BUFFALO, N.Y. – University at Buffalo Graduate School of
Education doctoral student Denise Grandits, a middle school
literature teacher in St. Amelia School in Tonawanda, is the latest
recipient of the Media Literacy Award from the National Council of
Teachers of English.
Grandits received this national recognition for her work
integrating new media and literacies into her seventh- and
eighth-grade literature class at St. Amelia. The award goes to an
individual, team or department that has implemented and refined
exemplary media literacy practices in the school environment.
Grandits, a student from the Department of Learning and
Instruction, is in her third year at St. Amelia.
“I am humbled, honored and, to be honest, still in shock,
that I have been named this year's recipient,” says
Grandits. “I always knew my students were excited and
motivated to learn, but until my studies in my doctorate program at
University at Buffalo, I didn't have the words or theories to back
up what I saw happening.
“I can’t believe this happened to just a regular
English teacher in regular America.”
In her award letter, the selection committee praised Grandits
for her commitment to media literacy. “You have shown
persistent, innovative, and imaginative application of media
analysis and media composition in the English studies,”
Grandits’ letter stated.
Grandits will accept her Media Literacy Award at the November
2014 NCTE Annual Convention in Washington, D.C.
Before entering education, Grandits worked in health care for
more than 15 years before “finally gaining the courage”
to pursue her dream of becoming an English teacher. She discovered
her deep interest in media literacy when she was attending Empire
State College. Media Literacy generally refers to the ability to
access, analyze, evaluate and create messages in a variety of
forms. Specifically, Grandits focuses her students on reading and
"writing" diverse kinds of texts, including videos.
Grandits says she knew there was more about media literacy to
explore, and after graduating from Empire State College decided to
pursue her doctorate at the University at Buffalo. While
there, Grandits found UB's Department of Learning and Instruction
and, in particular, her program, English Education, shared her
belief in the power of media literacy to build exciting, engaging
“I personally have seen the power media literacy has to
engage, excite and educate all students, and I want to share these
experiences with colleagues,” Grandits says.
She says she believes that all teachers can use media literacy
to help all students develop critical reading, writing and thinking
necessary for success on tests and in their lives.
“Unfortunately,” Grandits says, “as far too many
media literacy advocates have experienced, work in such classrooms
can seem ‘too fun’ for it to be the real work of
“Until there is some evidence that students who are
exposed to reading, writing and thinking in multiple modes can
transfer those skills to test-taking, I fear teachers – many
of whom now are evaluated on their students' test scores –
will shy away from media literacy in favor of traditional
Grandits lives in Kenmore with her husband of 25 years, Jim, her
three college-aged sons, Scott, Ryan and Tyler and her “very
spoiled dog” Samantha. She plans to take what is known about
media literacy and explore student outcome in multiple measures,
including high stakes test results.