All posts by Lu Ann McNabb


About Lu Ann McNabb

Lu Ann Maciulla McNabb is the Policy & Alliances Associate for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Lu Ann has long been an advocate for teachers, students and education. As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently said, "Education is the anvil upon which democracy is forged."

Jeremiads, New Media, Adult Literacy Centers, and More in the New Issue of CCC

This post is written by member Jens Lloyd, editorial assistant for College Composition and Communication.

College Composition and Communication publishes scholarship in rhetoric and composition studies that supports college teachers in reflecting on and improving their practices in teaching writing. Our June 2017 issue, available online and in print, contains an eclectic mix of articles that should sustain rhet/comp teacher-scholars through the long, sunshine-filled days of summer.

Don J. Kraemer takes a deep dive into recent scholarship on ethics and morality in the hopes of distinguishing between the two oft-conflated terms. He argues that we should not conceal the ethical and moral foundations of our pedagogical endeavors, especially insofar as articulating these foundations can help to build the kind of classroom environments where all students can thrive as writers. Jeffrey M. Ringer presents a case study of a student whose efforts to thrive as a writer in a college course led him to take up the genre of the jeremiad. Studying how this student’s faith informed his rhetorical choices, Ringer encourages rhet/comp teacher-scholars to thoughtfully engage with the various resources that students bring to bear on their writing.

Stepping outside of the formal confines of academia, Jessica Pauszek teaches CCC readers about Pecket Well College, an adult literacy center in Britain. Pauszek’s archival and ethnographic study makes for an engaging, inspiring portrait of how learners can direct their own literacy education. Also widening the focus beyond the college composition classroom, Neil Baird and Bradley Dilger present their findings from a CCCC-funded research project that scrutinizes metaphors of transfer by documenting how students succeed (or not) in internships.

Courtney L. Werner examines the recent history of rhet/comp to surmise how the field has defined new media in response to radical shifts in composing technologies. Werner carries out an extensive analysis of published scholarship, offering insights that will likely appeal to those well-versed in the topic and also to those looking for a foothold in the evolving subfield of computers and composition.

The issue concludes with Paula Mathieu reviewing three recent books that disclose new pedagogical, theoretical, and methodological vistas for rhet/comp teacher-scholars.

Some of our June authors are featured in our podcast series. Check out these interviews for additional insights into the scholarship we publish in CCC.

Whether you are settling into your summer teaching routine, taking on new research and writing projects, planning your courses for next school year, or just enjoying a brief respite, we hope you indulge in this issue and all that it offers. We welcome feedback and questions about the journal (and our podcast series!) at

Jens Lloyd is a PhD candidate at UC Irvine.

Community Literacies en Confianza, Part II

This post is written by member Steven Alvarez. This is the second of two parts. You can read the first part here.

The most important point I argue for in Community Literacies en Confianza regards the importance of K–12 English language arts teachers to expand their knowledge of the literacy practices of English-language-learning students by engaging with their students’ communities, learning from their expertise with the trust of confianza. Confianza in English translates literally as “confidence,” but in practice confianza means reciprocating a relationship where individuals feel cared for. Confianza is an ongoing intentional process centered on local communities which involves exchanging mutual respect, critical reflection, caring, and group participation. Confianza is dialogical trust of acceptance and confirmation between adult mentors and emergent bilingual students, and it has extraordinarily positive impacts on academic attitudes of youths, especially in language-minoritized communities (Barrett and García). In the book, I expand on this notion of confianza and learning about students and their communities, as well as how a stance open to students’ complete linguistic repertoires, in turn, impacts the students’ and their families’ literacies and their networks of bilingual support.

This video from VBL was filmed during the awards ceremony for a “best essay” competition about the importance of the library for the community. The man speaking donated the bike for the winner. He and I both read the essays composed by children at the library, in Spanish and English.

