Shelby Wolf, in memoriam
I am deeply sad to share that our beloved colleague, Professor Shelby Wolf, died on October 5, 2013. This message is for all friends of the School of Education, but it is especially for Shelby’s 2000 former students. There are so many of you, whom I meet 10 and 20 years later, who invariably remember Shelby as the highlight of the teacher education or Master’s in Literacy Education programs, “the best teacher I ever had."
Shelby was an inspired and inspiring teacher. Before coming to CU as a professor in 1992, she taught first through third grades in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Bolivia, and Utah. Her early teaching experience ensured that what she asked of both novice and veteran teachers was eminently practical and possible in real classrooms. Yet, she never settled for ordinary or routine. Shelby’s research, begun while she was a doctoral student at Stanford, showcased her love of drama and provided deep insights about how the arts could expand children’s sense of themselves. This vision helped teacher education students see how complicated a task it is to read a story well or to help a child decide what book to take home from the library.
Shelby was also a meticulous and thoughtful researcher. Her first book, The Braid of Literature, authored with Shirley Brice Heath, was based on book-reading times with her daughters, Lindsey and Ashley. Using field notes from conversations and dramatic play, Wolf and Heath were able to document not only how children bring life experience to their readings of text, but also how meanings from stories could serve as a resource for later interpretations and possibilities in their everyday world. More recently Shelby led the four-person team that edited the 37-chapter Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature. The Handbook is a tour de force that remarkably brings together theoretical perspectives from three distinct fields of scholarship that seldom acknowledge one another – English and literature, literacy education, and library and information sciences.
In 2006, Shelby Wolf was named a University of Colorado President’s Teaching Scholar. This designation is the University’s highest recognition of excellence in teaching requiring exceptional contributions in research as well.
It is no wonder our alums so often tell me, “Shelby is why I became a teacher.”
Please feel free to email me with your memories of Shelby.
Dean Lorrie Shepard