Category Archives: Affiliates

Defining Excellence

We know the value of providing our students with models for their learning. Well, at NCTE, we also provide models of excellence for NCTE affiliates. Each year since 1996 the NCTE Standing Committee on Affiliates  has evaluated applications for the Affiliate Excellence Award, an award that honors NCTE affiliates that meet high standards of performance for programming and promote improvement in English language arts teaching.

Affiliates can apply for, and win, this award year after year because it’s an award that holds winners up as models for all NCTE affiliates to emulate. The required criteria include:

• increasing membership in the affiliate or NCTE;
• publishing an affiliate communications instrument at least twice a year;
• conducting at least one professional development program for members;
• completing the annual affiliate report to NCTE by the deadline;
• achieving accomplishments such as implementing and maintaining a cultural diversity plan;
• developing a program to encourage new teachers into the profession;
• participating in an NCTE Affiliate Leadership Meeting;
• participating in at least three affiliate-sponsored activities at the NCTE Annual Convention.

This year’s seven winners deserve a Drum Roll!!! Each of them has been recognized as an Affiliate of Excellence more than once, and each, while maintaining the essential services of conference, publications, and communications, has also created a new program for their members. I’d like to introduce all seven of them to you so you can join me in honoring them and their leadership and members who have made the award possible, and so we can see the possibilities various affiliates bring to their members. I’ve included some comments about each from Jean Boreen, chair of the Standing Committee on Affiliates and the Excellence Award committee chair.

The Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts has been recognized for its excellence for three years.

I was impressed with your convention with its exciting sessions for your members as well as the interdisciplinary opportunities you offer; the joint memberships with Math and Science offer great potential. Your methods of communication—from your well-conceived website and phenomenal newsletters—all contribute to keeping members informed and aware. In terms of advocacy, I was impressed with your SEAM program and how strong your affiliate is in support of teachers and students around the state through your various efforts.

The Iowa Council of Teachers of English has been recognized for its excellence for four years.

Your methods of communication continue to be a model that I actually recommend to other affiliates. Your well-developed website as well as your use of social media all contribute to keeping members informed and aware. I have certainly appreciated your enhanced development of special interest groups, especially the writing group, which I have joined and find both insightful and inspiring. I also love the Yo Teach Podcast idea; wonderful!

The New Jersey Council of Teachers of English  has been recognized for its excellence for six years.

Your publications and social media continue to be an exceptionally strong means of communication in keeping members informed and aware; your website is also a strong mechanism for reaching out to your membership. I loved your development of the virtual Hall of Fame; what a wonderful way to highlight great leadership and support of the affiliate. I’m also very impressed with your plans for new members as well as the consistent updating and goal-setting your group is doing; I love the energy that is clearly emanating from the good work you are all putting forward.

The Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts has been recognized for its excellence for nine years.

Along with your consistently strong conventions and the professionalism of all of your publications that contribute to keeping members informed, aware, and professionally supported, I wanted to make a special point about your advocacy efforts this year as you have made even more important the impact TCTELA has on the teachers and students of the state of Texas. Your work this year on standards review and the development of TEKS connection must be lauded.

The Virginia Association of Teachers of English has been recognized for its excellence for nine years.

You have taken your advocacy of teachers in the state to a new level with your very active interactions regarding the “Beloved” Bill. I applaud the consistent effort so many of your members made to make the will of Virginia teachers known in regards to curriculum. I also continue to love the Literacy Explosion and the great categories that students can write to.

The Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts  has been recognized for its excellence for ten years.

Your methods of communication continue to be some of the most professional that I have seen and certainly contribute to keeping members informed and aware, probably one of the reasons that Ohio is able to produce appropriate position statements that support well NCTE’s focus on advocacy. I was again pleased to see how involved you were able to be as an advocate for teachers around the stakeholders group. Your Teaching Ambassador program is exciting and has great merit for the outreach you are attempting to do around the state. Finally, I love the Future Teaching Mentoring Plan and its inclusivity; so important to younger professionals.

The Georgia Council of Teachers of English  has been recognized for its excellence for fifteen years.

