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Almeida turns reading passion into a career

Susan Almeida

Susan Almeida ’73, MSE ’78 turned her passion for reading into a career.  For the past 17 years, she has worked with reading-challenged first-graders and their teachers in the Reading Recovery program.  She believes so whole-heartedly in Reading Recovery that she has committed to financially supporting the program through a planned gift.

“Working with Reading Recovery is the reason I am on this earth,” Almeida said.  “I feel privileged to support and further an educational program known for its excellence and service to school districts and especially children. By working with struggling first-grade readers, I am helping them not just for a day, but for a lifetime.”

The Reading Recovery program is one of the world’s most widely researched interventions for children who have extreme difficulty learning to read and write.  By working directly with one student at a time, teachers have earned an 81 percent mark of children reaching the average of their class, with the rate similar across race and ethnicity.

“If you allow children to go beyond first-grade without the essential ability to read and write, they will struggle to achieve the rest of their lives,” Almeida said.  “In my opinion, Reading Recovery is the most exciting educational innovation that reading has ever experienced.”  She said part of her job is helping school administrators understand that Reading Recovery is an inexpensive education program.  “Once they ‘get it,’ they refuse to do without it,” Almeida said.

The Friends of Reading Recovery fund will help financially struggling school districts provide Reading Recovery Services.  Almeida said she would also like to see Reading Recovery housed in their own building in order to help more children, parents and college students.

Almeida said she and her mother discussed careers when Almeida was eight-years old.  She decided that teaching was her field because she believed “you get summers and lots of holidays off” and the only other field in their discussion was nursing, which she determined was not for her due to “working weekends and holidays and seeing blood and other unsavory things.”  That’s not to say she didn’t get to see some of that blood and other unusual things while raising her children.  JT (30) is a Bloomington home remodeler, Randy (29) is vice president for the Bank of America in Chicago and Suzanne (22) is an art student on a swimming scholarship at Illinois State.

Almeida started her professional career as a first-grade teacher in Unit 5, then moved to Illinois State where she taught undergraduate reading classes for the Special Education department.  She received Reading Recovery teacher leader training in 1990 and has been teaching teachers since then.

“Having been involved at Illinois State since 1969 as an undergraduate, graduate, townie, graduate assistant, parent of children in the lab schools, instructor and now a director of a program, I have seen the University blossom and mature,” Almeida said.  “I am prouder than ever to be an alumna of Illinois State because the people just get better and better.”

“My future in Reading Recovery is exciting, and our vision is bright for the program.  I am convinced that Reading Recovery will be part of the exceptional Illinois State family for a very long time.”