Senior Profile: Leni Fragakis carries love of literacy into education career
"Literacy is a path to anywhere you want to go," is a phrase you'll often hear Leni Fragakis, an elementary education major who graduated from HPU in May, tell her students.

But that wasn't always the case. Fragakis, now an "Outstanding Graduate of 2012" in the School of Education, and a student who has left a lasting impact in local elementary classrooms, had her own struggles with reading comprehension during her elementary years.

What truly sparked her passion for reading and education was a teacher named Mrs. Betty Paschall, who held individual counseling sessions with Fragakis a few times a week after school to help her develop her reading comprehension skills. After those sessions, Fragakis was hooked.

Today, Fragakis is the proud owner of a children's book collection of more than 1,000 titles, which was primarily housed in her dorm during the last four years at HPU. She has already touched the lives of many students in the Piedmont Triad, and she plans to implement the same one-on-one and engaged approach that Mrs. Paschall gave her when she begins her teaching career as a first grade teacher's assistant at Arts Based Elementary School in Winston-Salem, N.C. in the fall. At the same time, she'll continue her education through the fifth year master's in education program at HPU.

One of her biggest accomplishments during her time at HPU involved five other education majors who collectively created and taught three workshops focused on technology for teachers at Oak View Elementary School. Many of their suggestions have been implemented in the day-to-day practices of the staff at Oak View, such as the classroom blog that Fragakis created to more effectively communicate with the parents of her students. Parents like the idea of being able to see what is taking place in the classroom, connect with other parents and have the opportunity to provide feedback, she says.

"It was refreshing to see how my classes and research at HPU were preparing me for a real life teaching experience," says Fragakis about her course work.

She expected to receive an exceptional education at HPU, and her expectations were surpassed. Her time at the university also allowed her to attend the International Reading Association Conference in Orlando, Fla., meet one of her favorite children's book authors -- Gail Carson Levine, co-present with Dr. Shirley Disseler at a math conference, and co-present at the District 5 NCAEE and the NCCSS (social studies) conferences with Dr. Lisa Horne.

Fragakis incorporates children's books into every subject. She says, "The impact that literacy can have on a child is great. You can get any point across with literature -- social skills, connections to any subject, life lessons. I enjoy sharing my personal book collection with my students. It creates a bond with the students."