With passion rivaled only by professional expertise, Malene Golding is shifting paradigms on the literacy scene through candor, craft building and a healthy dose of comic relief. Deeply impacted by educational research and classroom realities, she’s dedicated the life of her career to improving students’ ability to become successful readers and writers irrespective of their socioeconomic status or cultural background.
I first met Malene as a classroom teacher over a decade ago when she coached me through a most challenging year. With nearly 30 students in a classroom that included students categorized as Gifted and Talented, English as a Second Language (Learners), Other Health Impaired, Special Education and ESL students who were doubly labeled Gifted & Talented, I was at a loss for the collective strategies that would best serve my students’ needs in an effort to achieve literary mastery. However, Malene’s approaches to customized instruction helped me use data and evidence-based research to make unprecedented strides in improving measurable outcomes.
Today, Malene is a dreamcatcher of my favorite kind. What she shared with me, she now shares with new preservice teachers as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Clear Lake campus. After decades of honing her expertise amidst a score of executive responsibilities, district wide meetings and monumental feats, she has turned her talents to focusing on fueling widespread impact through leadership as the President of the Texas Association for Literacy Education and training through her company, Golding Touch Education Consulting, LLC. Malene is solidifying her efforts to bring needed change to classrooms where struggling (and even gifted) learners often miss the opportunity to realize their full potential. That’s a dream I hope every teacher can catch through her powerful transformations. Read below to learn more about what inspires her vision.
What do you feel are your personal and professional callings? How did you know?
I think my personal and professional calling is teaching and learning infused with a lot of storytelling. I’m in my element when I’m communicating with others. I like creating learning experiences for participants and witnessing as they arrive at their own understanding. In that same vein, I love reading and learning about a wide variety of topics. Nothing is ever considered useless to me because I can always find a way to weave that new learning into something I’m teaching or a story I’m telling.
I recall taking a Speech class in middle school. While everyone was worried about getting up and talking in front of the class, I felt quite relaxed sharing my thoughts. I found that when I added a story or anecdote, people relaxed, laughed and gave me their full attention. I helped other students in my class become more comfortable talking in front of the class, and this led me to explore teaching.
Over the last two decades of my career in Education, I’ve narrowed my calling to focus on educating parents and educators about effective literacy instruction. I’ve been doing this since my third year of teaching. One of my Master’s courses required us to share new instructional strategies with our colleagues on campus. This venture made me our resident expert, and the rest is history.
What was the defining moment that compelled you to choose this direction? What cemented your passion?
After I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Education, I realized that I didn’t really know how to teach kids to read, and I decided to pursue my Master’s in Reading Instruction. That year, I taught GED and pre-GED classes for the Houston READ Commission as a Literacy Americorps member. One of my students was a 92-year-old man, who just wanted to learn how to read before he died.
I spent a lot of time with him, marveling at the countless ways he hid his illiteracy from family and friends throughout his 9 decades on this planet. It made me wonder how many other people are facing the same challenges. I met many more adults and teenagers who attended school, but dropped out because they could not read and comprehend. I decided that year that I would not allow any of my students to leave me facing the same plight.
Witnessing the joy on my students’ faces when they could read, comprehend and discuss text cements my passion for effective literacy instruction. My enthusiasm is heightened when I conduct workshops teaching teachers strategies for reading and writing instruction because they often share inspiring stories of how what they’ve learned from me strengthens their craft. My goal is simplifying literacy instruction. When attendees convey that my teaching is practical and doable, that always makes my day.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I’m an immigrant. I was born in Guyana, South America. Because Guyana is the only English speaking country in South America, we are part of CARICOM, which makes us part of the Caribbean. I call myself West Indian American, but I consider myself a citizen of the world. I love my culture, and I mostly listen to soca, calypso, reggae and hip-hop. Dancing is my favorite pastime outside of reading books of all kinds.
If you had a catch phrase what would it be?
“Does that make sense?” As a teacher and a teacher of teachers, I find myself asking that question constantly. Makin sure that others understand what I’m saying on a meaningful level matters to me. Surface level understanding is good, but I strive to get everyone to a level that allows them to be comfortable teaching or explaining what I’ve said to others. Anyone who has spent time with me can attest to my use of “Does that make sense?” I always say, “If I had a dollar for every time that I said, “Does that make sense?” I would be a rich woman!
When people see what you’re striving for, what would you want them to keep in mind? What can they do to help support this cause?
Illiteracy is everyone’s problem. Teachers have a moral imperative to do what’s best for all students. We have to remain in a state of perpetual learning, always seeking and sharing strategies with one another. My concern is always about the greater good and doing what’s best for kids.
Educators can support my cause by registering and attending one or all of my upcoming workshops. Since my consulting company is just getting off the ground, I’m starting with sessions targeting the things that are tested. As summer approaches, I’ll have a variety of offerings related to various aspects of reading and writing instruction. GTEC is also available to campuses and school districts that would like support with improving literacy outcomes for all students.
We are in the process of forming a local council of TALE in the Houston area, so if you would like to join HALE (Houston Association for Literacy Education), please reach out to me. Our organization can include anyone who is interested in making an impact, parents, community members, teachers, principals, etc.
People can also support the cause by volunteering at their local school, offering to read to students and donating books to schools to help build students’ home libraries. Bottom line? Get involved in educating our students. After all, the future is in their hands.