Your hosting of this year’s NCTE conference was truly a model for others to emulate. The Georgia Strand at NCTE was also a smart move and could be used effectively by other affiliates hosting upcoming conventions as it really offers opportunities for teachers to network with GCTE as well as each other. That strongly ties into how your methods of communication all contribute to keeping members informed and aware; I liked the addition of the Tweet tips this year to your website which also continues to be one of your strength areas. I would also like to note that the consistency of leadership in Georgia and the mentoring of new members is a strength that I see very clearly in all of your materials and in your interactions at the leadership conference.

Applause, please, for these seven excellent affiliates!

Why Students Should Read This Book

I just finished reading—actually listening to Sherman Alexie read—You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir. Not a YA book like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the memoir is an in-your face reminder of many of the events and themes that pervade Diary, themes and events that challengers of Diary call out and object to.

The National Book Award winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was THE most challenged book in the nation in 2014 and the mention of the novel on a school reading list today still elicits challenges from those who have heard about it but maybe not read it or read it well, as Alexie notes:

Here at NCTE, the Intellectual Freedom Center defends several Diary challenges a year—fortunately fewer than one a month in 2014—and still it’s a book we’re proud to defend.

But the more that we defend books like Diary, the more I think that maybe we educators would better argue with the reasons why our students should read the book rather than rebuttals to the challenge.

Kathryn Campbell, the Intellectual Freedom Chair for the Minnesota Council of Teachers of English,  recently wrote on their behalf to ask the the New London-Spicer School District to keep Diary in its curriculum. After giving all the regular reasons to teach the book—the awards won, recommendations, value for students of a certain age, and curricula developed around the book—Kathryn speaks from her heart as a parent and teacher, calling forth the core of what educators do:

“…As a mother, I can say that my own daughter was introduced to Alexie’s novel by her 8th grade teacher, then later read Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony as a sophomore, and Sherman Alexie’s Flight in a junior/senior elective. Having the foundation of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in middle school was central to her developing understanding of Native American culture, reservation life, and poverty. On a personal level, I appreciated the opportunities we had for conversations in our family about how Junior is candid and offensive in ways that provoke thinking and empathy; about how he uses humor to cope with grief; and about how the book made my child think through issues she would never experience. To this day, now as an adult, she talks about this novel as a cornerstone of her education, and her middle school copy still resides on her bookshelf…

“Reading Alexie’s book, with the guidance of thoughtful and qualified English teachers, provides students with one more tool that helps in the tremendous journey of growing up. It introduces them to behaviors, speech patterns, ways of seeing the world, ethics, and principles — some of which align with their values and culture, some of which are vastly different — and invites them to reflect on self-knowledge and unpack difference.

“That’s the kind of real world, critical thinking we want offered to all our students. Please defend the inclusion of Alexie’s novel in the 8th grade curriculum and empower your teachers to continue to use this incredible text in the classroom.”

Affiliate Super Power

Over 100 affiliate leaders from 39 different affiliates gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, last weekend. They came to learn from each other and from experts on topics pertinent to NCTE, NCTE affiliates and, most important, to their members and would-be members. Four NCTE presidents (and two former presidents), a few Policy Analysts, the 2017 Cohort of Early Career Educators of Color, and some NCTE staff members joined them.

The Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English Language Arts blog, anticipated the meeting with Friday Five: Reasons We’re Excited for the NCTE Affiliate Meeting. Reasons 2 and 5 capture the feeling:

“Informal conversations between affiliates. This, like those informal conversations at conferences, is often where we find out best ideas. Collaborations and conversations with other educators in other states is the goal here, and we’re excited to see what ideas the synergy of our conversations generate.”

“It feels like Thanksgiving in the summer! The energy and excitement of meeting other teachers and making connections in the summer is like attending the annual NCTE conference. We’re grateful to be a part of this organization and to add our voice to the conversation.”

Author, former English teacher and affiliate person, Sharon Draper reminded us we all possess super powers.

And calling upon our super powers, we listened, laughed, discussed, and worked our way through the weekend, documenting what we saw, heard, and said on Twitter to the hashtag #NCTEaffiliate.

I invite you to join and keep the conversation going!

Of Choice and Challenge and Superheroes


Shana Karnes writes about choice and challenge in her blog on the WVCTE affiliate’s blog site.  Shana refers to kids choosing the books they read and learning to choose challenging literature, too.

