We had the good fortune of connecting with Katie McKnight and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katie, what matters most to you?
Treat people BETTER than how I wish to be treated. It’s a “value added” approach to the Golden Rule or karma. If I am working to treat people better than how I expect to be treated, it positions me to look more deeply. In doing so, I am better equipped to identify “blind spots” to my own context/perspective. Additionally, in the most pragmatic terms, it just makes me feel great.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I partner with schools and school districts to close achievement gaps and the genesis of my work began in the late 1980s when I became a Chicago Public School teacher. I became a teacher because I wanted to be part of the solution to a major challenge. The challenge: although public education was intended to be a great equalizer for career and life opportunities, it has fallen short. If I could ensure that my students were prepared and gave them all that I could, it would contribute to their future success. During my decade long experience as a public school teacher, I wanted to cobble even greater impact. It was then that I decided to earn my PhD in Reading, Writing and Literacy. I knew that to impact others, I needed the research background that a PhD could offer. From there, I taught at the university level for 15 years and I became a fully tenured professor and Distinguished Professor of Research at National Louis University in Chicago. It was over 7 years ago that I resigned that position and ventured into my own company, Engaging Learners. Was it easy—of course not. I jest that the main reason why I was able to earn my PhD while teaching full time and raising a family is that I was a lot younger. However, when situations are hard, I always remind myself, that it won’t last forever. For example, 2020 has been rough but I know that it won’t last forever. When I focus on the temporariness of difficulty, I know that if I keep focused on what’s important, I’ll get there. My company, Engaging Learners is build on the mission, “To provide educators with the tools they need to prepare all grade 4-12 learners for reading, writing, and comprehension – in the classroom and beyond.” ALL children are entitled to an outstanding education and we partner with educators pro provide the knowledge and resources to do just that.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I LOVE exploring other communities and countries. I have been to 18 countries and 48 out of 50 states—even though I didn’t really travel until 15 years ago! I hadn’t been out of the United States (except for Canada) until I was 34. We would get on a cruise ship and each day we would be in an amazing new place where we could hike, kayak, visit a museum, talk to locals, visit a community and learn about the people. People are always the root to understanding and learning about a place. This kind of engagement also deepens my education and understating. Let’s say we were on a cruise ship together and we are visiting key ports in the Mediterranean. At our first stop in Barcelona, we would visit famous sites and have some fabulous lunches and drink wine. Hop on ship and head to Italy next to see Rome and then a side trip to Pompeii. After a long day of hiking and visiting historical sites, we have a wonderful beach dinner and then head onto the boat for our next country Greece. Do we see a pattern here? Connecting with people, present and those who came before us, really provides insight into who WE are and all that we are capable of accomplishing.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Erik Francis connected me to The Shoutout. My muse for my work is an educator, Louise Rosenblatt who penned Literature as Exploration in the 1930s. Many literacy educators identify her as the foundational theorist for Reader Response theory but it was so much bigger than that. Rosenblatt’s Reader Response theory, as she explained, was really a defense for democracy during a time in our World History when facism and dictatorships where on the rise. As a three decades old educator, I was always moved by Rosenblatt when she spoke at conferences. Her work is truly the foundation of my work as a an educator influencer.
Other: My sister site is EngagingLearners.com