Lindsay Downs: 2024 Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year

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Lindsay Downs
Sewickley Academy
Sewickley, Pennsylvania

It’s certainly factual to say that Lindsay Downs is a librarian at the Sewickley Academy in suburban Pittsburgh. But that statement fails to capture all that she does and the values that drive her.

Downs has long been a committed educator, a champion of cross-discipline learning and an advocate for helping students become more savvy news consumers. And now, she is the News Literacy Project’s 2024 Alan. C. Miller Educator of the Year.  “I am so excited to be receiving the Alan C Miller Educator of the Year award,” she told NLP in a video interview. “ I have been teaching for 15 years” and helping students discern fact from fiction “is a labor of love.”

Since first learning about NLP at an American Association of School Librarians conference in 2021, she has used the digital learning platform Checkology®, the newsletter The Sift®, infographics and other downloadable material in her curriculum.

She believes news literacy gives students agency inside and outside of the classroom. “It’s really amazing to empower others to be the managers of their own learning. You’re teaching people how to be independent learners, and that’s a very powerful thing.”

Learning Specialist Dorothy Killmeyer, Downs’ colleague, nominated her for the award. Killmeyer described how Downs is a vocal advocate for helping students become more news-literate, driving the development of classes in research and information literacy for the middle school grades and inspiring fellow educators. “Lindsay collaborates with teachers from grades 6-12 in multiple subject areas. She works diligently with them to ensure that they can locate, evaluate, and create information ethically and accurately.”

Preparing tomorrow’s voters

Downs believes it’s important to support educators in other disciplines as they work to incorporate news literacy concepts into their lessons. For example, she recently collaborated with a science teacher whose students were doing research projects related to climate change. “I was brought in not only for the resources and the research process, but also to talk about how others talk about science, because whenever they were researching scientific topics related to climate change, they were inevitably coming across misinformation or manipulated content.”

And she knows that the ability to identify credible information benefits students inside and outside the classroom. With some of them eligible to vote for the first time this year, the stakes are high. “I think that my responsibility as an educator to prepare voters is to really help them critically think about information. It’s not so much what to think, but how to think.”

Ultimately, she’d like to see news and media literacy education become a national priority. “I think that as a society we really need to think about what media literacy education looks like. I would love to see that implemented in every state,” she said. “I’m concerned that if we don’t implement media literacy education on a large scale, we’re going to continue to see this crumble in civil discourse and how we interact together as a society.”

Committed educators like Downs are working hard to keep that from happening.

About the award

Alan C. Miller founded the News Literacy Project in 2008 to give middle and high school educators the tools to teach students how to separate fact from fiction. As a reporter with the Los Angeles Times for 21 years, he won more than 20 national honors, including a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. In 2020, Washingtonian magazine named him a Washingtonian of the Year, and in 2021, he received an AARP Purpose Prize. As Miller prepared to step down as NLP’s CEO in 2022, the board of directors designated the Educator of the Year Award in his name to recognize his contributions to the field.

 

 

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