The irony of Dotty Selix being named as Hartland’s Teacher of the Year isn’t lost on the peer coach and reading recovery specialist who works at and .
“I was terrible in school,” she said laughing. “I think I have a lot of empathy for kids who struggle in school. I get it, ‘cause I had a really hard time.”
Selix admits that in fifth grade, she was still checking out Dr. Seuss books from the library and making up book reports in English class to try and get through school.
“I got kicked out of history class for making up what happened on D-Day,” she said, laughing at the memory.
Last week, however, the girl who never read a novel until her third year of college grew up and was now being honored by her peers for her work and her advocacy in the literacy program at Hartland.
Being nominated and then selected for Teacher of the Year by her peers, by the people she respects, is what makes her award truly special to her, according to Selix.
“I think the thing that is most powerful about that,” Selix said as she wiped away a quick tear. “Is they’re such good teachers.”
Selix has made it her mission to help struggling students and to make sure they don't have to go through what she did in school. She is fighting to help change the way educators teach young children and to create new ways of helping students succeed. Championing reading recovery in Hartland Schools, Selix coordinates the program that is designed to identify and support low-level readers in the elementary schools.
“As a reading recovery teacher, the one thing I learned is that intelligence isn’t fixed,” Selix said. “You can, through instruction, increase a child’s language and understanding and increase their intelligence.”
She also works with training classroom teachers and has the large job of coordinating all the schools in the district to help provide common teaching strategies that students at all grade levels and every school are familiar with and recognize.
Selix, compares the new teaching methods to coaching a sport, saying that although “not everyone is going to be a star basketball player,” through proper coaching or instruction, all the students can learn to play the game.
"I realize that what I know, to be able to do that, everyone needs to know," Selix said. "So all this curriculum work and teacher work that I’ve been doing helps me make that happen for all kinds of kids, not just the ones I teach."
Selix has been with Hartland schools for six years and began her career in Howell as a paraprofessional working under a reading recovery teacher. Graduating from Eastern Michigan as a science major and math minor, teaching young children to read was not something she had ever considered doing before her first year on the job.
“I was watching her (reading recovery teacher) work with some of the students on reading and I said, “There’s really a lot of patterns in reading,”” Selix said explaining the turning point in her career.
Going back to get her master’s degree in early childhood development, with an emphasis on reading. Selix began to study the patterns she saw, something she had always been good at recognizing in math and science, and used that to help her students learn to read.
“She’s so passionate about it and she never gives up,” said first grade Lakes Elementary teacher Jenna Furr. “And she’s always looking for the next thing to help the kids move along.”
Furr also explains that it is Selix’s drive for the student’s success and her constant professional support that makes her a favorite among the teachers and families she works with.
“Dotty has a really special job to be able to work with those kids early on,” Furr said. “She really is just a resource for the families and for the teachers.”
The biggest tool, however, that Selix gives to her students and her colleagues, according to first grade teacher Lindsay Haar, is the desire to become “lifelong learners."
“When I think of Dotty, the one thing I think of is that she’s very proactive in her own learning,” Haar said. “And for me, what I feel I’ve learned from her is to be a lifelong learner myself.”
Andrea Boulanger, a fellow reading recovery teacher and one of Selix's collegues who nominated her for the award, called her friend and peer the "heart and soul" of the reading recovery program in Hartland.
"She is an intervention coach, she is a literacy leader," Boulanger said. "She really has always connected with collegues, as well as parents, to garner support and to get everyone attending to the needs of our students-- our strugglers.
"I think she brings out the best in all of us," she said.
The mother of two adult daughters, Selix will be riding in the representing the Hartland teachers this year and is hoping to have her 4-year-old grandson, Teddy, join her in the seat of honor.