“Initially, I became a member of OCTELA due to my connections with the current Executive Director, Karla Hayslett. She invited me to a conference several years ago when I was a preservice teacher. At that point, I was hoping that my involvement and passion for professional development would set me apart from other applications during the interviewing process after graduate school. However, what I also gained was access to a huge network of incredible, passionate teachers who are willing to support and push me to become a better teacher, advocate, and leader!”
The Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts (MATELA) has conducted extensive research regarding the theory and practice of effective writing programs, and members of our organization have also participated in the creation and review of the Montana Core Standards.
Because of our collective expertise, MATELA would like to assist your district in drafting a policy that will serve two purposes: • the unique needs of your district and your students, • the requirements of the Accreditation Standard below and the Montana Core Standards that place increased attention on writing instruction, on writing as a complex process, on writing as a critical component of literacy, and on writing as a tool for learning.”
I often hear “affiliates” said as one word meaning one thing, but the beauty of NCTE’s affiliates is that no one is the same—there is no single story.
For instance, on the blog of the newest NCTE affiliate, the recently revived West Virginia Council of Teachers of English, Jessica Salfia writes of how she builds trust in her classroom during the beginning days of school. And, through her blog post, she shares the lesson she uses with her students in those early days, helping them to grow into a trusting community that is also community of differences—a place where writing can be safely shared. She notes,
“it’s time to really get to know the 130 young people I’m going to be spending the next 9 months with. Because that’s the key to building a good writing and reading community in an English class: building relationships and trust. Writing can be a difficult and often personal activity, and for many students, also a terrifying task. So if I’m going ask kids to do something that is for many of them scary and uncomfortable, I need them to trust me and each other.”
As part of her lesson in developing trust, Salfia introduces the theme of the course by sharing with her students Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.”
Adichie points out two important premises of the single story, premises that apply to how to think about “affiliates” and to how we view other groups of people:
“… to create the single story: show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again and that is what they become.”
Collaboration among the leaders was the engine that pushed the theme. Participants learned, talked, reflected and made plans for organizations replete with members actively learning together to provide their students with the best teaching. Toward educators who speak out to their schools and communities about best teaching and best learning.
This blog was written by Dixie Keyes, ACTELA past president; NCTE Standing Committee on Affiliates (SCOA) Region 5 Representative. The people and events she describes here represent some of the activities and initiatives of Arkansas’s state affiliate over the past year.
“I found a great deal on a house near Petit Jean Mountain,” read an email to board members from new ACTELA President Cindy Green, a secondary ELA teacher with Virtual Arkansas. “Click on this Survey Monkey link to pick the dates you are available.” The affiliate retreat the year before had to be canceled twice due to bad weather, and we really needed the planning time to analyze and tweak our initiatives, to itemize our budget for the next year, and just to check in on one another.
Almost all of the executive board was able to attend our 2016 February retreat, along with two past presidents, the newsletter editor, our state department rep, and our hospitality rep. Our NCTE liaison, Dawn, “Zoomed” in to help us design a T-shirt logo. We opened a Google Doc to record minutes and also put big Post-it papers on the dining room wall to capture ideas that popped up throughout the day.
After confirming that we would enter ACTELA for NCTE’s Affiliate Awards for newsletter, multicultural programming, and affiliate excellence, we moved on to discuss moving our website to a new space. After drafting a budget for the next year, everyone felt great about moving forward toward the rest of 2016. Cindy’s preparation and expectations for the retreat provided an upbeat momentum, seconded by our vice president, Sunny Styles-Foster, an instructor for the University of Central Arkansas’ teacher education program. We were excited to hear about Sunny’s return to school for a doctorate in literacy education. Sherri Thorne, our Arkansas Department of Education representative, shared the progress of the ELA Standards Development Committee and offered some sage advice about marketing to membership.
