Matt Panozzo, a doctoral student at Sam Houston State University and seventh grade English Language Arts teacher at Annunciation Orthodox School, is one of 30 literacy leaders named to the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) 2019 30 Under 30 list. The list celebrates rising leaders in the literacy field—a cohort of young innovators, disruptors and visionaries creating positive change in the global literacy landscape.
The 27-year-old was recognized for his role as the director of the Community Involvement Committee for Texas Association for Literacy Education (TALE), a state affiliate of ILA.
Panozzo is on a mission to create a community of readers not just in his classroom, but also across the entire state of Texas. Panozzo played a major role in collecting school supplies for Refugee Services of Texas during the 2018 ILA Conference in Austin. At that same conference, Panozzo co-organized a book drive for the San Antonio Salvation Army, which collected six pallets of books.
“During troubling times, books can provide comfort, offer advice and entertain,” Panozzo said. “In my classroom, I have a poster I created which says, ‘READ: Relax, Explore, Acquire, Dream.’ I tell my students when we have independent reading time, we are doing all of these things.”
Panozzo oversees the association’s participation in the Little Free Library program and is currently working to expand it across the state. He also supervises TALE’s Growing Readers program, which is working to ensure quality books are available to every home in Texas.
“It takes teamwork and collaboration to help improve literacy skills and access to texts. Communities have to come together,” Panozzo said. “My passion for reading stems from my own coming out experience. Growing up can be hard. Books can provide us with the opportunities to reflect on life, build relationships, learn new things and find success. SHSU has provided role models who are enthusiastic and talented in their given fields.”
Representing 13 countries, this year’s list of honorees includes educators, school administrators, nonprofit leaders, authors, volunteers, researchers and social entrepreneurs.
“The individuals on this list are solving critical issues—issues many of them have faced on their own paths to success,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Their contributions are paving the way to more accessible and equitable literacy learning in their schools, communities and beyond. It’s an honor to recognize these young leaders whose vision and tenacity are transforming our world.”
SHSU’s Panozzo joins an elite class of emerging leaders. Past honorees include Shiza Shahid, co-founder of the Malala Fund; Andrew Sutherland, founder and chief technology officer of Quizlet; and Kathryn Lett, EL teacher at Kentwood Public Schools in Michigan.
ILA’s 30 Under 30 honorees are featured in the January/February issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s bi-monthly magazine, which published Jan. 7. To view the Literacy Today feature and read more about the honorees’ accomplishments, visit literacyworldwide.org/