It still hasn’t sunk in but after nearly seven years of “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Romeoville High School’s Elizabeth Birmingham is now the proud holder of her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on literacy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“I don’t know yet what my next steps will be,” said Dr. Birmingham, who officially received the title in September when she “defended” her dissertation that focused on how 9th grade biology students at RHS mastered various types of vocabulary words. “My (English) students have been teasing me about still working here, but I told them that there is still good work to be done at RHS. I may want to do some writing or be a literacy consultant. But I still see myself in classrooms, either with children or adult learners.”
A 10-year educator in VVSD, Dr. Birmingham served as a 9th and 11th grade English teacher at Bolingbrook High School for two years, handling English Department Chair duties for one of those years. At the start of school year 2006-07 she became VVSD’s High School Curriculum Coordinator, handling quasi-administrative curriculum, literacy and professional development duties for five years. She moved back into the classroom at RHS three years ago.
With a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in educational leadership, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Dr. Birmingham appreciates what she has learned through her work experiences in the district. "I am grateful for all of the professional opportunities I have been given in VVSD. With my schooling, these responsibilities have allowed me to truly grow as an educator and have allowed me to approach my job with greater clarity than ever before.
“I chose a Ph.D. in literacy because literacy is linked to so many other variables in peoples’ lives like their income, access to healthcare, life expectancy, etc.,” she said. “It’s one thing I try to instill in my students. The more literate they are, the more opportunities they will have in life. I love that I get to help them with this.”
Dr. Birmingham credits her family with helping her get where she is today, especially her husband, Brandon, who is a 6th grade math and science teacher in Crete-Monee, and her mother who is an assistant principal in Orland Park.
“They are all very supportive,” she said. “It’s really amazing.”