A group of Texas first-graders will soon have new tools at their fingertips, and it’s all thanks to one University of Houston-Victoria education graduate student.
Leslie New was helping out at Temple’s Joe M. Pirtle Elementary School, getting hands-on experience to complete her practicum. It was during talks with the school’s first-grade teaching team that she learned they wanted to expand their reading offerings.
Luckily, the Victoria native’s upper-level coursework covered the finer points of grant writing.
“There’s a writing system put out by Lucy Calkins that they really wanted to purchase,” New said. “Part of my final project was to write and, if I wanted to, to submit a grant proposal. I told the team I’d try to get money for them.”
She set her sights on the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s Youth Literacy Grant program which, according to the company’s website, aims to assist those who are below grade level or having trouble reading.
And her efforts paid off. The school received $1,500.
“It felt great to do something for a school that helped me out so much with my studies,” New said. “They didn’t have to do all that they did for me. It was well worth the effort to get them some funding.”
New, 33, graduated from Victoria’s St. Joseph High School in 1999 and moved on to Texas A&M University in College Station, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, with an emphasis in special education. She is now working on her Master of Education in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in literacy studies and reading certification.
Outside of her coursework and time with her family, she enjoys outdoor activities, exercise and reading – although she admits textbooks make up most of the latter at the moment.
Education is a longtime passion for the mother of two, a former first-grade teacher. It was during her time with the Alvin Independent School District, where she first taught, that she found a calling to focus on reading and writing.
Now, with graduation approaching in December, New said she looks forward to finding her footing in a new aspect of education. Once her children – now ages 4 and 6 – are both in school, she hopes to find work at their school, guiding students along the way.
The future might hold change, she said, but change can be exciting.
“A lot of years have gone into this goal,” she said. “I look forward to using everything I’ve learned, and really become a literacy education resource for teachers, students and their parents.”
I am a Jaguar is an online feature highlighting the exceptional students who attend the University of Houston-Victoria. To nominate a student, email Paula Cobler, UHV director of marketing and communications, or call her at 361-570-4350.