Thinking back on the year and the end of my ACTELA presidency (2014–2015), I reflected on two incredible conferences. For more than 20 years, ACTELA has cosponsored the Arkansas Curriculum Conference, an interdisciplinary, teacher-led conference; university educators, state department representatives, and teacher leaders all come together to make it happen. The conference board is made up of representatives from all of those groups as well as several teacher advocate groups. ACTELA holds its annual business meeting and luncheon at the conference, which is held in our capitol city—Little Rock. We invite a guest author to be our luncheon speaker and breakout session presenter, but prior to the day of the conference, we organize school visits for that author so that community schoolchildren in our state can get to know and hear from a published author.
The past two guest authors were Zetta Elliott from Brooklyn, New York, author of A Wish After Midnight and Bird (plus more than 20 other books for children and young adults), and Crystal Allen from Houston, Texas, author of How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy, The Laura Line, and the Magnificent Mya Tibbs series. Both of these authors serve on the board of The Brown Bookshelf and advocate for more publishing of books by authors of color who write about characters of color. They travel to schools and conferences sharing several important messages, but especially that students need to see themselves represented in the books in our classrooms and libraries. Both Zetta and Crystal came to Arkansas as strangers and left as our friends. Between Zetta’s visit in 2014
and Crystal’s in 2015, they facilitated 10 visits to schools, and we were able to give away 250 of their books to students thanks to a partnership with one of our university departments. We look forward to attending Crystal and Zetta’s 2016 NCTE Annual Convention session, Everyone Has a Story: Authors Advocating for Student Writing. One of our board members, middle school teacher Corey Oliver from Courtway Middle School in Conway, will join them to discuss how author visits instigate and support student writing.
Our affiliate also applied for our first Teachers for the Dream Affiliate Award grant in 2015. We invited kindergarten teacher Brycial Williams from Forrest City’s Central Elementary School to be the recipient of that grant, and he took his first plane ride ever to Minneapolis last year to experience his first NCTE Convention. This coming year in Atlanta he will be sharing about his Teachers for the Dream initiative at the Affiliate Extravaganza session.
We also held two new sessions at our conference this past year: a writing marathon (NWP Style!) and a preservice teacher roundtable for sharing curriculum ideas. Both were a great success, and we know our teacher audiences want them again in 2016.
There is so much more I could share: about our all-day May and September board meetings, where we plan the details and inner workings that make all of our initiatives happen; about two of our teacher board members, Jessica Herring and Aaron Hall, who have advanced degrees and are Apple Distinguished Educators; about Corey Oliver, who has won one of our state’s highest honors, the Milken Educator Award, and who serves on many state department committees; about teacher Tyler McBride, who won our Linda Arnold mini-grant several years ago and is now a board member and our webmaster; about longtime board member Kay Walter, who encourages us all to submit for every award possible and helps us do it; about how our Arkansas Anthology has served as the first publication space for many young authors who go on to college thinking of writing or art as a career; about the legacy of the impact of other guest authors, such as Matthew Quick, Christopher Paul Curtis, Mike Mullin, Patricia McCormick, and Chris Crutcher; about some of the past ACTELA leaders and board members, such as Dr. Linda Arnold, the college instructor for some of us who now serve as board members, Erin McFalls-Johnson, Sarah Henry, Grimsley Graham, and Jo Barnes, upon whose shoulders we stand; about the wonderful two-year cycle for our executive offices that allows the vice president to partner and plan with the president while each past president serves as an advisor to the incoming leadership about annual affiliate reports and affiliate award opportunities.
Most memorable was the year that Donna Wake’s baby decided it was time to be born—the night before the conference! Donna’s water broke at midnight in our hotel, and Jeff Whittingham, a past president, another board member, and I waited up all night with her at the hospital. Donna’s daughter, Mia—we call her our “ACTELLY baby”—was born the next day, and she knows her story well!
In short, we support one another and our members. We listen and offer advice to teachers who tell us their book challenge stories and how their autonomy is diminished in this age of accountability. We listen to them when they revel in the professional networking spaces of our conference. We know our initiatives matter when they are thankful for the anthology. We are all English teachers, although in varying roles. We are the ACTELA board, we are family, and we give one another hope.