The following post is by NCTE Vice President Jocelyn Chadwick and is part of a series she is writing about NCTE’s Legacy of Pride.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent . . . any man’s death diminishes me, because I am interested in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” Maya Angelou
“We read, we travel, we become.” Derek Walcott
In its early years, NCTE was an organization of more than 150,000 members in the United States and Canada. As our organization of teachers has moved forward, we have continued to grow in vision and perspective, in recognition and embrace of what de Beauvoir, Lorde, and Gillian describe as difference. The month of May heralds the presence, uniqueness, and contributions of Asian Pacific Americans, Jewish Americans, and Haitian Americans—all of who contribute to the voice and presence of NCTE in the 21st century.
Wanting to know more about this organization I have loved, supported, and on which I have depended for so many years, I feel like an archeologist: I am drilling, digging, gingerly reviewing documents, uncovering gems I never knew existed. This month allows us to excavate so much about NCTE in its early days and view who we are today—thanks to J. N. Hook’s, Erika Lindemann’s, and Leila Christenbury’s research.
With my archeological quest in focus, I found a unique partnership between NCTE and the National Conference of Christians and Jews (now the National Conference for Community and Justice) with an aim of “seeking out Americans whose native language was not English.” This initiative was an extension of the Council’s commitment to Blacks at the time (1942–52). The scope was writ large: to engage in conversations with textbook publishers and authors of “juvenile fiction”; to amplify an already extant NCTE initiative, We Build Together; and to have a dedicated section in both English Journal and Elementary English to foment conversation and interests about books across cultures. A forerunner of a book blog today, these “pre-blog” sections were intentionally designed to be “chatty,” thereby creating ongoing spirited collegial conversations: a blending of individual uniquenesses and similarities, discovered through what we love—books! This cross-cultural and all-inclusive effort resulted in other initiatives for students, too. For example, an award focused on celebrating students’ academic accomplishments, named the NCTE Achievement Award, had representation of students from many cultures: Asian Americans, African Americans, White Americans, and Hispanic Americans. This award yet exists and has grown, even beyond the borders of the United States into Canada and American Schools Abroad.
While some organizations focus solely on leadership or special groups, our organization is committed to focusing on all of our members—who they are as teachers:
David Michael Bloome, for example, was, and still is in spirit, an amazing middle school teacher and is now the EHE Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning at Ohio State and codirector of the Columbus Area Writing Project. Passionate, dedicated, in 2008 David was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame.
Roxanne Henkin, another passionate teacher and also a professor at UTSA in Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching, directs the San Antonio Writing Project (SAWP), which works with South African teachers in the Limpopo Writing Project.
Stuart Ching, associate professor of English at Loyola Marymount and past chair of the Asian/Asian American Caucus at NCTE, focuses on the importance of children’s cultural memory. His research and practice are built around sharing and crossing cultures for greater personal and social understanding.
Members like Jennifer Sano-Franchini, associate professor of Professional and Technical Writing in the Department of English at Virginia Tech, illustrate the membership’s diversity in expertise. Jennifer’s research and passion melds her penchant and expertise in rhetoric with her ability and interest in architecture, digital humanities, and Asian American studies. Jennifer recently was awarded the 2015 XCaliber Award from her university. The provost presents this distinguished award to faculty who produce “exceptional, high-caliber work.”
Like Jennifer and Stuart, Victor Villanueva, Regents Professor and Director of the Writing Program at Washington State University, explores how his own cultural heritage blends with American culture within a rhetorical context. This a focus of his highly regarded and widely read book Bootstraps, which shares his experiences and theories of identity and focus and aspiration.
We are fortunate to have many members of NCTE who are different from other members; we are the better and stronger for it. A huge THANK YOU to Sheridan Blau, Gail Y. Okawa, Yetta Goodman, Paul Kei Matsuda, Ken Goodman, Deborah Appleman, Akiko Morimoto, Kyoko Sato, and Beverly Chin, to cite a very few. And though we cannot list all names of our members representing this month’s groups, please know, we appreciate each and every one of you. Because of all of you—your uniqueness and your willingness to share—“there is beauty and there is strength” in our NCTE.