An Onsted teacher who struggled with reading as a child was presented the Elementary Educator Award by the Michigan Reading Association. Pictured above, are Gina Gemalsky and Onsted Elementary Principal, Marsha Davis.
Story and photo
by Matt Schepeler
Now, Gemalsky, pictured left, has a master’s degree in reading and is a literacy coach – meaning she works with teachers to help them ensure every child in the Onsted School District learns to read to their full capability.
“I can support more kids by working directly with the teachers. It has been a big transition,” said Gemalsky, who was born and raised in Lansing.
She says her job is about reaching “the whole child.”
“It is working on literacy not with just our struggling readers, but with all readers. We are making sure they are where they need to be, and pushing them if they need extra.”
Many children struggle to learn to read, yet reading “is part of everything we do,” said Gemalsky. She said she personally struggled with reading until she got to the college level of her education, which “was kind of when I really figured things out.”
“It made school really hard for me.” In high school, Gemalsky was tested to see if she had a learning disability, but by that time she had learned to cope and adjust with the help of some dedicated people.
“It was really just my teachers, every day after school helping me. I had tutoring after school, I had extra help during the day, it was really just the teachers that helped me along that way.”
Now, Gemalsky has a heartfelt desire that every child has the support they need to read to their full capabilities.
“So my goal is to help those kids and be an advocate for them,” she said.
Her enthusiasm is contagious. (more below)
Onsted Elementary Principal Marsha Davis said that Gemalsky’s dedication touches everyone around her. “Gina has such a knack for getting to know students, diagnosing their reading deficiencies with dignity, and then working with their teachers to maintain their successes,” said Davis. “She has great communication skills and builds positive relationships with families. I don’t really think she has a favorite age to teach because she truly enjoys every student.”
Amanda Morris, a curriculum consultant with the Lenawee Intermediate School District describes Gemalsky as “Determined, committed, efficacious and invaluable.”
“A fearless advocate for children, Gina works tirelessly to provide the students of her community with the best in literary instruction and experiences,” said Morris.
Others have noticed as well. On February 22, Gemalsky was awarded the 2022 Elementary Educator Award by the Michigan Reading Association.
“Your impact on the literacy lives of students, teachers, administrators, and parents in your community has been recognized by your peers and colleagues who nominated and selected you for this award,” said Jill Erfourth, president of the association. “Thank you for exemplifying the Michigan Reading Association’s mission of empowering all Michigan students and educators through literacy in your work.”
The irony that someone who struggled during much of her formal education with reading is now considered a champion for children by the Michigan Reading Association is not lost on those who know her.
For Gemalsky, the real reward is not from any recognition she receives, but the fact that years from now, people’s lives she touched will be richer and more meaningful because she and the team around her have helped them reach their full potential.
“Reading is just so much a part of our lives,” she said.
Indeed, it is.