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“Great Morning!” was the resounding welcome for attendees at our Greater Tampa Bay Area Literacy Convening on April 27, 2022, and what started as a ‘great morning’ evolved into a truly incredible day.

As a result of the Lastinger Center for Learnings’s ongoing work with Pinellas County schools, we were able to bring together a group of committed teachers, coaches, administrators, and community organizations from across the district and state to share critical data, broadcast voices from the classroom, provide ways for the group to engage in some blue sky thinking and lay groundwork for developing a vision for literacy in the Greater Tampa Bay Area.

As the Lastinger Center’s Dr. Paige Pullen and Associate Superintendent Kevin Hendrick from Pinellas County Schools shared background and described accomplishments and obstacles, nods and expressions of understanding and agreement resonated around the room as the group settled in to listen and learn in preparation for activities scheduled for the day. After a tour of classrooms with structured literacy work and Flamingo small group instruction taking place, a panel of pre-K–2 teachers, coaches, and administrators sat before the group, described successes and challenges, and relayed their passion for supporting students along the path to becoming successful readers. As these practitioners shared their students’ achievements and incredible progress, there were more than a few glistening eyes in the audience. LaKisha Lawson, principal of Fairmount Park Elementary School perhaps said it best, “We do this because it’s hard work…and because it’s HEART work.”

It was clear that all participants are invested in doing the “heart work” of finding instructional, organizational, institutional, and financial strategies to change the lives of children and their (future) families through literacy. With an excellent launching pad established, small groups drew on input from the morning’s activities, experience, and expertise to think big and propose their vision for pre-K-2 literacy in the Greater Tampa Bay Area. Groups huddled, brainstormed, and defined their visions. After each version was presented, analyzed, and discussed, one synthesized collective vision statement was drafted: All Tampa Bay children will be skilled and confident readers.

With a collective vision agreed upon, participants were called back into their huddles to work on defining steps along the path to developing a plan for moving forward with the goal of having ALL Greater Tampa Bay Area students reading. After much animated discussion, the day wrapped up with participants feeling energized about new connections with like-minded individuals and the promise of concrete steps toward realizing a vision for early literacy in the Greater Tampa Bay area. Next steps are already underway and the future looks bright for literacy!

Participants sit in a circle during presentation

The Greater Tampa Bay Area Literacy Convening brought together school board members, early learning coalitions, and other education partners to hear directly from teachers about what’s working and what supports they need through classroom visits and an Educators Panel.