Published August 21, 2014
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 (NCTE).
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 is the sole recipient of the council’s media literacy award this year.
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 doctoral program, 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 UB. 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 classrooms.
“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 school.
“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 pedagogy.”
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 outcomes in multiple measures, including high stakes test results.