On November 29, 2012, AEP will induct Dr. Karen Billings, SIIA; Dick Casabonne, Casabonne Associates Inc.; and Margery Mayer, Scholastic Inc., into the Educational Publishing Hall of Fame. Here in her second installment, Margery Mayer, President of Scholastic Education for Scholastic Inc., discusses the greatest challenge she faced during her career and her proudest accomplishment.
What was the greatest challenge you faced in your career, and how did you handle it?
Sitting still. I haven’t.
What accomplishment, related to either your career or other work in the educational arena, are you most proud of and why?
I’m one of those people who remembers when they learned to read, and what a miracle it felt like. I had just started first grade in Miss Hamrick’s room in Mountain Brook, Alabama. There on the wall was an alphabet frieze. Miss Hamrick stood up and starting pointing out the sounds the letters made. Then she wrote the word “cat” on the blackboard, sounded out the letters and it all came together for me.
Of course, I assumed the process of learning to read was that easy for everyone so it came as a big shock to me to learn that so many children have severe difficulty learning to read with confidence and joy. Now I know it’s an epidemic rooted in poverty that threatens the very well-being of more than half of our children in the United States.
So it will come as no surprise that I am most proud of the work I have done in partnership with my colleagues and our authors in buildingREAD 180. The evidence is clear. When used well by teachers who believe their students can learn (despite what past school records might say), READ 180 works and can open up a world of choices and pleasure. It’s difficult for me to express how much it means to me that we are helping students learn to read after they’ve endured years of failure and frustration. There is nothing I could have done with my professional life that could have meant more.
Sometimes I think about the endless ripples we create when a student learns to read who might not otherwise have learned to do so. Just from this one act, that student’s chances of graduating from high school and college go way up and the risk of prison, unwanted pregnancy, and a myriad of other threats go way down. No surprise that such a student is much more likely to be a productive citizen, to raise a literate family and live a life filled with hope. But it doesn’t stop there. We often hear stories about how a READ 180 student’s success leads to their sibling’s getting intervention or their parent returning to school for adult literacy classes and the ripples keep going out. And we hear from teachers how they feel a renewed sense of purpose and love for their work after using a program that helps them be successful when success had been elusive. The result: more ripples.
Sometimes the ripples reach thousands like when one READ 180student I knew couldn’t play football in college until his reading and grades improved. He became a strong, enthusiastic reader in his READ 180 class, went on to lead his university in a winning season in front of 80,000 screaming fans and is now playing for the Miami Dolphins. Or the student confined to a wheelchair with spina bifida who was aging out of school and had never learned to read. She was enrolled inSystem 44®, the prequel to READ 180, in her twentieth year and was reading the Chronicles of Narnia a few months later. Today, she is an aide in a preschool and flies out of her chair nightly on the reading wings of fantasy. Those are just a couple of stories among the hundreds I know and the millions I will never know.
How fortunate I have been to have worked for a company I love, with the most committed, creative and talented people I have ever known on work so fundamental to what it is to be human!
Margery Mayer, President of Scholastic Education and Executive Vice President of Scholastic Inc., oversees the product development, marketing and sales for the Scholastic Education division which includes Intervention, Education Technology and Services, Curriculum Publishing, and Professional Development, all of which serve school districts, teachers and children with high quality educational materials. Under Ms. Mayer’s leadership, Scholastic developed the premier reading intervention program READ 180® and its’ recent upgrade, READ 180 Next Generation®. Ms. Mayer is also leading Scholastic’s move into development of mathematics programs working with the leading math educator, Marilyn Burns, on her widely acclaimed math curriculum Do the Math™.