I am so glad to introduce myself as CLiF’s new project specialist. I joined the team in December 2022 in a role I think of as a “utility outfielder,” supporting our programs and working to build new partnerships across Vermont and New Hampshire.

I’m a new resident of the state of Vermont, having moved here from Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the summer of 2022. ‘Twas quite the journey that brought us from there to here. My husband and I found ourselves—along with many, many other people—reevaluating our priorities while we were locked down during the pandemic. My husband found he was longing for a new setting to employ his skills. I wanted a simpler life with an opportunity to reinvent myself. Our children were grown and had located themselves throughout the Northeast, freeing us to consider a move. And so, we became statistics in The Great Resignation and took up a new life.

I have found that there are consistent themes that have underpinned my life. Literacy is one of them. It has, in fact, been the cornerstone of both my professional and my personal life. 

“I loved this book!” 

I began my career as a middle school language arts teacher, introducing my students to the reading and writing workshop models with the hope that they would learn to value the printed word, critical thinking, and self-reflection. My favorite part of that work was connecting a reluctant reader with a great book and then watching  the light go on for them–helping them towards a new identity: “I’m a reader.”

“I thought I had ruined my life.”

I stepped away from teaching for a time to be at home with my children. When I returned to work, I joined the world of adult basic literacy. Out-of-school youth and our incarcerated population became my focus, helping these learners to develop the skills necessary to complete their high school equivalency diploma and find new paths for the journey forward. As students built skills, they built hope for their futures.

“I want to be able to joke with people. I like to be funny, but I don’t have the English words to do that.”

My most recent incarnation was as a supervisor in an adult basic education program where, for the first time, I supported language-learner classes. It was soul-nourishing to join classrooms full of learners from around the world, finding their way, and their words, in a new country. 

“Hey Mom, have you read this yet?”

For me, one of my life’s great pleasures has been passing books amongst and trading titles with my own three kids–a habit that began with board books and grew into their adulthood. I guess it isn’t surprising that an English teacher-mother raised “reader” children. 

This brings me back around to why I’m delighted to be working with CLiF—this English-teacher mother  knows that the work this organization does is important. Two early literacy statistics that particularly stand out to me are:

  • Children growing up in homes with at least 20 books get three years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class. 
  • Children who aren’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school. 

I want all children to be “reader” children.

All of us at CLiF are thrilled to welcome Mary Edith to the team! She can reached by email at maryedith@clifonline.org.

2 responses to “Meet Mary Edith Leichliter, CLiF’s New Project Specialist

  1. Hi Mary Edith !
    I have a lot in common with you and enjoyed reading your story. Welcome to CLIF ! I may cross paths with you in the future as a grant recipient of CLIF. I have also been a CLIF supporter. Vivica

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