Deborah Oler on the Impact of Literacy

By Kelly Davis

Name: Deborah Oler
Courses: Language and Language Development, Pedagogy for Effective Teaching, Culture of Literacy, Research, Instruction, and Intervention, Reading and Literacy Portfolio

The ability to read is something we tend to take for granted, since for many of us, it’s tough to recall a time when words and letters were nothing more than weird marks on a page. But for some kids, it takes awhile to decode writing—and that’s where folks like Deborah Oler come in. For nearly a decade, Oler’s been teaching other teachers to help young children develop literacy skills. Because her courses are offered online, her classes comprise a range of students, including teachers who live abroad and want to better help young learners grasp written English. Oler’s key piece of advice for working with struggling readers? “There is no one size fits all strategy,” she says. So, she makes sure her students have a toolbox full of strategies and the ability to recognize and nurture different learning styles.
How did you get started in your career?
When I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a teacher! My mother was a teacher, so I wanted to follow in her footsteps. After receiving my B.A. and Multiple Subjects Credential at UC Riverside, I was hired by the Rialto Unified School District. I survived my first year of teaching and decided to try and get a job in the Corona-Norco Unified School District, since my husband and I had purchased a home in Corona. My classroom years were spent in kindergarten and first grade. I quickly developed a passion for teaching children how to read. During my second year of teaching, I decided to pursue a master’s of reading. Upon the completion of my degree, I was hired as a reading specialist at my elementary site. I quickly became a mentor and trainer to my colleagues and became interested in teaching at the university. First, I was hired at UC Riverside in their Reading Certificate Program and a year later transferred to UC San Diego Extension. I have been teaching online courses for the past nine years.
What do you most enjoy about your profession?
I love helping teachers become better teachers. It is very rewarding to give back to the profession that I love so much. I have the ability to impact the lives of teachers as well as students. Providing teachers the knowledge, tools and resources they need to help their students achieve is so powerful. 
What advice would you give to someone looking to enter this field? 
Do not be afraid to take risks and go out and do something you love! Online teaching can be a challenging format, so I would recommend getting the Leading Edge Certificate for online and blended teaching.
How is your field changing?  What new skills do people need to stay current?
The more I work with teachers in the field of reading, the more I understand the need for these classes. So many teachers are undertrained and do not feel confident in their skills to teach reading. Professional development just isn’t enough, and technology changes rapidly! There are always new programs or apps to learn. Having the ability to incorporate technology into the classroom daily is a critical part of teaching in the 21st century.
What do you like most about working for Extension? 
I enjoy working for Extension because I get to teach teachers from around the world. Teaching classes online is a huge benefit in making a large impact in education. The Extension staff does everything in their power to make my job easy. When I have questions or need anything, my emails are responded to quickly. 

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