The Dr. Edmund J. Farrell Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes Dr. Farrell’s profound impact on the profession of English language arts education, commitment to excellence in the teaching of English, and dedication to service and support of the mission and values of the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts. The 2020 recipient of this award is Dr. Carol D. Wickstrom.
Dr. Wickstrom’s teaching experience spans forty-five years, the last forty of which have been in Texas. She taught elementary school for twenty years and is now in her twentieth year at the University of North Texas, where she teaches, leads, and writes with some very lucky preservice teachers, who will soon extend Dr. Wickstrom’s impact into their future classrooms. According to one nominator, “We will all long be influenced by and indebted to this phenomenal woman whose graciousness, sincerity, dedication, humor, and diligence have provided guidance to teachers in her own program and in other colleges of education as well as in pre-K through high school literacy programs.”
When someone serves as a faculty member in higher education, research is a critical and necessary part of such work. However, Dr. Wickstrom deftly weaves her research into teaching practice. In describing Dr. Wickstrom’s classes, on nominator wrote, “Never content with the status quo, Carol Wickstrom spends much of her time reading the current professional book or journal on the teaching of literacy as well YA literature to share with both teachers and preservice teachers. Her classes are founts of information about what knowledge, skills, and strategies are grounded in the seminal research, supported by current research and continue to withstand the test of time. Every semester she is taking meticulous notes about what works and what her students, the future teachers of reading and writing, struggle with understanding. She reads, researches, and then revises her class for the next semester to see if students have a more thorough understanding. One of the few at the college level who does not lecture, Dr. Wickstrom really gives guidance and then steps back to let her students discover the learning that they need. Her practice is always grounded in proven research, and her teaching is innovative instead of repetitive.”
Fortunately for organizations such as the Texas Council of Teachers of English, the National Council of Teachers of English, the North Star of Texas Writing Project, and the National Writing Project, Dr. Wickstrom is a passionate contributor to our professional identities as English language arts and reading educators. Since the early 1990s, Dr. Wickstrom has been a regular attendee, presenter, and board member of TCTELA, in addition to serving as an editor for English in Texas. She actively pursues grant funding to bring her students and colleagues along with her on this admirable professional journey of service.
One nominator reached out to the current leadership group of the North Star of Texas Writing Project to elicit feedback in support of Dr. Wickstrom’s nomination, and the following highlights provide just a glimpse of the overwhelming praise that educators heaped upon Dr. Wickstrom:
• “Her passion for all matters literacy shines through her work, but, at the heart of this, lies the student.”
• “She taught me to keep questioning and digging deeper for answers to my questions.”
• “Dr. Wickstrom lives life as a student, always curious and wondering about the world situations … modeling what an inquiry-based education can be.”
• “She showed me (not just taught me) how to expertly merge literacy theory, research, and practice in a way that speaks to classroom teachers and school administrators as well as policymakers and academic researchers in ways that make a meaningful difference.”
• “She provides the space and the materials for learners to grow as writers, mentors, and literacy leaders.”
• “She fosters each student’s individual learning … and is a wonderful role model for women in education and academia.”
• “Her belief that all children should have access to authentic, relevant literacy and language experiences shines through in all the conditions she sets for her preservice teachers and graduate students.”
• “She framed my thinking about writing instruction by facilitating my journey to find my writing voice.”
• “This lovely lady is more than an educator, more than a human making an impact on the world. … Dr. Wickstrom is someone who makes an impact upon hearts and souls through her words, her actions, and her continued service to EVERYONE she is around.”
• “Dr. Wickstrom’s solid position as a professor at UNT and head of the North Star Writing Project has allowed countless teachers to flourish personally and professionally in an interconnected community of readers and writers. Her efforts have rendered a creative and innovative space for those who teach the language arts in the classroom in turn bettering the learning experience for a generation that will one day lead the way. Undoubtedly, Dr. Wickstrom leads with fierce but gentle passion, using her influence to spread love, knowledge, and growth.”
Through her authentic teaching, faithful service, and innovative mentorship, Dr. Carol D. Wickstrom exemplifies the “Distinguished Lifetime Service” that Dr. Ed Farrell has modeled so faithfully for the English language arts teachers of Texas. She is most deserving of this honor, as one nominator noted, “Texas classrooms are filled with excellent teachers, but ones as exemplary and committed as Dr. Wickstrom are few and far between.”