"Next" Magazine Vol. 3 Fall 2016 - Page 10

COMMON PURPOSE Passion for literacy unites educators across time and place STORY AND PHOTOS BY BETH GOINS Not many children ask for a projector as a birthday gift, but Taylor Patrick did. She knew she wanted to be a teacher, and her bedroom was her first classroom, where she practiced her future profession with a row of stuffed animals as her first pupils. Her mother, grandparents, aunt and other family members were teachers who instilled in Patrick a deep love for education. As an honor roll student at Lakota East High School, about 20 minutes north of the bustling Midwestern city of Cincinnati, Patrick seized an opportunity to do an independent study, working with local second graders. From there, Patrick’s trajectory as an elementary school teacher was set. Or so she thought. Pause the story there and rewind a couple of decades earlier, when Joan Gipe was on a similar path. By then, she was an up-and-coming graduate 10 | student at the University of Kentucky. Having earned her bachelor of arts degree in elementary education at the UK College of Education, Gipe was pursuing a master of arts in elementary education and reading. As Patrick would do years later, Gipe had practiced teaching with her toys and younger siblings as a child at home in Louisville. However, her life’s work wouldn’t become clear to her until years later, when she began working with an illiterate boy as part of her reading clinic course in her graduate program. Once a week for an entire semester, the boy’s parents drove him from Lawrenceburg, Ky., to Lexington to meet with Gipe, who used the language experience method to involve the boy in decoding words by reading transcriptions of the stories he told to Gipe. “I still remember those stories,” Gipe said. “They were about a pet rabbit. We wrote about his