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Meet Melissa Loftus and Lori Sappington

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Loftus and Lori Sappington. They share their story with us below:

In 2019, when Lori approached Melissa with the idea for the Melissa and Lori Love Literacy Podcast, she knew Melissa would be the perfect yin to her yang. Melissa has a calming, positive presence and energy about her, but more importantly, is an incredible thought partner. Lori is full of energy and creative ideas! We instantly connected as friends and colleagues.

In our first year of implementation of a new literacy curriculum in Baltimore City, we were tagged with becoming experts and recording videos to model preparing to teach the curriculum. While our first videos left much to be desired (lots of stumbling over our words!), after lots of practice and perseverance, we found that we loved supporting teachers, coaches, and leaders virtually… and thus, the idea for the podcast Melissa and Lori Love Literacy was born.

We are beyond grateful to each other for jumping into this endeavor, and for all of our incredible guests who drop serious knowledge on our podcast audience! There are so many #micdrop moments where we learn and grow as educators together. But, none of this would be possible if it weren’t for our listeners (our Literacy Lovers!).

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
While we LOVE podcasting, it’s not always been easy, and we continue to troubleshoot struggles (even as we write this!). Prior to podcasting, we spiraled with questions: What’s needed to produce a podcast? How will it reach listeners? How do we edit audio files? What microphones/headsets should we use? We overcame obstacles with knowledge and lots of trial and error.

Over time, we evolved and established a clear purpose and audience for the podcast: A weekly literacy podcast with a target audience of educators, parents, and advocates. Learning together about the science of reading, knowledge building, and high-quality curriculum.

We began our podcast just a year prior to the pandemic. When COVID-19 hit, we stayed true to our purpose and audience. While others turned to report on mask mandates, school closures, and achievement gaps, we held an unwavering commitment to learning about literacy. What’s more important than ensuring students learn to read and write?

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Currently, only 1/3 of fourth-graders in the United States are performing at grade level.

This has not changed in a very long time. This statistic is important because if students don’t learn how to read by third grade, they will struggle. They will have difficulties in other subject areas in school. Their mental health may be impacted by the repetitive trauma which presents in anxiety, depression, and more.

Most teachers aren’t receiving the training or materials they need to teach children how to read using evidence-based practices. In fact, teachers may be receiving incorrect or misaligned training or materials. We know this through first-hand experience and our guests’ experiences.

Combined, we have undergraduate degrees in Education, Master’s in Reading certifications, and Administrative Degrees (which would enable us to be school, district, or state leaders). However, NOT ONE of those programs taught us about the science of reading, the importance of knowledge building, or the necessity of high-quality materials to execute what research finds true. In fact, our schooling often taught us the opposite of reading science.

Although this topic is serious and urgent, we like to learn and laugh with our guests. While we aren’t authors or researchers (yet), we are lifelong learners and teachers at heart. We use research to inform our conversations but realize the real-world impact on students.

This really sets us apart from other podcasts in our genre. We admit where we have gaps in knowledge and ask questions to learn more. We are authentically ourselves. Our conversational approach is what makes our podcast special.

How do you define success?
If one educator listens and changes their approach to teaching and learning, we’ve succeeded.

However, at the time of this publication, we receive over 20k downloads per month (and rapidly rising!). We’re so proud of the literacy lover community we’ve created with our podcast, newsletter, and social media channels.

Success is creating a safe space for learning and growing.

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