When educators become participants in bilingual communities, they partake in a form of community membership, demonstrating a kind of role modeling that will both engage emergent bilingual youth and build confianza in dialogue with communities. Dialogue, in addition to sharing stories and common hardships, fosters relationships through sustained confianza between community after-school programs and educators (Barrett and García; Martínez et al.). Ultimately, confianza is feeling and knowing one is cared for. Angela Valenzuela argues that the “cared-for individual responds by demonstrating a willingness to reveal her/his essential self, the reciprocal relation” (21). These qualities truly create not only a sense of validation and support en confianza, but also a sense of trust, resulting in open dialogues about schools and the community. Not surprisingly, establishing confianza takes time, but is vital for opening channels for collaboration with community literacy research and after-school programs, especially those engaging with emergent bilingual students.

Why is this notion of confianza so vital for working with emergent bilingual students and their families? For Latin American and Latino/a students, research shows us the importance of confianza for bilingual families, suggesting that sustained, dedicated commitment between non-familial adults and youth has positive impacts on the academic outcomes of children and adolescents in immigrant families (Louie; Smith). As collaborators connecting students, parents, and educators, the two after-school communities believed in emergent bilingual students achieving higher educational goals with mentored, bicultural, and bilingual supports. These community partners have inspired confianza through transformative visions for education and by building alliances among partners and activists.

VBL students during a writing workshop exploring food and poetry.

Works Cited

Barrett, Leslie, and Ofelia García. Additive Schooling in Subtractive Times: Bilingual Education and Dominican Youth in the Heights. Vanderbilt UP, 2011.

Louie, Vivian. Keeping the Immigrant Bargain: The Costs and Rewards of Success in America. Russell Sage Foundation, 2012.

Martínez, Ramón A., et al. “Unpacking the Ideologies of Linguistic Purism: How Dual Language Teachers Make Sense of Everyday Translanguaging.” International Multilingual Research Journal, vol. 9, no. 1, 2015, pp. 26-42.

Smith, Robert Courtney. Mexican New York: Transnational Lives of New Immigrants. U of California P, 2006.

Valenzuela, Angela. Subtractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring. State U of New York P, 1999.

Steven Alvarez is assistant professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky. His research explores the languages and literacies of Latino immigrants in New York City and Kentucky.

To read more of Steven Alvarez’s works, please visit Translanguaging Literacies and Community Ethnographies.

Steven Alvarez recorded Confidence in Community Literacies: Bilingual Writers Reading the World, an On Demand Webinar for NCTE.

Community Literacies en Confianza, Part I

This post is written by member Steven Alvarez. This is the first of two parts. 

In my book Community Literacies en Confianza: Learning from Bilingual After-School Programs, I focus on ethnographic case studies of two communities of students and families, the Kentucky United Latinos (KUL) and the Valle del Bluegrass Library (VBL). The communities were composed of emergent bilingual students and parents learning about schools as they learned English—in the case of VBL, students from preK to middle school, and for KUL, high school students. The two communities illustrated in two different contexts how emergent bilingual students and their families collectively navigated school systems and the English language with the help of after-school programs and their networks of members, teachers, and volunteers. I draw upon my experiences with KUL and VBL to create portraits of bilingual after-school communities that do this kind of work to offer relatable contexts that detail how schools and teachers can partner and draw from surrounding community learning. From these portraits, I explore what lessons we can draw from them that could impact how we teach writing in school. The focus on community puts the local knowledge and experiences of students and families in the forefront.

VBL had offered free after-school homework tutoring for emergent bilingual youths for over a decade. Located in a barrio of a small city in central Kentucky, the library mediated between the newly growing Latin American immigrant community in the area and local institutions, primarily local schools. VBL was the only bilingual public library in the state, and also the only one to offer after-school homework assistance, thanks in part to volunteer tutors and assistance from library staff. The homework assistance program served youth in grades K–8. Different VBL programs and events, however, were geared to preK, high school, and adult audiences.

Bilingual signs announcing homework help at VBL. The library was a valuable bilingual resource for the community.

