Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Professor [Genevieve Aglazor] Delivers The World, One Book At A Time

Genevieve Aglazor, professor of curriculum and instruction at Tarleton State University, has devoted her life to education. But it was not what she had set out to do at the beginning of her professional career when she migrated to America from Africa.
"I came to the States with a bachelor's degree from Nigeria in English and literary studies," she said. "I came here thinking, 'You know, I have a degree in English. I can find something to do.'"
But teaching was not her intention.
"When I was doing my bachelor's degree, education was something I stayed far away from," she said. "I didn't even take it as an elective."
Despite that reluctance, Aglazor found herself accepting a job teaching in a parochial school. And she soon realized she was a natural-born educator.
"Now I love what I do and I don't think I could do anything else," she admitted. "For me it has become a calling."
Once she embraced the realm of education, Aglazor set out to study the laws of pedagogy with a vengeance and would eventually earn two master's and a Ph.D. related to the field. In the midst of her studies, she was to develop another passion for bringing knowledge to children.
"When I was a student, there were lots of children who couldn't afford the books," she said. "Even when I was in college, sometimes the professor was the only one to have a text."
As a consequence, Aglazor reported there was a great deal of book sharing among students.
"You would read your assignment and then pass it on to someone who would have to stay up all night and read and then pass it on again," she said.
It is the very idea of passing literature forward that Aglazor has continued with her mission to put books into the hands of African youngsters who still struggle to gain access to reading materials. And a chance finding at a school in California is where her idea was born.
"This project actually started 21 years ago when I went to an interview for a public school teaching job in Sun Valley," she said.
While leaving the interview, Aglazor spied a profusion of books stacked behind the school's library.
"It looked like they were going to be thrown away," she said. "I asked the librarian if I could take them and she said I could."
Aglazor, who had a small hatchback car, had to make four trips in order to transport what she estimated to be a thousand books.
"We are talking whole class sets of reading books, science texts," she said. "They were doing away with them and adopting new ones."
Aglazar continues to collect books to take home each summer. The enterprise has expanded to include gently used clothes as well. Although she said all items are donated, she absorbs the cost of shipping the products to Nigeria.
"I have never solicited donations," Aglazor said. "I have often paid for the shipping out-of-pocket. And there are times I have had to wait because I could not afford to do it. But I consider it to be my contribution to the whole process. If I am getting things given to me for free, the least I can do is pay for the shipping."
At a cost of at least $3,000 to send the supplies to Africa, Aglazor finds getting the collected goods there to be a challenge. But she doesn't let it stop her, determined to open the world to the children whose lives her books influence.
"You just put a book with pictures in a child's hands, and it's amazing how their eyes light up," she said.
For those wishing to offer assistance to the project, Aglazor can be reached at gaglazor@gmail.com.
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