Reference letter excerpts for Library of Congress Literacy Award Nomination/The David M. Rubenstein Prize (2013)

"This communication is directed to Mr. Chambers' work with students at the Raul Yzaguirre School For Success in Houston, Texas. He has creatively merged technology and art to challenge and engage his students in their acquisition of literacy, not only in the traditional sense of reading, writing, and critical thinking, but also in the more modern concepts of visual and technological literacy. The students are obviously stimulated, excited, and engaged. Their work products consistently demonstrate the use of analysis, interpretations, decisions, and extensions of the works of others and the resulting refinement of their own creations. These student products almost always rise above the expectations of performance associated with more traditional methods of teaching/learning. In my thirty-two years in education, it has been my good fortune to be in personal contact with a small number of exemplary educators. I consider Mr. Chambers to be among that group." [T.H.]

"If we had more teachers like Tom Chambers, we could solve reading and literacy problems. He has connected what motivates kids today, blogging and the online world, with literacy, in a truly creative way. He selects topics to write about that are current and that students care about. This in itself motivates research and writing from one's heart. And not only has he worked to build reading and writing skills for each of his students, he has carried his magic over to teach other teachers. I have seen that first hand in his workshop at a technology education conference. He has shown teachers it is not technology that is important; it is using that technology for creativity in writing. He has posted examples so others can follow his lead." [K.N.]

"It is with great pleasure that I recommend Tom Chambers, a passionate educator, for The David M. Rubenstein Prize. Mr. Chambers has advanced the use of literacy through the use of digital imaging and media. Students research a topic, often photograph artifacts, and produce written reflections. I have seen Mr. Chambers' dedication to lifelong learning, excellence, and perfection during the last two years. Mr. Chambers' students collaborate, research, create, publish, and evaluate to produce meaningful experiences that touch the lives of other communities. Students in this atmosphere fully understand how important their contributions can be and see how their reflections impact other audiences. I strongly encourage you to consider Tom Chambers for this prestigious award. His strong global outlook, energetic personality, and passion to help others reach for higher expectations is refreshing. His contribution to literacy using technology engages students to strive to become researchers and readers. Mr. Chambers is producing authors, curators, and producers that integrate STEM and STEAM initiatives." [J.M.]

"I highly recommend Tom Chambers for The David M. Rubenstein Prize. Mr. Chambers continues to work tirelessly and intelligently with his students to increase their literacy skills. He is innovative in his use of the Internet as a collaborative and publishing tool. His students in Houston, Texas connected with my students in Wyckoff, New Jersey to collaborate on a photo blog that encouraged both groups of students to think and write about their photos and the photos of their peers. This project brought together urban students and affluent suburban students. Throughout the project, his students continued to impress me with their ability to communicate about the images posted to the blog. He challenges his students to think deeply about social issues and find the words to express their thoughts about important events in their world. He consistently uses the web to publish his students' writing. This gives his students a sense of the importance and value of their writing. It gives students a deeper understanding of the importance of their words and the words of their peers. Awarding Tom Chambers the David M. Rubenstein Prize will bring his exemplary work to the attention of educators. This will illuminate a path that will increase the literacy skills of all students and encourage more educators to follow in Mr. Chambers' footsteps." [H.O.]

"I had the privilege of working with Tom Chambers in an overseas teaching position. I have known him for ten years. I believe I can attest to his dedication and commitment as a middle school teacher. I believe the most important attribute that I�ve observed during my professional relationship with Mr. Chambers is his personal and ongoing desire to find new methodologies and processes to enable his students to reach their desired goal. His effectiveness as a teacher for middle school learners can be easily identified through the many projects the students have completed. Mr. Chambers is an outstanding educator. He is professionally and personally committed to making a difference for children and their families." [R.L.]

"Mr. Chambers is making great strides with middle school students at Raul Yzaguirre School for Success in Houston, Texas by increasing literacy skills with innovation and creativity. At a time when most middle school students are lost in the disconnect of present day education, Mr. Chambers has his students involved in the planning and implementing of their own learning. Through the use of technology and project-based learning, the students are investigating their worlds, near and far. By completing these projects, reading and writing skills are improved, which in turn increases the student's ability to communicate. Through Mr. Chambers' guidance, his students have become aware of social issues like homelessness and school violence. They have learned about themselves through self-exploration projects. They have acquired new skills in photography, publication and other aspects of technology. Positive engagement in these activities fosters the ability to generalize these skills into lifelong learning tools. Mr. Chambers should be honored for the educational impact he has on the lives of his students." [S.S.]

"As you'll note when you read Mr. Chambers' essay and explore class projects, the students are engaged in real-world experiences that motivate them to read for understanding of significant historical or current events. Then they apply what they've learned through their research to a meaningful project they share with their peers and the larger community through writings which are posted on a school website (RYSS). I had the good fortune to work with Mr. Chambers and his students on the NASA - ISTE research project in which graphics software was used to create digital art based on research of Space weather and the NASA MMS (Magnetospheric MultiScale) 2014 Mission. This is a perfect illustration of a highly innovative project approach supporting literacy that could be replicated by others. The projects Mr. Chambers facilitates with his students are based on existing professional literature and applied practice to engage the students in meaningful research and the creation of products that can be shared with peers, the local community, and the online community. All projects promote excellence in teaching, learning and educational scholarship while providing a professional, respectful, and intellectually stimulating learning environment. In each project, students are being taught timely and relevant information utilizing the most effective educational modalities and technologies." [H.P.]

"The works that Tom Chambers and his students produce are exemplary models for the advancement of literacy today. The process and completion of these works provide a remarkable student-driven process; students yearn to pursue a command of communication skills. In addition, with Mr. Chambers' direction, students create projects both eloquent and incisive. When one looks across an array of strategies to produce a literate society where our youth will attain participatory and community-minded citizenship skills, the Raul Yzaguirre media student work is the map to growing an informed citizenry." [S.B.]

"Mr. Chambers is an outstanding educator worthy of this award. He is dedicated to the education profession and goes beyond the typical duties of an educator. I have known him for three years and in this time he has made two trips (from his hometown of Houston, TX) along with a group of his middle school students to instruct my second-graders (in San Antonio, TX) in learning how to use the GIMP software. It was obvious that his students were quite literate in the use of this software, since my students were able to follow the instruction with the greatest of ease. The outcome of this most recent collaborative project was a montage of visual art that was turned into a poster that is displayed in our school front office. Mr. Chambers and his students have greatly impacted mine by extending their everyday learning and providing them with 21st century skills. My students also gained a sense of pride and confidence knowing that a piece of visual art they created is on public display." [Y.V.]

"Tom Chambers is a strong advocate for his students and the work that they do. Mr. Chambers is an artist that uses his passion to spark creativity and critical thinking in his students. His unique program combining photography, graphic arts, publishing software and literacy in all subject areas both engages and challenges his students. One only need watch his students in their daily video news program to see the poise and self-confidence that he has helped them develop. Tom is an opportunity - take an opportunity-maker. Teachers who continue to explore and grow tend to get the same from their students. As a 33-year veteran in the classroom, I have had the opportunity to work with many, many excellent colleagues. Tom Chambers has shown, through his relentless advocacy for students, to be among them." [S.W.]

Mr. Chambers is humbled by the nomination process and references on his behalf. He thanks his RYSS students over a six-year period of working together to "make it happen!"

Mr. Chambers' essay: LOCLA/DMRP

LOC Literacy Award

Student Projects