The Kentucky United Latinos (KUL) after-school club formed in 2011 at a high school not too far away from the barrio where VBL stood. In fact, KUL often met at VBL since many students lived within walking distance of the library. Most of the KUL students had VBL library cards and had participated in the library’s programs when they were younger. With the coordinating assistance of teachers, KUL also partnered with a middle school to sponsor a mentorship program between students. KUL members met with middle school students to provide advice and guidance in English and Spanish to Latino/a students destined for their high school. KUL members encouraged the students to get involved in middle school activities and seek out ways to volunteer to help their communities. The KUL members noted the importance of making a strong academic start as a ninth grader, and how their community service prepared them for college and future internships.

High school student Bianca, with collaboration from the classmates in her ELL course at school, drew the artwork above entitled Don’t Cry. Bianca, a ninth grader, had migrated to Kentucky from Cuba earlier in the school year, and, since arriving, she had been a member of KUL. Bianca drew the figure and passed the drawing around to each of her classmates to write “don’t cry” in their home languages. Notice the rich linguistic diversity in her classroom.

Steven Alvarez is assistant professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky. His research explores the languages and literacies of Latino immigrants in New York City and Kentucky.

To read more of Steven Alvarez’s works, please visit Translanguaging Literacies and Community Ethnographies.

Steven Alvarez recorded Confidence in Community Literacies: Bilingual Writers Reading the World, an On Demand Webinar for NCTE.

Mrs. Stuart Goes to Washington

This post is written by the 2017 NCTE Kent Williamson Policy Fellow Lauren Stuart. This will be the first of a weekly series. 

Greetings from Washington, DC.! I thought I would start by introducing myself. My name is Lauren Stuart and I teach 8th- (and soon 6th-) grade ELA for the Beverly Hills Unified School District.

I am honored to be this year’s Kent B. Williamson Fellow. What does that mean? As a way to honor Kent Williamson’s dedication to teacher leadership, NCTE established this fellowship, which allows a member to come to DC and be immersed in education policy. Each week during my stay, I will share my experiences with you. Also, you can follow me along daily on Twitter @laurenpstuart.

Week 1

The week began with a training from the McKeon Group on both education policy and NCTE’s priorities. I was reminded that the actual policymaking process is nothing like the textbook version.

As a member, you should know that NCTE is asking Congress to support ESSA’s Title I, $190 million for LEARN, and student grant and loan programs. NCTE is also asking Congress not to eliminate Title II funds. If you would like to contact your representatives to discuss these priorities, let me know and I will help you make contact with them. You can write me at

My second day brought me together with our esteemed Executive Director, Emily Kirkpatrick, as well. We traveled together to sit in on the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Summer Legislative Institute. NCSS and NCTE share the same concerns! Our colleagues have proven that social studies is relevant, needed, and wanted by our students, and yet they must constantly convince decision makers to fund their programs. Participants visited their legislators, and most had positive responses. If you know a social studies teacher who would like to get involved, encourage them to join NCSS and attend the NCSS annual convention this year.

I was also able to attend School Vouchers and Segregation, an event at the American Federation of Teachers headquarters. The Center for American Progress released a paper on this topic, and brought together a panel for discussion. Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) opened the session by stating that research shows that vouchers negatively affect student achievement. He urged the government to support public schools and not divert funds to private schools.

Justin Reid from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities told the story of Prince Edward County, and how their students came to be a part of the class action lawsuit that became Brown v. Board of Education. What I did not know was that because of the verdict, the Board of Supervisors decided to shut down the schools for five years instead of integrating. Kids went five years without an education. In addition, white students were given tuition grants to attend private schools, which led to segregated schools.

Also in attendance at this event was Catherine Lhamon, the Chair of the Commission on Civil Rights. She called for a promise from the federal government to ensure simple justice and civil rights for all students.

People and Opportunities to Watch

This section will highlight people I met while in town, as well as opportunities I come across.

Jill Cullis, Bill of Rights Institute.

