Q & A with NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick - National Council of Teachers of English
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Q & A with NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick

Emily KirkpatrickThis text is reprinted from the March 2016 Council Chronicle. 

NCTE’s new executive director Emily Kirkpatrick, formerly vice president of the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), responded to a few questions recently to help NCTE members get to know her better.

The Council Chronicle: What connections do you see between NCTE and your work on NCFL’s Wonderopolis (wonderopolis.org)?

Teachers are powerful. Teachers are the agents of transformation and success.

I’ve witnessed this in person and over time. NCTE’s members are brilliant, entrepreneurial, and dedicated to the progress and success of their students. Wonderopolis’s audience includes many NCTE members and their classrooms! For ALL of us, questions are very present. In a direct sense, we are all learners today. We all (even educators!) have questions.

CC: How are NCFL and NCTE similar and different?

NCFL is dedicated to intergenerational literacy needs: parent and child. Adults and children have learning desires and needs. NCTE represents the oldest and widest commitment to literacy and language studies. Both organizations represent deep bodies of work focused on literacy and language, and they are dedicated to excellence in the work.

CC: How would you describe your experience attending the most recent NCTE Convention?

I first experienced an NCTE Convention when I presented at the 2013 Boston Convention. It was there—walking the hallways, sitting in coffee shops talking with members—that I fully understood that NCTE represents a community of professionals, and that some of the business of literacy and English studies happens every year at the NCTE Convention. I’m eager to build on this understanding in 21st century ways and know our membership is, too.

CC: What’s your learning style?

Citizens of our world must be generative. I’m a generative  learner—always listening, observing, learning, and growing. That’s the opportunity and challenge before us. We can learn and involve those insights in our practices—or not, at our peril. What we know today will be different than a month from now. However, integrity and commitment to people and progress will not change.

CC: What’s your favorite genre to read?

As a lonely fifth grader, I found biographies enthralling. It was there I developed a lifelong interest in 1960’s politics. Over time, I’ve expanded my interest into nonfiction overall. I’m an avid reader and friend of authors spanning biography, public affairs, history, and business.

CC: What are your children’s favorite books to be read aloud?

A favorite among all of us in the family is “Jabberwocky,” a parody for early readers based on Alice in Wonderland. It’s filled with interesting, nonsensical words that get a laugh every time. (Imagine two three-year-olds saying “Bandersnatch” at the same time!) It’s great fun hearing everyone pronounce the words a little differently.

CC: What types of things do you most enjoy writing?

I enjoy writing and drawing a concept. Free flow. And I also enjoy the task of writing a concise business pitch—the challenge of boiling a lot of thought into a few sentences is great fun. My husband and I often copyedit for each other and fight over words.

CC: If you were going to enter the classroom, what grade would you be likely to teach and why?

I’d love to teach a college class on career preparation, which would include writing as a professional.

CC: What do you do when you need a bit of inspiration?

I call someone with energy and passion and ask them what’s going on in their world.