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Literacy Shout Out!

PCS Jr/Sr High School English teachers, Mrs. Laurel Tolleson, Mrs. Anna Stephens and Mrs. Connie Licata were nominated to the Portland Reading Council (www.portlandreadingcouncil.org) for their literacy work as educators. All three received “Literary Shout Out!” certificates in recognition of their efforts as exceptional educators.

As an English instructor for international students of many language backgrounds and various levels, Mrs. Laurel Tolleson teaches students whose first language is not English.  Mrs. Tolleson has taught at PCS since 2005.  Her nomination reads, “She designs authentic learning experiences for her students and holds them to the highest standard. . . she doesn’t just want them to learn how to speak and write in English in her classroom; she encourages them to find experiences and make meaningful memories . . . so that their international experience is more than just about learning language.”  Vy Nguyen, 12th grade, shares that “even though she’s pretty hard, her tests are hard, and she makes me do homework, she’s helped me improve my English skills.”   Jingwen Zheng, 10th grade, and Brian Zhu, 11th grade, both agree that Mrs. Tolleson teaches in different ways and that her classes are very interesting as she shares many stories and most importantly, “cares about us and our studies.”

Laurel Tolleson


Outstanding teachers can inspire their students to become teachers.  Mrs. Anna Stephens (PCS class of 2005) cites her PCS English teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Dowd, as her inspiration to become a teacher herself.  Mrs. Stephens returned to PCS as a teacher in 2016.  Her nomination acknowledges that she now teaches “international and mainstream students, works countless hours to provide an enriched experience for kids to examine literature. Her approach offers a variety of ways for kids to see, question and explore the content.” Eleventh grader, Taylor Newcomb, who is in Mrs. Stephens’s English 11 class expresses how, if she doesn’t understand something, Mrs. Stephens is able to “explain it in simpler terms.”  Of Mrs. Stephens, Newcomb sums it up easily, “She’s fun. She makes me want to learn.”

Anna Stephens


English and Languages Department Head, Mrs. Connie Licata has been teaching at PCS nearly 15 years.  As “an amazing instructor, [Mrs. Licata] keeps kids on their toes by creating authentic learning experiences using a variety of different types of literature and assessment activities. Students love her because she sets high standards and holds her kids to them. She is fair but firm. The kids recognize this and appreciate it.”  Senior Mary Helgerson, who was in her AP English Language class, explains why Mrs. Licata is a good teacher.  “She makes it fun to read, even if it’s a book we don’t enjoy.  She helps us visualize the story by reading out loud to us. She is animated and makes eye contact with us when she reads. When we do something wrong, she doesn’t make us feel dumb.”  The connection Mrs. Licata has with her students is confirmed by Helgerson. “There are many reasons she’s such a good teacher, it’s hard to put it all in one sentence!” 

Connie Licata


We join the Portland Literary Council in their Shout Out to these three teachers, and we’re proud to honor them for their excellence.  PCS is so blessed by these, as well as our many other loving, committed, Christ-following teachers who are committed to excellence.