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Assistant Professor Jackie Relyea Receives Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Education

Jackie Relyea, an assistant professor of literacy education in NC State’s College of Education, has been selected as the 2022 recipient of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education’s Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. 

The award recognizes a recent graduate who has shown outstanding leadership and exceptional commitment to the education of children and emphasizes the interconnectedness of homes, schools and communities through their professional and volunteer work. Relyea earned her Ph.D. in literacy education from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2015. 

“I am deeply humbled and honored to receive this award,” Relyea said. “My passion and commitment to literacy education for young children began because of the remarkable mentoring and learning experiences that I had while I was an international doctoral student at UNC-Chapel Hill. This award is a reflection of the outstanding mentors and professors who instilled confidence in me to conduct high-quality research, service to the community, and continuous learning and improvement.”

Relyea’s research focuses on the development of linguistically diverse students as well as reading interventions to improve academic vocabulary, reading comprehension and knowledge building among multilingual learners. 

Since 2020, she has been working with Associate Professor Dennis Davis to develop and implement the Building Reading Comprehension through Knowledge, Language, and Inquiry (KLI) framework. The reading intervention for upper elementary bilingual learners is designed to connect texts to content that appears elsewhere in the curriculum, helping readers strengthen their literacy skills while building knowledge about topics in science and social studies.

She was also the principal investigator on a one-year, AERA-National Science Foundation-funded project that explored a more nuanced understanding of how the relationship between reading ability and content knowledge unfolds over time with the goal of better informing instructional practices and intervention strategies to integrate literacy and content-area instruction in elementary schools. 

“I am committed to conducting scientific research that is beneficial to the community, state and nation in improving young children’s access to equitable learning opportunities in literacy,” she said. “I will continue to pursue my passion for research on developing and evaluating effective reading and literacy interventions to promote reading achievement and engagement of elementary-grade multilingual students and students with reading comprehension difficulties.”

Most recently, Relyea was the co-author of a study that examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on reading achievement growth for Charlotte-Mecklenburg students in grades three through five. Results of that study found that students achieved 48-65% of learning gains in reading during the 2020-21 school year compared to the 2018-19 school year. 

“The scope of the overall pandemic impacts on reading gains can inform various stakeholders in the school district in their planning for how to best support students’ learning recovery,” she said.