Teaching for the Dream of Diversity in Arkansas

P050-359-256-306-00090This blog is written by Dr. Kay J. Walter, active member of the Arkansas Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts and Associate Professor of English at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

 

Our affiliate, Arkansas Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts (ACTELA), has a board representing many areas of our state. From the agricultural fields of our east to the rolling hills of our west, our land demonstrates our diversity. Our affiliate members are just as diverse as our geography, and we are very proud of the strength such diversity gives our organization.

NCTE offers a Teacher for the Dream Grant Award to encourage affiliates to embrace diversity and welcome it. This grant provides matching funds for recruitment and professional development for teachers of color.

ACTELA has two grant recipients. Our first Teacher for the Dream, Brycial Williams, works as a kindergarten teacher in the Arkansas Delta. You must travel south nearly to Louisiana, where the University of Arkansas at Monticello stands in the midst of pine forests, to find our new Teacher for the Dream. Both have added a vibrant dimension to the work of our affiliate.

Pamela Jones,ACTELAs second Teacher for the Dream poses with her mentor Dr. Kay Walter
Pamela Jones,ACTELAs second Teacher for the Dream poses with her mentor Dr. Kay Walter

We have chosen Pamela Jones as our second Teacher for the Dream. Pamela was born in Anchorage, Alaska. She is a member of the Yupik tribe of indigenous Americans. Pamela migrated to Arkansas with her father when she was a child. Her education in Arkansas public schools and her studies at University of Arkansas at Monticello make her an Arkansan, but her Eskimo heritage through matrilineal descent defines her as a true minority in our state. She is a preservice member of our affiliate, and she anticipates a successful career in education.

Pamela is a strong advocate for ELA education. She aspires to a career enriching the literacy experiences of very young learners—birth through Pre-K. She sees clearly the need for children to grow up with enthusiastic and compassionate models of communication. She believes

“Literacy education begins at birth. When I brought my children home from the hospital, I decorated their nursery walls with the English alphabet in print and cursive. Their first toys were books!”

She champions inclusivity and knows that our state, nation, and world are strongest when we work together in harmony. Further, she represents the importance of lifelong learning. She is a nontraditional student, and she models the verity that it is never too late to want or seek an education.

Last summer, Pamela enrolled in my travel seminar to Great Britain to study British Authors. In Oxford, she found Inuit relics of her tribal heritage at the Pitt Rivers Museum. She has since added a focus on British literature to her areas of study, which include education and psychology. In December 2016 she completed her first college degree, an AA degree in General Studies and is currently enrolled in courses toward her BA degree.

Pamela’s presence in ACTELA makes clear several powerful statements:

• Culturally diverse perspectives strengthen ELA education.
• Diversity is an asset and all children are priceless to our future.
• Educators from diverse backgrounds can empower student thinking and communication to rise beyond any limitations of birth.

Such ideas are visible in Pamela’s life and ACTELA’s devotion to them is reflected more brilliantly through her.

Rob Lamm presents Brycial Williams with ACTELA's first Teacher for the Dream Award.
Rob Lamm presents Brycial Williams with ACTELA’s first Teacher for the Dream Award.

Arkansas’s other Teacher for the Dream, Brycial Williams, sets an example as a male role model of color his students can trust and look up to. He reminds us often how important it is for children to see a strong, wise, compassionate man excited about learning. He says,

“As a child, I would gather my cousins, in my grandmother’s den and play school. My teachers knew that I wanted to be a teacher. They would give me papers and supplies from their classrooms so that I could take them home for my imaginary classroom.”

As a kindergarten teacher, Brycial is in an ideal position to inspire a positive impression of education. He encourages them to be active learners and communicators, and they quickly become invested in their own learning process.

ACTELA board members support ELA education across our state and nationally through NCTE initiatives and events. Through our own work at universities and schools, we also network abroad. As our interactions grow more global and our connections grow more diverse, our need to learn together expands. For this reason, Teachers for the Dream are ever more important to the success of education’s future.

Learners need to see themselves reflected in their teachers, and Arkansas is doing all it can to encourage our students to become effective communicators, advocates of literacy, and ELA teachers. Our Teachers for the Dream actively seek professional development through NCTE opportunities and take leadership roles in the recruitment of future teachers from all ethnic backgrounds. All affiliates can diversify their perspectives and membership by considering the NCTE Fund Teacher for the Dream Affiliate Award. The submission deadline each year is May 1st.

Dr. Kay J. Walter is a Professor of English at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, her alma mater,  and editor of The English Pub: ACTELA Newsletter. She is a lifemember of her affiliate and welcomes contact from all literacy enthusiasts at walter@uamont.edu

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About Millie Davis

Millie Davis is Senior Developer for Affiliates, and Director of the Intellectual Freedom Center at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). In addition she works on NCTE’s communications efforts, particularly on social media. Millie's passion is working with literacy teachers across the country and beyond whose passion for their students and their students' learning is their reason for going to work each day.

