The Literacy Center of West Michigan appointed Bree Straayer, Ph.D., as director of its Family Literacy Program.
A Grand Rapids native, Straayer joins the Literacy Center of West Michigan with a decade of experience working with language learners in various contexts. She replaced Johanna Rodriguez-Quist, who served as director for three years.
The Literacy Center of West Michigan’s Family Literacy Program provides small group adult English language classes to more than 100 families in the Grand Rapids Public, Godwin Heights and Godfrey Lee school districts, in addition to Hope Academy and Head Start for Kent County. The program uniquely centers instruction for English language learners around their child’s coursework.
In her new role, Straayer will align the program with local needs, national trajectories and organizational vision; oversee and mentor teacher cohorts; develop and maintain relationships with local schools and community organizations; and manage program curriculum and instructors.
“Research shows that the top indicator for a student’s success in school is their parents’ education level. Our Family Literacy Program teaches English within the context of what matters most to parents, their children and their children’s education,” said Wendy Falb, executive director, Literacy Center of West Michigan. “We are fortunate to have an educator and administrator of Dr. Straayer’s caliber to lead this program. Equal to her experience is her passion for our mission. The need in the community is high and we are confident that under Dr. Strayer’s direction, this program will grow and strengthen in service to our community.”
Straayer holds a doctorate in rhetoric and writing from Michigan State University and has taught for several years at the university level. She also served as a Family Literacy Program instructor and is familiar with the challenges and opportunities learners experience.
“Many parents have come to the United States for their children,” Straayer said. “One of the greatest difficulties I see among learners is the translation of education when moving from one country to another. In one cohort of 12 learners, all but one held a degree in their home country. Although many learners include lawyers and chemical engineers, their education is tragically not widely accepted in the United States, in part due to their English literacy skills.”
Founded in 1986, the Literacy Center of West Michigan is committed to bringing about a just and vibrant West Michigan through the power of literacy. The Literacy Center works alongside adult native speakers and English language learners who read below a ninth-grade level.
The Literacy Center instructs close to 700 adults each year, utilizing nearly 150 volunteers, and yet the need is still great, with 85,000 adults in Kent County reading below the fourth-grade level.