which he can “bridge the gap for helping students with disabilities relate to education and fostering youth and leading them toward the best success,” he said. “If I do that in the classroom, that would be great.”

Barcelona said he has a bright future, whatever he chooses to do.

“As a teacher I knew to just let him shine,” she said. And he has.

Photo: Wesley Guy, a participant in the Portland Teachers Program, won the $1,000 Literacy Educator Scholarship from the Portland Reading Council. Photo by Jermaine Ulinwa

To share stories with the College of Education, email Jillian Daley at jillian@pdx.edu