Remembering Dr. William H. Teale

Dr.William H. Teale’s  legacy will carry on…

Thank you to ILA for the wonderful post on Bill:



Dr. William H. Teale—Bill to all of us at ILA and to many of you that knew or met him—passed away unexpectedly this weekend. He was an esteemed early childhood expert and author, an amazing leader, and an extraordinary human being.

“The world of literacy has lost a great man, and we personally have lost a dear friend and colleague,” says Taffy Raphael, professor of literacy education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “His passing leaves such a hole in our lives.”

Virginia Goatley, chair of the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning at the University at Albany, shares the sentiment. “Bill Teale was a special person in so many ways,” she says.

“As a friend, I will always treasure his wonderful smile and terrific sense of humor.”

It’s impossible to talk about Bill without mentioning his many academic accomplishments and the immeasurable contributions he made to the field of literacy. And yet, when you speak with his friends and colleagues, they are more apt to lead with Bill the person than Bill the scholar.

“Kind,” “genuine,” and “humble” are adjectives that came up repeatedly. It’s not surprising; those who worked with Bill knew him to be soft spoken and big hearted.

“I admired Bill Teale in so many, many ways,” says Marcie Craig Post, executive director of ILA. “He was amazingly patient and always humble, and could with a few encouraging words immediately put someone at ease and make them feel welcomed and valued.”

These qualities are what made Bill such an effective leader. He continually provided sage counsel to the ILA Board, executive director, and senior staff. He excelled in helping us resolve operational issues by having us approach them from a different tack. He was a highly creative strategic planner and problem solver.

“He had a quiet, steady style of leadership that was incredibly effective,” Post says of the organization’s Immediate Past President. “He had the gift of being a very good listener, and any comments he provided always had the knack of prompting a different perspective or adding new knowledge.”

“He personified professionalism, exemplifying the qualities of a great leader-—decisive, insightful, calm, and fair minded,” adds ILA Vice President of the Board Bernadette Dwyer.

Goatley agrees. “He had a unique way of bringing people together toward a common goal.”

Often that goal involved making sure that every child, regardless of circumstance, received quality instruction. Bill was keenly aware of the inequities—social, political, economic—that strip so many children of their right to literacy. He always signed on to advocacy efforts aimed at increasing governmental funding for all aspects of effective literacy education.

“His exceptional scholarship on early literacy and children’s literature has served as a model of partnership with organizations and schools,” Goatley says. “He taught me a tremendous amount about literacy, leadership, and collegiality.”

FrankfurtAs a researcher, Bill sought to increase our understanding of the many components of effective literacy instruction and teacher preparation. He traveled the world to meet with fellow researchers, professors, government ministers, and teachers. His goal was always the same: to share, advise, learn, and befriend.

“He was a leader in literacy, with deep knowledge about, and commitment to, children’s early literacy learning and the value that books played in their lives,” says Douglas Fisher, ILA President of the Board. “He was a mentor to me and countless others.”

One such mentee was Julie Scullen, past ILA Board member.

“When I first met him, my world view was not big enough,” she says. Bill changed that. With his help, she could see the work that she and ILA were doing “in more of a global sense.”

He was a genuinely supportive person whose thoughts were always in demand and gladly received. He could see important connections between and among literacy professionals who had never come across each other before. “You know, you should really talk to…” was a common suggestion of Bill’s that led to many rewarding collaborations and lasting friendships.

“The thing that I will remember most is his integrity,” Scullen says. “He didn’t care if his name wasn’t on things. He didn’t care if anyone knew he was behind it. He didn’t have an ego to bruise.”

Bill relished being in the company and community of literacy professionals of all stripes. He moved among peers with ease, as congeniality was his strong suit and his hallmark. He saw the inevitable conflicts of professional life as opportunities for bridge building. He had an almost infinite patience which he coupled with a wry sense of humor. He excelled at defusing and refocusing. He enjoyed a good laugh as much as a good insight.

“Bill’s zest for life and learning was contagious,” Dwyer says. “His loss is immense, but I am privileged to have known him; I truly value Bill both as a friend and as a mentor.”

BriefingBill leaves behind a bereaved wife, Junko Yokota, director of the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books at National Louis University, and two children, Alyssa and Jeremy. He also leaves behind scores of devastated colleagues, in academia and here at ILA, whose sense of loss is profound.

In this the hour of sadness, let us pause and remember with affection and appreciation one of our very best. And let us rededicate ourselves—not only today but every day—to the great cause which was the passion of Bill Teale’s extraordinary life.

Dan Mangan is the director of public affairs at the International Literacy Association.

Lara Deloza is the senior communications manager at the International Literacy Association.

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