LARAMIE — Melanie Hornbeck, an outreach librarian at the Laramie County Library System in Cheyenne, and Jennifer Hayward, of Daniel, a Title 1 reading teacher at Pinedale Elementary School, are the co-winners of the 2022 Carol Mead Leaders in Literacy Award from the University of Wyoming Literacy Research Center and Clinic (LRCC) Outreach Advisory Board.
The winners split a $4,000 award, with each receiving a $2,000 grant to continue their work supporting literacy in Wyoming.
For the last six years, Hornbeck has been making monthly visits to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms in Laramie County School District 1, often in low-income schools, to help teachers enhance the literacy skills of students. She meets students wherever they are, which also includes visits to summer school classrooms and the Laramie County Library System Bookmobile. These visits did not stop during the COVID-19 pandemic; they just switched to online-delivery storytimes when in-person contact was not possible.
During her visits, Hornbeck comes to the class with materials and lessons that make reading and exploring literature fun. She uses direct models, interactive play, songs, puppets and reader’s theaters in lessons that leave students wanting more. Her impact has been proven by an increase in student scores, retention and skills.
Hornbeck also encourages students to take their reading home with them, in addition to inviting them to go to their local libraries to explore even more. She shares calendars to showcase events and activities occurring at the libraries that will interest the students.
“Melanie’s openness and encouragement have single-handedly brought countless parents and their children into the library for the first time and keep them returning faithfully with gratitude,” her nominator says. “She has been a pillar of comfort and welcoming to families that otherwise would not, and had not, felt comfortable in the public library prior.”
Co-winner Hayward’s impact has been tremendous throughout her 20-plus years as a teacher — both on her students and educator colleagues. Her enthusiasm and willingness to learn and grow professionally led her to become a standing member of the school’s Student Intervention Team. In this role, she uses her expertise to connect resources and prescribe targeted, evidence-based interventions to support struggling readers.
As a lifelong learner, Hayward has always been a motivator and influencer for other teachers in her district to continue their professional development. She was the first in her school to complete LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) training and inspired 22 additional educators to take the training and gain knowledge needed to master the fundamentals of reading instruction and better support their students. She also has earned and renewed her status as a teacher with National Board Certification.
Beyond her school, Hayward makes an impact throughout the state as a member of the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) Title 1 Committee of Practitioners. She also served on WDE’s Practitioner Review Committee and provided feedback on WDE’s K-3 Literacy Guidance Framework. She even works with the state’s legislators to provide input on legislative initiatives that involve literacy and reading.
“It is very clear that Mrs. Hayward is an outstanding teacher who cares deeply about being the best teacher she can possibly be,” says her nominator. “Her passion and extensive knowledge about the science of reading have made a positive impact at Pinedale Elementary School, Sublette County School District 1 and for others throughout the state of Wyoming.”
“Our winners have improved the quality of education in their communities by empowering literacy through evidence-based practices,” says LRCC Director Kimberly Gustafson. “Hornbeck encourages students to develop positive relationships with reading and literature by creating meaningful opportunities for them to engage with texts starting at a young age. Hayward collaborates with educators to ensure they have the skills and tools needed to support their students’ literacy development.”
The Carol Mead Leaders in Literacy Award is a way to recognize and honor Wyoming citizens, organizations, businesses or communities that have made substantial contributions that enhance the literacy development among the Wyoming community.
Formerly known as the First Lady’s Leaders in Literacy Award, the honor was established in 2016 by the LRCC Outreach Advisory Board to recognize the work of Wyoming’s former first lady, Carol Mead, to promote literacy education throughout the state. The award was renamed in 2019 to honor the legacy of the former first lady and her impact on the literacy and education of students in Wyoming.