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Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
March 15, 2006
DeKalb — Retirement is busy for Pamela Farris, who in December ended her 26-year career in the Northern Illinois University Department of Literacy Education.
Farris is writing two books, one on language arts and the other on literacy-based instruction of social studies, and has a journal article set for publication next month. She volunteers in the Rochelle schools, and just judged a science fair at St. Mary's School in Sycamore. She still presents at academic conferences and, in June, will chair the annual NIU summer reading conference at Waubonsee Community College.
And, come Friday, Farris will enter the Illinois Reading Council Hall of Fame during the group's annual meeting in Springfield.
“It really came as a surprise. It was quite out of the blue, but it certainly is a significant honor,” Farris says. “They give this award each year to someone who has made a major impact on literacy and reading instruction in the state of Illinois.”
Farris joins former NIU colleagues Jane L. Davidson and Jerry Johns, who retired from the university in 1991 and 2000 respectively.
“The people who've received this honor have been outstanding leaders in the field of literacy,” Farris says. “To be put on the same platform as those individuals is quite an honor indeed.”
Norm Stahl, chair of the Department of Literacy Education, housed in the NIU College of Education, calls Farris “a very strong teacher.”
“Pam has been a prolific writer over the years, particularly so in the past decade as she's been writing textbooks that have given her a national visibility that few individuals at this institution have been able to achieve,” Stahl says. “Her textbooks on the introduction to the teaching profession, social studies, language arts and reading have all been received in a very positive way at the national level, and have gone through multiple editions.”
A former classroom teacher and Title I reading director in Indiana, Farris specialized in children's literature and writing instruction.
“When I was in high school, I had a chance to volunteer with students who were dyslexic and low-ability readers,” she says, “and I decided at that time I wanted to work with the elementary students and help them become better readers.”
The author of six books, Farris advised dozens of master's and doctoral students over the years, including Pam Nelson, now on the faculty of Literacy Education and president-elect of the Illinois Reading Council.
She became a Presidential Teaching Professor in 1995, and was elevated to Distinguished Teaching Professor four years later. In 1990, she received the Christa McAuliffe Distinguished Educator award from the Kappa Delta Pi education honor society.
In 2003, she was honored with the Illinois Reading Council's Family and Literacy Award for her work to place children's books in waiting rooms and examination rooms of local clinics, doctor's offices, health departments and hospitals.
“I've seen that if kids read a little every day outside of the school setting, and read from a variety of different books, they are well-grounded,” she says. “In order to get a good education, you have to be a good reader. In order to get a good job, you have to be a good reader. The more we can engage students in reading, the better off they're going to be as adults.”
The NIU College of Education has established the Pamela J. Farris Literacy Education Fund to help provide materials for the college's pre-service teachers as they perform their clinical studies. For more information, contact development officer Deborah Fransen at (815) 753-1137 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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