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Serafini receives Founders' Day award

March 30, 2009

Some people float through life without taking much interest in the world around them. Frank Serafini isn’t one of those people.

Painter, photographer, chef, and guitarist are some of the titles that can be applied to Serafini, along with teacher, researcher, author, and literacy advocate. For his efforts to help future teachers become adept at developing and promoting children’s literacy, Serafini received the 2009 Faculty Achievement Teaching Award from the ASU Alumni Association as part of its annual Founders’ Day celebration on March 3.

An associate professor in ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership (CTEL), Serafini has been involved in the field of literacy education for two decades. He views literacy as much more than the ability to read and write.

“It’s about helping children learn to make sense of their world,” Serafini says. “A participatory democracy won’t work without literate citizens.”

Along with the Founders’ Day award came the opportunity for Serafini to select a student to receive a $2,000 scholarship. He selected Alicia Chavez, a CTEL elementary education major at ASU’s West campus whom Serafini describes as an outstanding, dedicated student.

“Dr. Serafini taught me that reading a book is more than just reading the text and looking at the illustrations,” says Chavez, who took a language literacy course taught by Serafini last fall. “Reading is the active process of constructing meaning. That meaning is made, not found.”

Serafini has written and provided photography for five children’s books, with two more due out in 2009. Titles include “Looking Closely Along the Shore” and “Looking Closely Through the Forest.” He says the books, aimed at children in primary grades, are designed to promote observation skills as well as an appreciation of nature.

“I hope that if children are paying close attention to the natural world, they will grow up wanting to preserve it,” Serafini says.

Professional books Serafini has authored include “Lessons in Comprehension” and “Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days.”

He says his goals an instructor include encouraging future teachers to pay closer attention to the children in their classrooms and to become reflective practitioners. “Teaching is not a script to be followed,” Serafini says. “Making sense of text is a human activity that cannot be reduced to a quantitative formula.”

“Dr. Serafini’s enthusiasm for literature is always present in his classroom, and his commitment to teaching has really opened my eyes to the teacher I hope to become,” Chavez says. “The knowledge I have gained from him will be an important part of my educational journey as a teacher.”

“Frank is a true Renaissance man,” says Mari Koerner, CTEL’s dean. “His dedication to teaching and learning is obvious to his colleagues and students. He brings an energy to his work which is contagious.”

Serafini, who earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at ASU, praises the supportive atmosphere Koerner and his faculty colleagues have developed within CTEL. “There’s a clear focus on creating better teachers for the new millennium,” he says.

Founders’ Day awards honor individuals who exemplify the spirit of the founders of the Territorial Normal School of Arizona, ASU’s predecessor institution. Serafini joins a distinguished list of Teaching Award recipients dating back to 1964.