Sally Ann Zoll

Sally Ann Zoll

CEO, United Through Reading


Teachers can serve our world in multiple, exquisite ways beyond the classroom, but they don't always know it.

I think we educators often box-in the teaching profession within the confines of a school environment. A teacher has a plethora of skills that serve well in a variety of environments. Think about it. Work under pressure? Check. Motivating communicator? Check. Superb organizer? Check. Researcher extraordinaire? Check. Sure, that spells "teacher" but it spells a lot of other careers too. I challenge our teaching universities and ourselves to expand our horizons and those of our teacher candidates beyond the classroom. Classrooms need good teachers, don't get me wrong. But they aren't the only place that the skills of an exceptional teacher can serve our society.


Sharing a book between parent and child levels all things.

Tired and cranky? Long day? People bugging you? And I am talking big people AND little people! Well, troubles have a way of disappearing when Daddy sits down with his daughter and reads My Little Girl or Daddy's Girl. When Mama can stop working at her desk and cuddle with her twin sons while reading The Enormous Egg, the disappointments of the day fade away. I think we take for granted the remarkable emotional bonding experience that comes from reading a storybook together. So, the next time you read to a child, know that not only are you doing one of the most important things you can do to prepare her for success in school, but you are building an emotional bond that will carry you both across the miles and the years.


My grandchildren are the best teachers I have ever had.

I have had some amazing teachers. Mrs. Daugherty in first grade, Mr. Wise in high school, and Dr. Felsenthal in college changed my life in different ways and played a significant role in who I am today. And I can say the same thing about our grandchildren. They challenge me to see things differently, they hold me to the highest expectation believing in me when I do not, and they sweetly assume that I am as willing to explore the unknown as they are. They see joy in every moment and learn from every joy. They are the best teachers I have ever had and I treasure my learning moments with them just as I did with Mrs. Daugherty, Mr. Wise and Dr. Felsenthal.


Collaborative learning is ill-used and over celebrated.

I was taken by a comment that Steve Wozniak made in his memoir. He says, "Work alone... Not on a committee. Not on a team.” Now, indeed, I do believe Mr. Wozniak is a genius of immense proportion and most of us don't think like he does. But as I look at learning pods in schools and open cubicles in work spaces for more "team interaction", I wonder where the quiet went. Are we giving ourselves and our children personal time to go inside our heads, alone, by ourselves, to think the way Steve Wozniak thinks? Are we becoming less self reliant on our individual thinking and more comfortable with group speak? Are we taking something away from our children by the insistence on total teamwork? I think so.


Best practices aren't always best.

Best practices should be just what they say they are - the best! They aren't pretty good practices or suggested practices or even the-best-we-could-find practices. They should be the very best practices. But we have over used and dumbed down the meaning to the extent that any and everyone has a best practice, uses a best practice, and has even developed one. The term is so ubiquitous that I doubt very few of us investigate the "practice" to determine for ourselves if it deserves the moniker "best." So, note to self: When looking at best practices, look beyond the label to the substance. Who said it was best, why is it best, and do you believe it is best? After answering those questions, feel free to call it whatever you want.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


Dr. Sally Ann Zoll has been CEO of the nationally acclaimed nonprofit, United Through Reading, for five years. She began her teaching career in southern California. Prior to joining United Through Reading, she was president of LearnStar and Vice President of Jostens Learning Corporation, both education software companies. She has worked extensively with the US Department of Education for 25 years as a consultant, serves on her community library's Board of Trustees and is the CFO for the board of the United States Academic Decathlon. She was honored by the San Diego Business Journal's Women Who Mean Business Award and the YWCA's Tribute to Women & Industry Award. She was also the recipient of the Tech Titan CEO of Emerging Company Award in North Texas and a ComputerWorld Honors Program Laureate.