J-Lynn Van Pelt
Director of Reading for Pre-K through 12th grades
Friendship Public Charter Schools, Washington, DC
What have you been up to since you were a student at Marymount?
I taught English for 7 years in Arlington, VA and got my Masters in Reading from The University of Virginia in 2006. Also in 2006, I earned National Board Certification for Early Adolescence English/Language Arts from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. I continued my graduate studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, while teaching undergrad and graduate literacy classes and running the E.L. Cord Center for Learning and Literacy. When my Ph.D. program was closed due to budget cuts, I left the University and co-founded The Honors Academy of Literature, a K-8 Charter School in downtown Reno. I was the Director of Programs and Middle School Principal from 2012-2015. In 2014, I received the Innovator of the Year award from the Charter School Association of Nevada for advocacy in library services for Charter Schools, which culminated in founding the Liz Warner Love of Learning Library.
What are you working on now and what are you most proud of?
I returned to the DC area to serve as the Director of Reading for Pre-K through 12th grades at Friendship Public Charter Schools in DC. Friendship’s eight campuses span across NW, NE, and SE DC and serve over 4,000 students in predominately African American nighborhoods. I have created and begun implementing 3-year Reading Initiative for the charter school network focused on supporting teacher growth and creating student-centered instructional environments for reading instruction. A passion project has also been to lead a tri-county volunteer initiative to help create school libraries at each of the Friendship Campuses. Through donated books, furniture, and volunteer time, one reading center and one library have opened in the last 6 months and two more additional schools will have libraries by the end of the 2017 school year. I was also recently appointed to the Greater Washington Reading Council’s Board of Directors.
I am most proud to be an adoptive single mom of three beautiful children: Amelia age 3, Baylen age 5, and Bonita age 7. I use my understanding of teaching, special needs, and empathy that I learned at Marymount daily as I raise my children. And I still keep in touch with half a dozen friends that I made at Marymount who help provide a loving village of support for my children.
How did your experience at Marymount impact your life?
Marymount allowed my first entry into the world of teaching. It gave me a well-rounded understanding of progressive and traditional pedagogy that has helped shape my philosophical development as an educator. When I need inspiration, I still go back to my books on Dewey, Kozol, Palmer, and Cummings which were introduced in my MU classes.
What are your future career, service, or other goals?
I hope to continue serving as an educator and literacy leader for the greater Washington area, including continuing volunteer projects to open libraries in schools without book collections. On a part-time basis, I would like to get back into teaching pre-service teachers and graduate students to help develop the next generation of progressive educators. My fun work-related goal is to take my love of children’s literature and serve as a member of the Printz Award selection committee for the American Library Association.
What advice would you give to prospective students considering a career in your field?
My advice to future educators would be to develop coping skills for the long haul. The number one thing the field of education needs is teachers who will make it past the 5-year mark and learn to become master teachers. Education is grueling, demoralizing, and stressful. But, it is also self-affirming, opportunity-driven, inspirational, and innovative. I think work-life balance is an unreachable paradigm. Instead, become the type of teacher where a joy of learning is infused across your roles and blends seamlessly from family to work to service to fun.