Brittany Selah Lee-Bey is the author of EtymologyRules: Back to Basics, a workbook of exercises teaching about linguistic foundations. This book is written for teachers and parents of children learning to read, as well as other linguaphiles. As a reading specialist, Brittany has been providing literacy intervention for struggling and reluctant readers for 15 years in a variety of settings, including traditional and alternative schools, a youth detention center and a local community college. She currently serves as the Director of Literacy at a 5-12 school in Washington, D.C. In her free time. She loves reading and writing speculative fiction, is a lover of language and literacy, and through EtymologyRules, she seeks to equip people worldwide with the power and knowledge of words.
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How did you get to where you are today?
As a little girl, I remember having dreams of becoming an author and a lawyer. I wrote a sequel to Cinderella in first grade, which my teacher “published” for me. It was that defining moment when I said to myself, “I’m going to be an author,” and wrote whenever I could – stories, poems, speeches, articles, even raps. I used to debate my family
members every chance I got. So, they all told me I’d make a great lawyer. Fast forward to my senior year of college when I had an epiphany. Instead of law school, I decided to become a teacher. As a result, I tell people that teaching is my vocation because I believe I was called to the profession.
After college, I started working at Oak Hill Detention Center for incarcerated male youth, where I oversaw the creation of a literary magazine called “Down Oak Hill” and created a reading intervention elective. Working at Oak Hill set my education career in motion. Over 80% of the students had special learning needs and I loved supporting the students. Eventually, I pursued a master’s degree in special education through a George Washington University program called the Literacy Cooperative. It was perfect for me since I wanted to teach students with learning needs, particularly focusing on literacy intervention.
After earning my teaching degree, I taught children and adults in a variety of places throughout the D.C. metropolitan area. One common theme I encountered was a lack of solid literacy intervention due to a true understanding of how language and literacy worked. It was these experiences that inspired me to write EtymologyRules: Back to Basics, to teach language foundations because understanding words is critical to being
a strong reader.
What do you think has helped you the most with your success?
The support of family and friends over the years. My parents and my siblings are my biggest cheerleaders, whenever I want to give up, my family encourages me to keep going. My friends celebrate all my victories, which makes me feel invincible. I am grateful for this community of love and support, which has carried me far. My drive and passion for young people and literacy has also helped me achieve my goals. I want to see young people step into their purpose. In this society, literacy is critical to one’s success no matter what you choose to do. So, it’s important for students to have access to quality literacy instruction. Seeing a student go from being a struggling, reluctant reader to being fluent and able to understand and enjoy books is what pushes me to reach the successes I have…and to keep going!
What has been the biggest challenge you have overcome in order to achieve your goals?
Believing in myself and that what I have to offer is important. In this day and age, social media promotes what is sexy or what is cool. And to many people, reading, language and literacy are not that. But I’m learning that people care about these things and that I have something important to share with the world. I don’t always have confidence, but I have learned to push past my fears and shoot my shot. And so far, so good!
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of sticking to my goal of publishing EtymologyRules and becoming a reading specialist. It took me seven years to write and self-publish my book, and on several occasions, I wanted to just give up. For years, I wanted to be a reading specialist, but no one would give me a chance. Now, I am the Director of Literacy at a top-tier school in D.C. and my school uses my book for teacher professional development!
What are three pieces of advice you could give to our readers?
- Don’t listen to naysayers because they can plant or foster seeds of doubt in your
- Take your time and don’t feel rushed into anything. You know when it’s the right
time for you to take steps toward achieving your goals.
- Connect with and support other women who are working to achieve their goals.
You get what you put out in life. So, if you want support, you have to give it.
What is one sassy saying or quote that inspires you? Why?
“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” This a quote from my all-time favorite author, Octavia Butler. Ironically, this quote inspires me because it reminds me that to achieve my goals, I must be diligent and consistent. We receive tons of ideas and inspiration every day. But without building a habit of practice, those ideas will just live in our hearts and minds.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Those ideas that sit in the back of your mind and nag you day and night are there for a reason. It’s part of your life’s purpose and mission to fulfill them, not just for yourself, but for others because your gifts are a light for the world.