“Books are a great passion of mine,” said Katie Schrodt, assistant professor in MTSU’s College of Education.
When the outreach she conducted with local literacy nonprofit Read To Succeed was shuttered because of COVID-19, she knew it would be another obstacle to book access for local students.
“We do family literacy nights at the schools,” she explained.
MTSU graduate students also help with the service project.
“Well, of course that shut down with COVID,” Schrodt said. “Book access is a huge problem and a big concern when libraries shut down. A lot of kids don’t have a library in their home.”
Believing in the importance of a physical book in a child’s hands, Schrodt got creative to ensure students had something new to read during lockdown.
“We’ve been really trying to still host events without being there,” Schrodt said. “MTSU students planned out some interactive read-alouds (online). We actually gave them (participants) the book. We have hundreds of copies of books that we’ve been driving to schools and trying to get out to students.”
Schrodt also adapted her graduate courses in light of COVID restrictions. Implementing specific technology has been effective for her classroom.
Her students use a Google Jamboard — posting comments, questions, graphics and more on a collaborative document — and asynchronous modules in combination with meetings in-person or over Zoom. Some of her graduate students have even adopted this technology into their own classrooms while student teaching.
Schrodt graduated with her degree in elementary education from the University of North Texas in 2005 and taught for four years. She moved to Nashville with her husband in 2009 and continued teaching in Franklin while earning her master’s degree in literacy studies at MTSU.
The possibility of teaching at the college level was always at the back of her mind.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to be a professor?’ But I couldn’t imagine actually doing it,” she said.
It was “really through some professors who encouraged me to keep going” that she pursued it and obtained her doctorate from MTSU in 2015. She neared the completion of her degree while pregnant with twins.
“I ended up having my twins 10 weeks early,” Schrodt said. “When my twins were in the neonatal intensive care unit for five weeks, I literally wrote my dissertation there in the NICU of Vanderbilt.”
Schrodt would sleep on the couch in the ward, change her babies’ diapers and write.
“It almost forced me to finish because I couldn’t do anything else,” she said. “I have a picture of myself with both of them on my chest, and I’m typing. They’re five years old now. They just started kindergarten.”
An assistant professor on the tenure track since fall 2018, Schrodt appreciates the many benefits MTSU offers that make it easy to continue her outreach to surrounding teachers and students to improve literacy.
“The way we’re situated in the middle (of the state) lends itself to partnering with teachers,” Schrodt said. “We (also) have the Center for Educational Media. They help us create teacher training videos for free. They also have a big space where we can host professional development for free. Last year, we had over 100 teachers come, and we gave them free books and hosted a training.”
Schrodt wants to continue her work at the university and within the community.
“I will always want all of my research to go into teachers, all the money and the training,” she said. “I want to keep getting better at getting money for teachers, using my platform to promote the respect and value of teachers and along with that of course children and books.”
— Stephanie Barrette (Stephanie.Barrette@mtsu.edu)