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Fostering a Love of Reading

Reading specialist and Professor Arden Post first came to Alexander Elementary School through a program funded by an MCI/Worldcom grant. "But I continue there because I love the children," she said.

For three years, Professor Post and her education students have worked in Alexander's fourth- and fifth-grade classes, fostering a love of reading in the school's students and forging lasting relationships with them.

"I love working with children who are having trouble learning to read or who dislike reading. I'm sure I can get any kid interested in reading," she said.

When Post began the Alexander Literary Experience, or ALEx, three years ago, Alexander was considered a failing school because of poor reading scores on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test. Post's effort paired students from her "Reading and Language Arts in the Elementary School" class with Alexander's fourth and fifth graders as reading buddies. Using a combination of strategies, including Internet research, the Calvin students encouraged the Alexander students in their reading and writing.

For Shanda Landman '03, an education major at Calvin, the ALEx experience was enlightening: "I got to know my student very well. It was really cool to see them progressing in their reading from our very first meeting to our very last meeting. They each had their own individual story, and it's very helpful to hear that. To hear their stories and how it affects their school was very important for me in thinking about teaching in an urban setting."

Over three years, Post has gradually expanded Calvin's role at Alexander into a true partnership. She and her students attend seminars with Alexander's staff, help out at parent night, and bring the school's students to the Calvin campus for activities. Post also devoted an Interim class to helping Alexander's students prepare for the MEAP.

"If you walk in here and ask any student where they want to go to college, they will say Calvin. It may be the only college they know," said Alexander's principal, Katherine Sainz.

In 2002, the sometime-failing elementary school earned a Governor's Golden Apple Award for improving its average MEAP scores by 60 points. This year, ALEx won a Presidential Award for Reading and Technology from the International Reading Association.

"As usual, a good project only is good if a person takes hold of it, develops it well, and runs with it—and that's Arden," said Steve Timmermans, the former Calvin professor of education who initially brought Post, the MCI/Worldcom grant, and Alexander School together.

Born in Passaic, New Jersey, and educated in the Christian schools there, Post earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education and psychology from Calvin in 1965. "My Calvin education enabled me to develop a worldview that encouraged me to use my talents to serve God by serving others," she said.

For the next 20 years she lived a peripatetic life as the wife of a Keebler executive, teaching while earning a master's degree as a reading specialist from Beaver College in Philadelphia, a learning disabilities certificate from Georgia State University, and a doctorate in literacy and special education from the University of Cincinnati. In 1985, Post joined Calvin's education department.

As she innovates off-campus, Post also strengthens the Calvin community through fundraising; she has served on several emeriti, faculty, and staff drives, recruiting faculty representatives to encourage pledges within their departments. "It is so important for faculty and staff to realize that we are not after them for the big bucks. We simply want everyone to contribute, however small the amount may be, as a show of support for the institution in which they work," she said.

Post sees fundraising as integral to Calvin's mission: "I appreciate the efforts of the development office to keep us afloat, to help the college to expand and grow and to try to keep tuition down. I think they have a tremendous challenge today."

Her efforts extend beyond preaching to the faculty choir. In 1988, Post and her husband, John, established the DeVries-Post Teacher Education Scholarship. The award, which benefits minority students and students with disabilities in the teacher education program, is named for the couple's parents: Wilbur and Ann DeVries and John and Marjorie Post.

"I was brought up in a loving family that valued literacy and education. They worked hard to afford Calvin for me, where I was able to see the world as needing Christians with a transformative vision," she said. "The opportunity to partner with Alexander ccurred as part of God's plan for me to be instrumental in linking Calvin with a school community which we can serve and who serve us. We serve Alexander fourth and fifth graders by working on literacy. They show us how happiness, perseverance, and courage, along with an indomitable spirit, can exist in an urban community."

 

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John and Arden Post
John and Arden Post

 

"The opportunity to partner with Alexander occurred as part of God's plan for me to be instrumental in linking Calvin with a school community which we can serve and who serve us."

 

The Posts with Ruth Palma and her father, Jose

The Posts with Ruth Palma and her father, Jose

Ruth Palma '99 was a recipient of the DeVries-Post Teacher Education Scholarship.

 

 

 

 

 

Shanda Landman '03

Shanda Landman '03 found participating in the program at Alexander Elementary School to be enlightening as she planned for her teaching career.