26 thoughts on “Teaching for the Dream of Diversity in Arkansas

  1. Thank you for your passionate leadership, Kay. And for writing with your typical warmth and elan. You’re a wonderful asset for us here at UAM and in the Delta.

    1. It is always a joy to spread the word about good things happening in our part of Arkansas, Dan. I appreciate the time and attention you give to my ideas and am proud UAM has an intelligent and vocal literacy advocate to direct its library.

  2. I really liked this article. This can make a change happen all over the world starting with us in Arkansas. This is really awesome!

  3. I love the passion that you put behind this piece, Dr. Walter. You are truly an inspiration for me to work extra hard on bettering my writing.

  4. Excellent–and necessary–work happening in Arkansas and across the States. It’s encouraging to see educators embrace and promote diversity in these times. Dr. Kay Walter inspires learning and literacy through empathy and fosters connections with her students to a shared human experience, and I have modeled her example in my own classroom. –Also, I believe I deserve credits for the photograph as I took it in the Lake District in 2012. Great work, scholar!

  5. Great work, Dr. Walter! Arkansas is a very diverse state and your passion to encourage diversity in our schools and education system is very inspiring!

  6. Translation to the study of world literature is a key part. For it to be studied by anyone, it has to be able to adapt and be understood by many people. Also the way it is translated may have an affect on what you are studying, is taken or learned and the overall meaning of the piece of literature.

  7. American is know as the mixing pot for a reason, with all of the diversity that you can imange. Miss Kay Walters shows the diversity in literature and has fun with it to create a productive atmosphere to work in. Like one of the readings we had in class had tons of different translations, some better then other. The important thing here is diversity is like translations of literature there are good ways in approaching things and bad ways. The ACTElA is an award that shows the good translation in diversity of teaching. Congratulations to the two receptions!

  8. It is good to know that such an influential teacher, and educational leader, is encouraging diversity in schools. Whether it be in the student body or among the teaching staff, I believe diversity is something all educational institutions and individuals need to embrace. Great work Dr. Walter!

  9. Translations are very important to the study of world literature. As we saw in our World Literature class, even the differences between translating single words instead of phrases or ideas can cause a different effect upon the person who is reading the passage, especially when the a translation from one language to another occurs.

  10. As we learned in class, there can be many different translations to a piece of literature. These translations offer unique insight and provide diversity, which is what the ACTELA award is all about. It shows just how much of an impact diversity in education can make and how it is used to positively influence students of all ages. It’s great to see these wonderful teachers being rewarded for their hardwork and dedication.

  11. Very well thought out! I enjoyed reading it. One line really stood out to me. This line was, “As our interactions grow more global and our connections grow more diverse, our need to learn together expands.” This line reminds me of the importance of translation to the study of world literature. Just like interactions grow more global and diverse, so do translations of world literature. It is important to ensure that translations of world literature still have the same message and meaning once translated. This way, anyone can learn from the literature, no matter their diversity.

  12. It such an inspiration for one of our teachers to advocate for diversity in the education system here in Arkansas. As your blog post mentioned, Dr. Walter, we should always strive to work together to communicate globally with students and teachers. This is an important concept as well when it comes to translation in literature. It’s very difficult for translators to translate a piece of literature and accurately capture the essence of that piece of work. Many times as that work of literature goes through the hands of various translators, it tends to loose its essence, meaning, and structure. However, it is because of this diversity in our world that we are able to translate pieces of literature as accurately as possible for our students to fully understand what the author really wanted to say.

  13. Different translations in literature show readers different perspectives that each author may have on the story. It also lets students see that there are various ways to approach reading and interpreting a story. This way of thinking increases creativity, interpersonal intelligence, and developmental critical thinking skills that students can apply in their everyday lives. Different translations are in some ways comparible to diversity in education because they both help students see different peoples points of view of topics and they are exposed to a variety of different influences.

  14. I also agree that when we work together as a unified nation we are stronger than we could ever be individually. Great piece.

  15. There’s a great diversity in translation. As we see in world literature, there are some words and phrases that could mean something completely different in another language.

  16. As a parent of a child in the pre-k and kindergarten range, I think introducing diversity in the classrooms through the teachers is incredibly important. Apart from the critical thinking skills young minds can start to develop from different types of thinking introduced by ethnic diversity, they can learn from a young age to respect all races and human beings. I also find with the predominate majority being teachers, young minds are being shaped in a very ethnocentric, confined bubble. They often only see works of literature, even just in picture books, made for a middle class, white society featuring problems that fit said format. With diverse teachers, we could easily have ready to go knowledge and access about different cultures in the classroom, and incorporate that information through the texts we use to teach even pre-k students.

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