Jill is a fellow Hope Street Group alum hailing from Colorado Springs. She was in town for the Bill of Rights Institute, Founder’s Fellowship. “It was a week of incredibly rich discussion based upon primary source documents in history. I rarely get professional development that is content based so the week with the BRI was so valuable to improving my instruction in US History.”

Doug Hodum, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship

Doug is a science teacher from Maine who is here on a yearlong fellowship.

Luella Wagner

Luella is a fellow Californian, who was here for the NCSS SLI. I loved chatting with her about her interest in Native American studies and being a studio teacher.

Lauren Pfeffer Stuart is an 8th grade ELA teacher for the Beverly Hills Unified School District. She is a Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow and a Teach Plus California Fellow. She has two young boys and lives in Sherman Oaks.


A Worthwhile and Swift Read

This post is written by member Gary Pankiewicz.

Some might find it strange for a forty-something language arts educator to reach for a children’s novel over a brief school vacation, but, in this case, I highly recommend it. Up to my ears with work and graduate study—and reserving time for my wife and three boys—a short text gave me a quick literacy fix when I was over busy. Simply put, the accessible approach in a children’s novel inspired timely literacy reflective practice in my adult life.

the-dreamer-cover-812x1024Knowing that my reading time would be short, I packed up a copy of The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sis in my travel bag. I had just read and researched Muñoz Ryan’s Echo for a new unit plan for work, and I pulled The Dreamer from the school library because I wanted to read more of Muñoz Ryan’s writing. There would only be time to dip into a Franzen novel, but there was ample time to dig into The Dreamer. In my experience, children’s novels and young adult books can provide that same spark to grapple with complexity and perspective—the thing I love most about any literary text. Emphatically, reading The Dreamer was like taking a soothing medicine, albeit cherry-flavored, on the course for sustained healing and appetite anew. What began for me as a quick literacy escape during a busy spring break burgeoned into an opportunity to stay connected with the artistry of teaching English—and the craftsmanship of being a dad.

Thinking about the book and literacy classrooms. In the text, Netfali, the young protagonist, is a soon-to-be realized poet on a journey that uncoils his spirited imagination and jettisons his artful capacity. He comes up against trials with those who do not understand his perspective or his emotion. This leads to a thorough exploration of one’s fear and a discerning look at humanity in our communities. For me, the highlight of the book came from Netfali’s care for an injured swan with metaphorical play that foreshadowed the book’s climax. All the while, peppered poetic interludes and illustrations showcased multimodal expressions that implored rereading and rethinking throughout.

Thinking about the book as a literacy educator and as a parent. Since children are the intended audience for the book, I often found myself reading with young people and their perceptions in mind. Netfali’s most personal challenge resides in a father who insists on more “useful” goals and a community that may not be ready for Netfali’s unrealized voice. This was a big reminder to be weary of squelching dreams through professional and personal utilitarianism. For example, the support of rigorous trajectories for college readiness is important, but, for many students (and kids), this work could easily become tedious without opportunities for choice and voice in the literacy classroom as well as in their lives at home. Indeed, analyzing these characters’ actions and motivations served as a call-to-action to encourage vision—especially in our apprentice-like students and children. Do I model passion enough, and do I give enough room for my kids to find theirs? Like Netfali’s uncle Orlando, educators and parents must proclaim our relational pride more often and encourage our kids’ revelry—strategically. Let’s go!

To say that I love a good children’s novel or young adult book privileges adult books through the implied contrast. So, let’s just say that I really enjoyed reading The Dreamer. It refreshed my connection to the eloquence of literacy with an opportune invitation to rework my own story.

Some other recommended swift reads:

A little research into the novel also introduced me to the poetry of Pablo Neruda. But, I’ll save my nod to poetry for my next blog.

Gary Pankiewicz is the K-12 Language Arts and Literacy Supervisor in the Fair Lawn, NJ, School District and NCTE member since 2003. He is also an adjunct professor and doctoral candidate at Montclair State University.