Nick Husbye’s literacy clinic gets students teaching sooner

Nicholas Husbye, UMSL

Nick Husbye is an assistant professor in the Department of Educator Preparation, Innovation and Research. The literacy clinic he runs in partnership with Lucas Crossing Elementary Complex is just one example of many community partnerships and innovative program features that shape teacher prep in the College of Education at UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

In the library of Lucas Crossing Elementary Complex this spring, two different types of students are focused on learning – second graders, who are expanding and strengthening their reading and writing skills, and undergraduate education majors from the University of Missouri–St. Louis, who are learning to teach them how.

The effort, a literacy clinic run by Assistant Professor Nicholas Husbye from UMSL’s College of Education, is an ever-evolving and unique partnership – one that’s reshaping the university’s elementary teacher preparation in multiple ways.

For starters, literacy clinics like this one often only happen at the graduate level. Husbye feels that needs to change.

“We can only learn about teaching by teaching,” he says. “We can’t wait for our preservice teachers to practice during their student teaching experiences. Preparing them sooner is essential.”

As part of that goal, Husbye explains, those concrete hours in the Lucas library are only one piece of a much larger puzzle.

“Clinic itself is the Olympics,” he says. “It can be easy to point to and say, ‘Hey that’s interesting,’ or ‘That looks like fun,’ but really there’s so much more that goes into it than that.”

The “much more” is where the innovation comes in.

Husbye leads his preservice teachers through a back-to-back sequence of rigorous, feedback-driven courses that precede and coincide with their Lucas Crossing hours. Focused on building both literacy assessment and instructional skills, the classes exercise instant application and continual reflection thanks to a hands-on approach.

Kindergartners from nearby Normandy Kindergarten Center help the UMSL students take their first teaching steps.

By guiding the kids through a series of interactive read-alouds, the undergraduates begin to learn how to recognize, assess and collect data about the specific struggles and roadblocks to literacy acquisition that the children face – skills they’ll use again later to identify new students at Lucas Crossing who may benefit from being part of the clinic.

They also start designing lesson plans that speak to these specific issues. What’s more – they put those plans to the test through a robust rehearsal schedule that has them performing their lessons for one another, as well as Husbye.

In fact, the entire process for the preservice teachers, from learning in a class to leading one, operates through a team-teaching model. While one student teaches, others observe, collect data and ask questions.

The result is an ongoing opportunity for every future educator to push the limits of their work, ultimately with the goal of creating the strongest teaching practice possible.

This is just as it should be, according to Husbye.

“Teaching,” he says, “is about kids learning and joy and pleasure. It’s about walking into an experience and walking out a totally different person than you were when you started.”

That philosophy applies to the budding teachers, too.

This story was originally published in the spring 2017 issue of UMSL Magazine. Have a story idea for UMSL Magazine? Email

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