News & Blog: Advocate Spotlights


The Literacy Center is pleased to announce Dr. Bree Straayer as the new director of the Family Literacy Program (FLP). FLP seeks to strengthen the communication and involvement of non-native-English-speaking parents with their child’s school and education.

Bree is from Grand Rapids and has taught for several years at university level. She received an associate’s degree in English Literature, a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, a master’s degree in Critical Literacy, and a doctorate’s degree in Rhetoric and Writing.

Bree’s love for learning and the belief that she could give her students an exciting and positive educational experience motivated her to become a professor. Bree has taught a variety of writing classes at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and Michigan State University (MSU) and has worked on curriculum development, overseeing several professors. She has taught native and non-native learners of English.

"Seeing my students make sense of life through writing has kept my passion for teaching going," she says.

Bree became acquainted with the Literacy Center’s mission and learners while teaching as a Family Literacy instructor. Teaching online throughout the past year showed her the challenges and opportunities FLP instructors and learners face. She explains that teaching online brings the classroom into their home as well as into their lives.

Regarding her FLP learners, Bree says, “Many have come [to the United States] because they had to.” She adds, “All of them said that they came for their children.” It is a sobering thought that their children will experience the results of their labors.

One of the greatest difficulties Bree sees among her learners, beyond money and stability, is what she describes as “respect earned and gone” in moving from one country to another. Out of twelve learners, only one does not have a degree in their home country. Although her learners include lawyers and chemical engineers, their education is not accepted in the U.S..

Bree’s educational background, learners’ compelling stories, and relatable life experience make her very excited about her role as director of FLP.  Bree, herself, decided to go back to school later in life and understands the unconventionalities that can bring.

In looking back, Bree says, “My degrees are not in TESOL. They are in teaching university writing, but, throughout the years, I have always ended up working with language learners. That is because it is so motivating, and I can relate to the challenges of being a non-traditional student. My learners inspire me.”

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