Marlene Perry: Ontario Literacy Leader

Marlene Perry: Ontario Literacy Leader

A huge congratulations to Marlene Perry from the York Catholic District School Board’s Curriculum Department, on winning the International Dyslexia Association Ontario’s 2024 Literacy Leader of the Year award. 

“I am really honoured and blown away; the timing of it was pretty insane because this is the first year with the new literacy curriculum,” Marlene Perry shared. 

Marlene discovered her passion for teaching through coaching, finding joy in guiding others to achieve their goals. “The rewards of seeing somebody do something that you’ve taught them” pushed her to become a math and science teacher.

During the pandemic, Marlene took on the role of a remote special education teacher assigned to an elementary school as an early literacy intervention teacher. Here, she discovered that teaching literacy involved understanding the science behind how the brain learns to read. Her son’s struggle with reading and writing sparked her interest, making her more interested in what she was learning in this role. This knowledge not only equipped her to help her son but also ignited a desire to help more children facing similar challenges.

“Literacy was never my thing so I have always approached it as a science teacher.”  

Her current position at YCDSB allows her to teach teachers the science behind reading. She remains passionate about education, recognizing the significant curriculum overhaul in Ontario and the extensive learning required to implement it. Her dedication to educating others extends beyond the school board as she strives to spread the scientific understanding of reading.

“I wouldn’t have had the same reach as a classroom teacher, to be able to help others, so being at the board is where you get that platform to do it.”

Her proactive approach includes video releases and conducting after-school sessions to accommodate teachers’ busy schedules. Her goal is to provide resources that ease their workload and allow for positive feedback. She believes that the new curriculum will not only enhance literacy but also address behavioural and classroom management issues, ultimately lightening the load on special education. 

“I still feel like a science teacher. I am teaching teachers the science of how we learn how to read.” 

She is in constant communication with principals and consultants across Ontario and has formed valuable connections within the International Dyslexia Association. This network has expanded her reach far beyond what she could have achieved as a classroom teacher, providing her a platform to make a significant impact.

Last year, she dedicated her time to researching and preparing for the new curriculum. This year, her focus was on teaching the teachers. She has successfully trained 99 per cent of kindergarten, grade 1, and grade 2 teachers on early reading screening, a scientific, evidence-based method to determine if a child is on track to learn to read. This training is in preparation for the Ministry of Education’s new mandate starting next September.

The most rewarding moments for her are receiving emails and calls from excited teachers, eager to implement what they’ve learned. The voluntary participation of York Catholic teachers in after-school sessions and professional development makes her proud.

Her advice to educators is to stick to science-based, data-driven programming tools. “Follow the science, follow the data. Without data, you are just somebody with an opinion.”

Congratulations, Marlene! You are truly a York Catholic Wow!