Joyce Fine recognized for community engagement efforts

Joyce Fine, an associate professor in reading education at the College of Education, will receive the Faculty Senate Community Engagement Award at the 2013 Faculty Convocation and Award Ceremony on Sept. 26.

Fine, who received her doctorate in curriculum and instruction, as well as reading education from FIU, will be acknowledged for her work to improve adolescent literacy with the Reading Scene practicum at North Miami Senior High School.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by the Faculty Senate for the type of work that I have done for many years,” Fine said. “I always felt that it was important to connect to our community.”

Reading Scene Joyce Fine

Dr. Joyce Fine (bottom right) will be recognized by the Faculty Senate for her work to improve adolescent literacy at North Miami Senior High School with the Reading Scene program.

The Reading Scene is a partnership between FIU and North Miami Senior High School. Since Fall 2007, Fine said the Reading Scene has helped hundreds of students improve their literacy skills.

The supervised, clinical practicum gives master’s degree candidates in reading education the opportunity to work hands-on with students.

“The candidates are meeting all of the state standards, as well as the competency indicators for their reading endorsement from the state,” Fine said.

They are also teaching with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which is a national initiative that provides a clear standard of what students are expected to learn to be prepared for college or the workforce when they graduate high school.

Many of the high school students in the practicum are second-language learners, meaning English is their second language.

The majority of students at North Miami High School are primarily of Haitian descent and speak Haitian Creole as their first language.

“When you have a second-language learner population, it takes a greater effort to meet the standards,” Fine said.

Students are given assessments to measure their strengths and areas for improvement in literacy. The areas for improvement for each student are targeted and worked upon by Fine and her tutors once a week for two hours.

Students receive 90 minutes of one-on-one or small group tutoring using strategies such as creating vocabulary trees and Text Talk, which is a vocabulary instruction that allows students to read aloud words and books to help build their vocabulary. For the final 30 minutes, students interact socially with literacy-based activities and games.

Activities and games include readers’ theatre, and the board games Apples to Apples and Scrabble.

“These activities demonstrate that literacy can be fun,” Fine said. “It is not the threatening experience that they have had in school.”

Master’s candidates build relationships with the students in the Reading Scene practicum to help the students have positive feelings towards literacy. Many students have experienced years of failure and are embarrassed to participate in their regular classes.

“It is critical that they get the literacy skills that they need to pursue jobs and higher education,” Fine said.

The Reading Scene has assisted in transforming North Miami High School from an “F- rated” school by the state of Florida in 2007 to a “B-rated” school in 2012, according to the Florida Department of Education.

Michelle DiGirolamo, assistant principal at North Miami High, said the program has been outstanding for the students.

“We have students that voluntarily join the program, from the neediest to the highest qualified student,” she said.

For more than 20 years Fine has led literacy programs in multiple South Florida schools.

Michael Lewis, principal of North Miami High, praised the work of Fine and the FIU master’s candidates who work with the students.

“Their teachers have been a godsend to provide services to our kids,” he said. “[Fine] has been great to work with and I want to keep the partnership.”

Fine, along with Lynne Miller, an associate professor in reading education in FIU’s College of Education, have also partnered with North Twin Lakes Elementary School in Hialeah since 2007 to provide a literacy practicum, the Community Literacy Club.

The Community Literacy Club also gives FIU master’s candidates in reading education the opportunity to tutor students one-on-one at North Twin Lakes.

Through the program, the master’s candidates, many of whom are already certified to teach at either the elementary or secondary school level, become certified to teach reading from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The majority of students in the practicum at North Twin Lakes are second-language learners. The majority of students speak Spanish as their first language.

The candidates completed the Community Literacy Club this summer, providing tutoring to students everyday for two and a half weeks this summer.

Students who struggled with literacy leave the Reading Scene practicum with confidence.

“Students are appreciative and they are thrilled with themselves,” Fine said. “They walk away with smiles on their faces.”

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