Dr. Margie Gillis

President & Founder

Margie Gillis believes that there is no more important job than teaching a child to read. A born teacher, she is passionate about ensuring that all educators have knowledge and skills grounded in research, practice driven by data, perseverance guided by accountability, and a focus on results.

As a sociology/elementary education undergrad at Connecticut College, Margie set up a volunteer tutoring program and gained one-on-one teaching practice. At the University of Connecticut, she discovered a genuine mentor, Isabelle Liberman, a Haskins Laboratories researcher who was instrumental in discovering the role of phoneme awareness in reading development, and who directed the Special Education Masters program. Margie learned how to make reading research work in classrooms during the practicum that followed. “The best way to learn how to teach reading is to help students who are really struggling.”

New doors opened with each of seven family moves, as Margie helped struggling students in elementary and middle school resource rooms and in her private practice. One move facilitated Alphabetic Phonics study with Aylett Cox, while another enabled her to complete Academic Language Therapist training with Judy Birsh at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Margie found her true calling—teacher training—while consulting with a private school for dyslexic children. She received an Ed.D. in Special Education from the University of Louisville, and taught as an adjunct. Yet she wanted to be more connected with schools. “I just stumbled upon a new initiative at Haskins and my next mentor, Anne Fowler.” Margie joined the Early Reading Success Initiative project as a reading Fellow in 2000. As Dr. Fowler’s health declined, she hand-picked Margie to succeed her as the Project Director. Soon after, she and colleague Susan Brady were awarded a Teacher Quality Grant from the Institute of Education Sciences for Mastering Reading Instruction, a professional development project that studied first grade reading. Margie then led the well-trained mentor team to continue their work as Haskins Literacy Initiative.

In 2009, Margie founded Literacy How to continue the work that she and her team began at Haskins. In addition to working with numerous Connecticut schools and districts, she has partnered with the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, the Connecticut Commission on Children, the Center for Behavior and Education Research at UCONN, and the Connecticut State Department of Education to promote reading legislation to close the reading achievement gap in the state. Margie collaborates with Stepping Stones Museum for Children on the development, delivery, and duplication of the Early Language and Literacy Initiative (ELLI), an evidence-based PreK lab school model.

As a teacher and a researcher, Margie’s goal is the same—how best to teach teachers to implement research-based practices in the classroom. A familiar refrain that she and her team live by – “It’s all about the kids!” – keeps the child at the center. That and a focus on using data for both accountability and for determining students’ needs are the driving forces behind Literacy How. Whether she’s talking to policy makers, legislators, administrators or teachers, research results and student outcome data shape the conversations.

Margie B. Gillis, Ed.D., resume

short bio

Board Member and Former President, Dyslexia Society of Connecticut
Board Member, Former President and Co-founder, Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities
Board Member, Academic Language Therapist Association
Board Member, Literate Nation
Academic Advisor, ReadWorks
Board Director, New Alliance Foundation   
Research Affiliate, Haskins Laboratories