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Overseeing Success

Award-winning professor mentors future teachers in classroom

Dr. Adam Brieske-Ulenski’s undergraduate students don’t have to travel far to practice their literacy education skills. That’s because Brieske-Ulenski teaches the Bridgewater State class inside a local elementary school.

“They get to immediately apply (what they study) with elementary students and they have me by their side to provide suggestions and feedback and even to model what it looks like,” said Brieske-Ulenski, a BSU associate professor of literacy education in the Elementary and Early Childhood Education Department, who recently received a national academic award. “I don’t just leave my students to be out in the field. I want to be there with them.”

The American Reading Forum presented Brieske-Ulenski with its Early Career Literacy Scholar Award. The accolade recognizes the impact of Brieske-Ulenski’s research on literacy coaches, who serve as in-house trainers and professional development experts for school districts. But his students know he shines just as much in the classroom.

“I will never forget his friendly support and hearing his calm validation of what I did well and what I could try next in just a matter of a few minutes,” said Elizabeth Cheesman, ’23, adding: “He creates opportunities for students to step outside of a textbook and take control of their own learning experiences.”

Brieske-Ulenski has published 17 academic pieces since he came to BSU in 2017 and presented in front of an international audience of hundreds. School districts use tools he developed, and he discusses his research with Bridgewater graduate students aiming to become reading specialists or literacy coaches.

“My research addresses why literacy coaches do what they do and how we can best support them in their role and also support classroom teachers in delivering high-quality education,” he said.

Attracted to BSU partly because of its close partnerships with K-12 schools, Brieske-Ulenski teaches BSU’s undergraduate reading course at Gilmore Elementary School in Brockton, Ames Elementary in Easton and Wilkins Elementary in Stoughton.

The benefits of these partnerships extend beyond the course. Brieske-Ulenski acts as a professor-in-residence for partner schools as he observes what is happening in classrooms and offers professional development workshops for school staff.

Some of his students even stay in the school district to student-teach or work after graduation.

“My students get to understand the culture. They get to meet teachers and get to meet the administration,” he said. “They’re already starting to develop that professional network and connections because they’re there twice a week.”

The class helped Cheesman find her passion for teaching reading. Cheesman and her peers grew confident in their ability to meet their future students’ individual needs, she recalled.

Now teaching third grade at Lakeville’s Assawompset Elementary School, Cheesman often thinks back to Brieske-Ulenski’s lessons about teaching vocabulary, reading comprehension and writing. She strives to build a safe learning environment just as Brieske-Ulenski does for BSU students.

“He taught me many things as a developing educator,” she said, “but what I remember most today is that he always believed in me no matter what.”

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