Summit : Tacoma, WA

School : Louisa Boren PK-8 STEM

District : Seattle Public School District

State : Washington

Level : K-12

Team Lead : Mary Bannister

Topics: Curriculum, Literacy, Professional Development


Seattle librarian Mary Bannister believes schools must employ a cohesive, comprehensive approach to literacy instruction. Because this wasn’t the case at her project-based STEM school, Mary enlisted a team of colleagues to submit an application for the Teach to Lead Summit in Tacoma in the Fall of 2015. In addition to benefiting students, Bannister hoped developing a stronger literacy instructional program would help stem the tide of teacher turnover at her school.

Problem and Solution

Mary and her team endeavored to create a schoolwide approach to literacy in the absence of a district model to follow. They aimed to align instructional practices across grade levels and disciplines, as well as create a clear scope and sequence. They further wanted to develop guidelines for using student data to inform instructional planning and strengthen interventions to meet students’ needs more effectively.

To do this, Summit participants developed an action plan to transform their literacy team into a literacy-focused professional learning community (PLC). They also devised a strategy to advocate for the adoption of district-wide approach to literacy so that their work would impact students beyond their school walls.

Literacy the Backbone of STEM from Jodi Williamson on Vimeo.


Mary and her team report that their literacy PLC has begun to improve instructional practices across their school. Teachers are more intentionally sharing strategies to enhance literacy instruction and maximize student growth. They’ve also engaged in collaboratively examining student work and data to develop appropriate interventions for specific students.

On the advocacy front, the participant team partnered with their PTA and successfully lobbied for the adoption of a district-wide approach to elementary level literacy instruction. Thanks to a postcard-writing campaign to school board members and district administrators that several other communities joined, the district is engaged in developing a literacy program for all K-5 students to be launched in the Fall of 2017.

Teacher Leadership Tips

In part through their participation in the Teach to Lead Summit, Mary and her team learned the importance of developing clear and concise messaging around their project. They also emphasized the importance of passionately taking action on behalf of students, especially when it is a matter of equity. According to this team, teacher leadership means “challenging the status quo with positive action that improves education for ALL of our students.”
Interested in learning more about this project? Contact Mary Bannister at