Dr. Sohn, 


My name is Donna Howell and I have just 'found' your book.  I am so excited to have it in hand.  Mine is sort of a long story so I hope you'll bear with me (or put this away until you have time to read it).  I am in my final course in working toward my Ed D in Curriculum & Instruction (C&I) with a focus on literacy at the University of Kentucky (UK). I have taught grades 2-8, every subject.  I spent the last three years as Teacher in Residence at Morehead State University (MSU).  While there I taught pre-service teachers in middles school language arts methods classes and supervised student teachers.  That is when I became interested in college students who had grown up in the Appalachian Region. Since becoming a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) in 2001, I have mentored teachers at all levels and have learned so much about myself along the way. 


I took a leap of faith the next year and entered UKís doctoral program. I have wanted to do my research in an area that involves new teachers and literacy, but it was just recently that I found any real direction, when, last semester I took a class in Literacy, Identity and Agency and finally found my passion (well, I have way too many passions, so let's just say I finally found one I thought I could focus full attention on for awhile). My residency at MSU ran out last year, and I returned to my school district in Montgomery County, Kentucky, to teach a 2/3 primary class.  What a humbling experience!  I am enjoying it though.  


I completed a pilot case study of a student teacher working at my school first semester.  She is from Carlisle, and it was just a fascinating study.  I had been searching for a case study similar to mine and just two days ago the librarian at UK pointed me to your book.  I nearly screamed in the quiet zone!  I just can't tell you how much your work resonates with me and what I hope to be doing.  I can't believe my professors haven't told me about it, but I guess that is because it is so new.          


Your book helped me think about my own case study and how I would present it in a dissertation.  Your methodology section is particularly helpful. You do a good job of telling the womenís stories, while providing substantial support for both your researching process, and findings & conclusions.  I especially like the way the research does not get in the way of the stories, but instead, holds the stories forth as valid evidence of your assertions.  The stories are engaging and powerful, and the women are not portrayed in stereotypical ways, which is so often the case for studies based in Appalachia. They are, rather, presented as strong women who overcame various difficulties to graduate from college and thus, become models for other women who might follow in their paths. 


This study of literacy and agency just seems to put all my interests into one big simmering pot, and I want to get it as right as I can.  I should tell you that I am in my early 50ís like you were when you began your program (I don't tell just everyone that!) and most of my friends (and especially fellow teachers) wonder what in the world I'm doing this 'dissertation thing' for!  Thanks so much for giving me (and others with the same interest) a well-defined path to follow.  I look forward to meeting you and hearing more about your work in our similar interests. 





Donna Howell

National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT)

Early Adolescent English Language Arts

University of Kentucky Doctoral Candidate

Curriculum & Instruction

Primary Teacher