Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation Announces 2022-2023 Educator Advisory Council to Help Combat Learning Loss Across Tennessee

28 educators from across Tennessee will work together to strengthen early literacy


September 20, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF) today announced its 2022-2023 Educator Advisory Council, 28 educators from rural, urban, and suburban communities across Tennessee who will help GELF determine the resources to best meet the summer literacy needs of students statewide. With only 35% of Tennessee third graders able to read proficiently, GELF’s Educator Advisory Council serves as a consulting body for the Foundation’s early literacy initiatives, including its statewide K-3 Home Library program that mailed books to more than 160,000 students and teachers in Summer 2022.

Twenty-eight Tennessee educators were selected from 60+ applicants to serve on the 2022-2023 Educator Advisory Council, representing 19 school districts in all three regions of the state and three charter schools in Memphis and Nashville. GELF launched the Educator Advisory Council (EAC) in 2021 to strengthen its early literacy initiatives by gaining the insight and perspectives of educators statewide.

“Educators are crucial to a child’s journey, inspiring our children’s dreams and shaping their futures,” said James Pond, GELF President. “Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation is honored to work with them, listen to them, and learn from them to best meet students and families where they are with the resources they need to build lifelong learners. Together, we will work to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee, one program, one family, one child at a time.”

Led by an Executive Team, the primary responsibility of the EAC is to select the books and curate the literacy resources that students and teachers statewide will be mailed through GELF’s K-3 Home Library program in Summer 2023. Through its K-3 Home Library program, GELF collaborates with Scholastic to mail high-quality, age-appropriate books to kindergarten through third grade students and teachers over the summer to combat learning loss and support student learning in the home.

Third grade reading proficiency is the benchmark where children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” and is a key indicator for a child’s future educational success and workforce readiness.

Research shows that two to three months of reading proficiency is lost for students who do not read over the summer. However, reading 4-6 books over the summer can stop or even reverse summer slide. Placing books directly into children’s homes combats learning loss, and the presence of a home library increases children’s academic success, vocabulary development, attention span, and job attainment.

In Summer 2022, GELF’s K-3 Home Library program mailed 970,000 books to the homes of 162,000 rising 1st and 2nd grade students and teachers across Tennessee, marking the expansion of the first statewide roll-out of an at-home book delivery program for K-3 students across the U.S. In Summer 2023, GELF plans to expand this program to serve rising 3rd grade students statewide and rising kindergarten students in pilot areas of the state, bridging the gap between its Birth-5 Book Delivery program in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. This expansion will give Tennessee children the opportunity to receive free books from birth to third grade.

The EAC helps direct GELF’s K-3 programming decisions aimed at meeting students and families where they are with the resources they need to strengthen early literacy and combat learning loss statewide.

The 2022-2023 Educator Advisory Council represents 17 K-3 teachers, one Director of Schools, two library media specialists, three literacy specialists, and six additional school district leaders.

“Literacy is freedom and opportunity,” says Alexis Wade, First Grade Teacher, Memphis Business Academy Elementary, 2021-2022 EAC member and Chair of the 2022-2023 EAC Executive Council. “I am honored and excited to be a part of the EAC once again because I get to collaborate with educators across the state of Tennessee who share a passion for quality children’s literature and early literacy. Our collaborative efforts benefit the young readers we serve, and the experience is joyful and rewarding.”

“Literature is an avenue to exploration and adventure,” says Melisha Simmons, First Grade Teacher, Eastside Elementary, Warren County Schools, and 2022-2023 EAC member. “A great book can help you learn about the world around you, transport you to faraway lands, and help you think and grow with each word read. I am excited to join this year’s EAC as we work to provide both great literature and resources for Tennessee’s readers!”

“As an instructional coach at an elementary school, I know kids love books,” says Michael Ramsey, Instructional Coach, Grainger County Schools, and 2022-2023 EAC member. “Getting books into the hands of children is one of the most important things we can do to improve literacy, and the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation has a critical role to play in achieving this. I am honored to be a part of the foundation’s endeavor.”

See below for a full list of the selected 2022-2023 GELF Educator Advisory Council members.

Executive Council

  • Alexis Wade, Chair, K-3 Reading Interventionist, Memphis Business Academy Elementary Charter, Shelby County Schools
  • Chris Dickerson, Kindergarten Teacher, Norman Binkley Elementary, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Lauren Effler, Pre K-12 Curriculum & Instruction Supervisor, Union County Schools
  • Christie Wimberley, Second Grade Teacher, Lakewood Elementary, Henry County Schools

EAC Members

  • Natalie Alexander, K-4 Resource Specialist, Milan Elementary, Milan Special School District
  • Angela Brown, Second Grade Teacher, City Park School, Athens City Schools
  • Lee Ann Butts, District Instructional Coach, Bedford County Schools
  • De’Shadrian Campbell, Kindergarten Teacher, Middleton Elementary, Hardeman County Schools
  • Tara Comerford, Third Grade Teacher, Westside Elementary, Athens City Schools
  • Jessica Drinnon, Kindergarten Teacher, Mooresburg Elementary, Hawkins County Schools
  • Rebekah “Bekah” Gibson, Kindergarten Teacher, Joppa Elementary, Grainger County Schools
  • Catina Jennings. First Grade Teacher, Coleman School, Journey Community Schools
  • Angie Manor, Literacy Coordinator, Hickman County Schools
  • Jenni Mason, Kindergarten Teacher, Sam Houston Elementary, Lebanon Special School District
  • Tracy McAbee, Director of Schools, Lewis County Schools
  • Meredith McMackins, Second Grade Teacher, Finley Elementary, Dyer County Schools
  • Misty Mercer, Literacy Specialist, Greene County Schools
  • Leah Murray, K-4 Reading Interventionist, Surgoinsville Elementary, Hawkins County Schools
  • Shanna Pierpoint, Second Grade Teacher, Lakewood Elementary, Henry County Schools
  • Regina Radencic, K-2 Special Education Teacher, A.H. Roberts Elementary, Overton County Schools
  • Mary Raines, Librarian/Media Specialist, Trousdale County Elementary, Trousdale County Schools
  • Michael Ramsey, Instructional Coach, Joppa Elementary, Grainger County Schools
  • Melisha Simmons, First Grade Teacher, Eastside Elementary, Warren County Schools
  • Katie Spears, PK-8 Librarian, Irving College Elementary, Warren County Schools
  • Angie Sybert, Second Grade Teacher, Ketron Elementary, Sullivan County Schools
  • Lily Watson, First Grade Teacher, Emmett Elementary, Sullivan County Schools
  • Lindsay Webster, Kindergarten Teacher, Compass Binghamton, Compass Community Schools
  • Megan Wing, K-2 Dean of Academics, East End Prep, Metro Nashville School District

The EAC application will next open in Spring 2023 with announcements made in mid summer. Members are asked to serve for a one-year term.