Years after being diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, Chicago native Margaret Helen Farris felt compelled to pursue education as a career and made sure she received an exceptional education herself in her quest to become a teacher. She was also encouraged by her late parents, David and June Farris, with her mother working as a research librarian and bibliographer for 30 years at the University of Chicago and becoming a published author. Today, Ms. Farris is a devoted learning specialist at Achievement First Crown Heights Elementary School in Brooklyn, New York, with expertise in reading, literacy education, special education, phonics, awareness instruction, and Scarborough’s Reading Rope model, which captures the complexity of learning to read.
Named a Marquis Who’s Who Top Professional, Ms. Farris declares that it takes a lot of work to teach, but after she became good at it, it came naturally and is the best feeling in the world—wisdom she shares with young, aspiring educators. At Achievement First Crown Heights Elementary School, she is a reading specialist for children in kindergarten through second grade, teaching phonics, decoding, and the basics of reading in Integrated Co-Teaching classes. She selects students who do not have access to grade-level reading or math with the goal of getting students back into the classroom. Additionally, Ms. Farris wrote a guided reading plan when she was a curriculum fellow during the 2021-2022 school year and has risen to the statuses of Stage III Teacher and Stage Advancement for Teacher.
A highlight of Ms. Farris’ career has been exploring and participating as an educator in the reading revolution in schools known as the “science of reading.” She was trained in literacy learning and reading education based on the work of noted researchers, including Marie Clay. Yet, Ms. Farris always felt that there were parts of the curriculum that “did not mesh with her,” stemming from her personal experience of having dyslexia and struggling with reading and writing growing up. As she listened to a podcast recently about the reading revolution, an expert pointed out that even excellent researchers ignored aspects of how typically developing children learn to read. For Ms. Farris, this validated her own decision throughout her years of teaching to select only certain parts of Marie Clay’s and others’ programs—a move she would sometimes question. Now, Ms. Farris teaches based on the Wilson Language Training program called Fundations, officially described as utilizing a structured literary approach grounded in the science of reading to make learning fun while laying the groundwork for lifelong literacy. When applied, it makes a significant difference, she says.
Certified in Pathways to Proficient Reading coursework by the accredited AIM Institute for Learning & Research and a member of the International Literacy Association, Ms. Farris has been an educator for more than 15 years. Before joining Achievement First Crown Heights Elementary School in 2013, she was a reading teacher at Santa Maria Catholic School, an afternoon assistant at Friends Seminary, and an after-school kindergarten teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. Bolstered by a solid educational foundation, Ms. Farris holds a Master of Arts in literacy and reading education from New York University and a Bachelor of Science in elementary education with a minor in American studies from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and taking in Broadway shows.