Woman in crown holding book

Teachers College student uses pageant to spotlight reading proficiency

By

Marshall Terrill

Now that the spotlight is on her, Arizona State University student Victoria Hume wants to shift it in another direction.

As Miss Arizona United States 2018, Hume is using her platform as a goodwill ambassador to shine a light on education, specifically on reading proficiency.

“We have a reading crisis in Arizona, and we are nearly the last in the nation for reading rates,” said Hume, a charter school teacher who is about to embark on her master’s degree in elementary education at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in August. “Almost 60 percent of Arizona schoolchildren can’t read at grade level. This is not OK.”

Her timing is good. Hume is ready to compete at the Miss United States National Pageant on July 2–8 in Orlando, Florida, where she will continue her advocacy of children in the classroom. ASU Now caught up with the educator and graduate student before her big trip back east.

Question: How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a teacher and what led you to this career?

Answer: Honestly, I never considered teaching growing up. I went to college thinking I would be in some kind of sales position, hence why I have so many business degrees. It wasn’t until my pastor’s wife, Lori Morgan, a music teacher at Chandler Christian Academy, encouraged me to teach pre-kindergarten — now I can’t picture myself working in any other profession.

I started my teaching career at Chandler Christian Academy in 2016, where I taught pre-kindergarten to 4- and 5-year-old children for two years. After realizing I have a natural gift for teaching, I returned to ASU to gain the knowledge and skills I need to be successful as an elementary school educator. Recently, I have accepted the lead expert teaching position for second grade at BASIS Chandler Primary School for the upcoming 2018–19 school year. My experiences in the classroom and in the community are giving me an up-close look at the issues teachers and students are facing.

Q: What has excited you about what you have learned thus far in your degree?

A: My first semester at ASU as a master’s student is about to begin, and I’ve already started reading my textbooks. I am most excited about learning from my professors’ classroom experiences and knowledge on subject matter.

Q: As Miss Arizona United States, you chose Stand for Children as your platform. Why?

A: I wanted to focus more on the children and how we can help them reach their full potential in the classroom. Arizona now spends a billion dollars less on our schools than it did in 2008, and our children are struggling in overcrowded classrooms, with outdated textbooks and technology. 

I chose Stand For Children because they are focused on the whole picture. They are working on the #INVESTinEd Act, which gives voters a chance to take matters into their own hands and do something about the growing teacher shortage and overcrowded classrooms. Also, they focus on other issues such as the reading crisis in Arizona and reducing chronic absenteeism.

Stand For Children wants all children to have an equal opportunity to succeed in life. Their mission is to ensure that children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, college or career training. The organization is made up of parents, volunteers and teachers who work to convince elected officials to increase funding for children’s programs. They support education in a variety of ways from ensuring that funding they advocate for reaches the classrooms and they implement programs to help struggling readers.

Woman reading to classroom
Miss Arizona United States 2018 Victoria Hume reads to a roomful of children at the Chandler CARE Center on June 21. Hume's platform is reading proficiency, and she advocates for Stand For Children, a non-profit organization of parents, teachers and volunteers who work together with elected officials to find funding for children's programs. Photo courtesy of Earnest Robinson/Chandler Unified School District

Q: As you noted on one of your social media posts, Arizona has a reading crisis in that almost 60 percent of children in the state can’t read at grade level. Why is this problem specific to Arizona?

A: Literacy intervention is a key topic to address in Arizona. Low literacy rates cost businesses and taxpayers $20 billion a year across the country. Most importantly, reading on grade level by the end of third grade is the single most essential milestone because at fourth grade the school curriculum shifts requiring students to “read to learn,” and students who have not “learned to read” fall behind. Arizona is struggling, and it’s because we just don’t have the resources to support kids mainly in grades K–3 and funding our classrooms has not been our states priority.

Q: Your bio says you are working with elected officials to address and fix this issue. In your opinion, what more can they do?

A: They can’t ignore this issue anymore. It’s not going to just go away on its own. Simply put, our teachers need the funding back in classrooms so we can appropriately serve the future of not just Arizona but America. The bill HB 2520 was signed by Governor Ducey to strengthen existing reading policies and this goes to show that the Legislature is starting to see that helping struggling readers is critical. Next year, schools with high percentages of students in poverty will receive $12 million in targeted early literacy funding, but this is just the start. There is still work to be done in every single district across Arizona.

In my opinion, before elected officials can make any decisions about education I think they should be required to teach for one year or have to [serve as an] aide in a variety of classrooms to see the issues children and educators are faced with in Arizona. 

Q: Why did you pick the Miss United States Organization to promote education?

A: I chose to compete in the Miss United States Organization to create change. They prepare women with a variety of skills and encourage women to be the total package — meaning that a woman can be beautiful, intelligent, talented and serve the community.

Several people have asked me what my talent is. Since this is a service-based organization, our talent is judged by how well we serve the community in which we live. My work with promoting education and literacy awareness in Arizona has been recognized by the Miss United States Organization, and they are registered with the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Top photo: Victoria Hume, Miss Arizona United States Organization, reads to a roomful of children at the Chandler CARE Center on June 21. Photo courtesy of Earnest Robinson/Chandler Unified School District