“I knew that all kids were capable of reading sophisticated texts, making complex choices about when and how and what to read, and that all readers have a hunger for a challenging, engaging read.”

Shana is right, of course, but it’s all-together too possible that “challenge” can mean something else. It can mean that the books students choose to read can be challenged by a parent or community member who doesn’t like their choices.

And that’s why schools need policies like the one described in the Students’ Right to Read  and why we need to know what those policies are.

medina_high07In her blog, Meg Medina describes a visit to a school whose educators used the school’s policy to advocate for keeping Yacqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass available for their students to read. And they won!

Meg Medina notes,

“That’s what a school visit looks like when the students are trusted to read. They have a chance to think about who they are and what they are living. They have a chance to consider all the ways they can respond to what comes their way. It gives them one more tool that helps in this long job of growing up.”

She goes on to say,

“To the faculty and leadership at South County, and to the School Board and to the PTO parents who stepped up for my novel, I want to say thank you. It would have been so easy to give up, to choose another book and move on to the next task on your list. Thank you for having courage to stand up for students’ right to read. Thank you for giving thought to how to include kids who did opt out. Thank you for modeling how to be strong. Courage and compassion are in ample supply at your school. For all the ways your students treated me as the star, I hope they never forget that the real superheroes in this have been in their building all along.”

An Affiliate Meeting Designed to Set a Precedent

This blog was written by NCTE President Susan Houser.

susanhouser3The power of NCTE’s affiliates has been an enduring part of our organization’s long and storied history, and affiliates have played a major role in my teaching career. Today, as NCTE’s president, I am honored that NCTE has committed to a redesigned leadership meeting this July 7-9 in Atlanta, Georgia: the leaders of all affiliates have been invited to participate in one meeting, at one time, to discuss and work towards common goals and NCTE initiatives.

NCTE’s officers and leadership are very excited about what we will strive to achieve together at this meeting and we hope you will consider joining us. We have a fantastic agenda and slate of speakers set for this meeting; remember the deadline to sign up is May 25.

We are coming together with several objectives in mind. We want to

• Discuss and plan future advocacy efforts with NCTE and between states, and develop plans together
• Equip state policy analysts and affiliate members with tools that can help in furthering advocacy efforts at local level through Everyday Advocacy strategies and ideas
• Develop new goals for leadership trainings and future online meetings with affiliates and their common interest/goals
• Discuss and plan membership initiatives and ways to involve more members in affiliate work, providing leadership models that work in today’s world with all members
• Provide affiliate journal editors with 21st century methods and engagement with their readers
• Provide networking opportunities for affiliate leaders and NCTE leaders to develop future programs

While these goals may seem lofty for one meeting in 3 days’ time, this meeting was developed to set a precedent. We are establishing a method for affiliate leaders to have direct contact with NCTE officers and staff as well as SCOA, with the end goal of finding new ways to reach more members through affiliates and the parent organization of NCTE. Working towards the same goals, our ideas will help move our organizations forward.

We hope this meeting becomes a catalyst for working together to plan and implement ways to help teachers at the local level advocate for what is important to all of us – the best literacy practices being supported and upheld in our schools and universities. The take-aways could be phenomenal: a networking of affiliates that is new and exciting, alongside NCTE officers, staff, and policy analysts, working in our local areas together to advocate for the best literacy practices.

To sustain this effort it will be essential to have follow up conversations and meetings in the next year, and facilitate more work together through NCTE-directed activities at our annual convention and in online meetings. While it may be difficult to actually have a measure of success for these efforts, the outcomes will be evident in the kinds of future meetings that affiliates wish to support and the overall support of NCTE goals and objectives. Sustained support from NCTE officers and staff will be essential to any groundwork laid by this meeting.affiliate-leadership-mtg-graphic-square_2-200-1
NCTE President Susan Houser retired in 2014 from the Pinellas County Schools, Florida, after teaching middle school reading, language arts, and gifted language arts for 14 years. She previously taught elementary and middle grade reading and language arts in the Duval County Public Schools, and recently taught courses in elementary education at Keiser University in Sarasota and general education English at Remington College in Tampa. From 2005 to 2014 she held a variety of committee and leadership positions with NCTE. Houser has also served as president and executive board member of the Florida Council of Teachers of English (FCTE) and coordinator of the FCTE Advocacy Team.