URI education professors, graduate win education awards from International Literacy Association

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KINGSTON, R.I. – Aug. 5, 2015 – Two University of Rhode Island education professors and a URI graduate have won international awards for their accomplishments in literacy.


The awards were given by the International Literary Association at its annual conference in St. Louis July 19.

“It’s a special honor for me to be recognized by my peers,” says Julie Coiro, a URI associate professor of education who won the Computers in Reading Research Award. “I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to the growing body of work on how to best support teachers and students learning how to read, write and think more deeply with new technologies.”


Coiro’s award honors reading researchers who have made a significant contribution to research about classroom literacy instruction and technology integration.


Coiro, of Quaker Hill, Conn., teaches courses in reading and digital literacy and is an expert in the field of new literacies, which seeks to understand and develop literacy in a digital age.


She has lectured from Taipei, Taiwan and Manitoba, Canada to Brisbane, Australia and Mendillon, Colombia about her research on the new literacies of the Internet, online reading comprehension and practices for technology integration and professional development.


She recently completed a five-year research project funded by the U.S. Department of Education to develop assessments to measure online reading comprehension to support classroom instruction.


Coiro also co-directs the Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy at URI, a graduate program that allows educators, librarians and media professionals to learn how to use digital media to create learning opportunities for students. Under her leadership, educators and media experts from throughout the world attended the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at URI’s Feinstein Providence Campus, also in July.


“It’s a thrill to get so many different types of educators revved up about literacy and learning with technology,” Coiro says. “Then you watch them go back to their districts and do incredible things.”


Coiro is co-editor of The Handbook of Research On New Literacies and has co-authored a book for classroom teachers, New Literacies for New Times: Teaching with the Internet K-12.


In 2011, she won the Early Career Achievement Award from the Literacy Research Association. The following year, she received URI’s Early Career Faculty Research Excellence Award in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities.


And in 2014, she received an Elva Knight Research Award – with her colleague Carita Kiili of Jyväskylä, Finland – to study how to support high school students as they critically read and write online texts involving controversial issues.


Theresa A. Deeney received the Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator Award for outstanding college or university teacher of reading methods or reading-related courses.


Deeney, of South Kingstown, is an associate professor of literacy education at URI, coordinator of the graduate literacy program and director of graduate studies in the School of Education.


Her research focuses on pre- and in-service teacher education in literacy and assessment and instructional practices for students who struggle. Her work has appeared in The Reading Teacher, Journal of Special Education and Intervention in School and Clinic, Yearbook of the Literacy Research Association.


“Being recognized by my peers for my work in literacy teacher education is an honor,” she says, of her award. “I’m so grateful to all of the wonderful teachers I’ve had the pleasure to learn from over the years. They’re really the ones who deserve recognition.”


As part of her work, Deeney directs URI’s After School Literacy Program, a yearlong program run in conjunction with the Graduate Reading Program. Under her guidance, URI students have helped more than 90 children and adolescents in local schools with reading and language difficulties.


Deeney is author of Improving Literacy Instruction with Classroom Research. In 2007, she received the Outstanding Outreach Award from URI’s College of Human Science and Services for her work with urban teachers, and in 2015, the Outstanding Service Award. She also received the 2014 Constance McCullough Award from the International Literacy Association for professional development in Kenya as part of her work with the Africa Teacher Foundation. For this project, she helps teachers in some of the poorest areas of Kenya learn instructional techniques for developing their students’ literacy skills.


“I am thrilled that Terry Deeney and Julie Coiro have been recognized internationally for their excellence in research and instruction in literacy,” says Lori E. Ciccomascolo, interim dean of the College of Human Science and Services and dean of URI’s Feinstein College of Continuing Education. “They clearly have had an impact in their field, and I thank them for setting such a high standard for how literacy is taught and researched.”


Another award went to Carolyn Fortuna, of Glocester, who won the International Literacy Association’s 2015 grand prize Technology and Reading Award. The award honors educators in grades K-12 who are making outstanding and innovative contributions to the use of technology in reading education.


Fortuna is a 2010 graduate of the joint doctoral program in education at URI and Rhode Island College. She attended URI’s Summer Institute in Digital Literacy in 2013 and frequently participates in URI’s Media Education Lab research. She is the founder and director of IDigItMedia.com, which offers digital media literacy and learning professional development to schools and nonprofits.


She teaches high school English in Franklin, Mass., and is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College.


Pictured above: Julie Coiro (top); Theresa Deeney (middle); and Carolyn Fortuna (bottom). Photos courtesy of URI.