Lynne Vernon-Feagans, William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of Early Childhood, Intervention and Literacy, has been named a winner of the University’s 2011 Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award.
Vernon-Feagans was nominated for her work with rural schools in North Carolina to improve instruction aimed at helping struggling readers.
Since 2004, Vernon-Feagans has led the Targeted Reading Intervention project, which has developed a cost-effective program that equips classroom teachers with powerful instructional strategies to help children who are having difficulty learning to read.
The TRI program has helped students in kindergarten and first grade in three North Carolina schools, in Chadbourn Elementary in Columbus County, Louisburg Elementary in Franklin County and Northside Elementary in Warren County.
The Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award honors the memory and accomplishments of alumnus Robert E. Bryan ’26 of Newton Grove, N.C., who worked his way through Carolina to become a successful businessman, entrepreneur and public servant. The award recognizes individuals – students, faculty or staff – who, as representatives of UNC-Chapel Hill, have demonstrated outstanding engagement and service to the state of North Carolina.
The primary objective of the TRI program is to train classroom teachers in the program’s techniques that they can continue to use them through the remainder of their careers.
“We’re not intervening with the child,” Dr. Vernon-Feagans has been quoted as saying. “We’re intervening with the teacher. There’s no substitute for helping that teacher right there in real time.”
TRI teachers work with their struggling readers intensively on a daily basis, using efficient, evidence-based reading strategies. Using commonly available Macintosh computer video conferencing technology, TRI coaches watch and listen to classroom teachers using TRI techniques and provide corrective feedback to the teachers.
To ensure the TRI program’s implementation and success, Vernon-Feagans and her team have built relationships with classroom teachers, principals, other researchers and graduate assistants. She has negotiated understandings and commitments from local school system leaders to facilitate implementation and evaluation of the program, helping to ensure continued support.
The program has received $15 million in grant support from federal agencies.
The TRI program enlists graduate students, supported by grant funding, to conduct summer professional development sessions and the distance-based coaching sessions with teachers. As a result, these graduate students also are familiarized with state-of-the-art reading intervention techniques.