To Dr. Megan McCaffrey, reading paves the way to success
Governors State University (GSU) Education Professor Megan McCaffrey realizes that preparing children’s developmental reading skills starts with well-prepared teachers. That’s why she’s dedicated her career to giving future elementary educators the tools they need.
Dr. McCaffrey, who became a tenured professor in 2020, holds a Ph.D. in reading, language, and culture. She has taught in Connecticut, Mississippi, Arizona, and the Chicago area, prior to her time at GSU. “I’ve been a couple places,” she says with a laugh.
In addition to her background as an educator, McCaffrey is also a librarian. She volunteered at the Worlds of Words (WOW) library located at the University of Arizona, the second largest international children’s library in the country.
More recently, she directed her skillset toward creating a Childhood in Trauma Bibliography, which aims to be a resource for teachers, parents, counselors, and others interacting with children that had Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
GSU Newsroom sat down with Dr. McCaffrey to learn more about the importance of reading, her passion for her field and more.
GSU Newsroom: Were you a big reader as a child?
McCaffrey: I read Nancy Drew mysteries. When I got through with those, there wasn’t anything I liked. I didn’t read. Most of my family are voracious readers but I struggled despite always being fascinated with books. I have a degree in library science as well. My focus on reading comes from that. I like language.
GSU Newsroom: How did you get into this field?
McCaffrey: I was a high school teacher of English, then I went to junior high language arts, then to first grade and became a reading teacher, then became a reading specialist, a reading coach, then I got my PhD.
GSU Newsroom: Why is reading so important?
McCaffrey: From kindergarten through second grade, you learn to read. From third grade on, you read to learn. This is good.. Those are really foundational years for teaching reading, kindergarten through second grade. Having students who can read and be successful in school is paramount for their future success.
GSU Newsroom: Does reading online help us become better readers?
McCaffrey: There’s reading and then there’s reading that actually increases your critical literacy as well as you reading ability. In order to increase those, you need sustained reading. The internet is not advantageous to that unless you are reading a story on Kindle. Normally, when you are on the internet, all over the place, that’s not sustained reading that increases your reading skill.
GSU Newsroom: Why did you join the GSU faculty?
McCaffrey: A couple reasons. I’ve always worked in very rural or very urban areas. I believe in supporting the clientele we have at GSU. They are a huge resource. I’m also from Wisconsin. I lived in Chicago for four years in the early 2000s and wanted to come back to the area. A small school serving the community is huge for me. It’s where my passion is. This is exactly where I want to teach.
GSU Newsroom: How has the coronavirus pandemic and virtual classrooms impacted your teaching at GSU?
McCaffrey: The first semester, the students were so panicked. They worked so hard because they were so terrified. There’s so much I do in the classroom which is hand-on, that was missing. I can’t do everything online. This semester the students are really good, but I do feel there’s some burn out with Zoom, with videos, with not getting away from your computer enough. We’re still remote.
GSU Newsroom: What’s your goal for GSU students?
McCaffrey: I want them to be confident when they go into the classroom.
GSU Newsroom: How do you instill confidence in a virtual setting?
McCaffrey: I do individual conferences, a half-hour with every student at least once a week. I break down and explain things. It’s where they go over any confusion they have with anything I’ve presented.