2017 Annual Convention Updates: Local Engagement Committee - National Council of Teachers of English
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2017 Annual Convention Updates: Local Engagement Committee

The Annual Convention is only seven weeks away and NCTE volunteers and staff have been working tirelessly to ensure that the experience is meaningful for all who attend. This work includes everything from videotaping interviews with students who will be participating in our general sessions to providing top-notch customer service to ensure members have all their questions answered when registering to attend. Book donations from publishers are filling up NCTE’s warehouse, and community members from St. Louis are in discussion with volunteers about connecting to our event.

Alongside the content we have been planning since last fall, we have also enhanced engagement efforts to illustrate the anti-racist teaching work of our members.  Today we offer an updated look into the progress being made.

In August, members were invited to nominate themselves or others to join the Local Engagement Committee. Additionally, members of all NCTE caucuses were invited to join. Everyone who applied was asked to take part in carrying out this charge:

  1. Work carefully to understand the needs of local NCTE members and community stakeholders, then propose one or more OUTREACH activities or events to occur during the Convention in St. Louis. Identify what NCTE can do to promote equitable, just, responsive teaching and learning conditions and practices in St. Louis and Missouri.
  2. Propose one or more member-focused activities or events to occur during the Convention that meet member needs and desires to advocate for equitable teaching and learning conditions.
  3. Become well versed on long-established NCTE plans related to diversity, inclusivity, and equity, both for the St. Louis Convention and beyond.

Read the full charge here.

The Committee currently includes the following members:

Local Engagement Committee Co-Chairs

Alfredo Luján, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Middle Section Rep-at-Large, NCTE Executive Committee
Valerie Taylor, Austin, Texas, Secondary Section Rep-at-Large, NCTE Executive Committee
Jeanette Toomer, New York, New York, College Section

Local Engagement Committee Members

Damián Baca (Tucson, Arizona), Melissa Biehl (Chesterfield, Missouri), Mollie Blackburn (Columbus, Ohio), Barri Bumgarner (Columbia, Missouri), Heather Coffey (Charlotte, North Carolina), Susan Crosby (St. Louis, Missouri), Bob Fecho (New York, New York), Lorena Germán (Austin, Texas), Laura Gonzales (El Paso, Texas), Charles Gonzalez (Buffalo, New York), Julie Gorlewski (Richmond, Virginia), Tracy Hinds (St. Louis, Missouri), Laura Kay Jagles (Sante Fe, New Mexico), Rick Joseph (Royal Oak, Michigan), Richard Meyer (Albuquerque, New Mexico), Cornelius Minor (Brooklyn, New York), Jennifer Paulsen (Cedar Falls, Iowa), Leilya Pitre (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), Keisha Rembert (Plainfield, Illinois), Julia Torres (Denver, Colorado), Velma Valadez (St. Louis, Missouri), Allen Webb (Kalamazoo, Michigan), Julie Zurgable (Rochester Hills, Michigan)

The work of the committee is ongoing. They spent many hours in meetings in September and will do so throughout October. Here are some of the things they have put in motion so far:

A New Roundtable Session
This session will take place on Friday. Three topics will be discussed: writing for change, characters of color in children’s literature, and “taking a knee” as political protest (social and historical contexts).

Planning is underway for two workshops that will address curricular resources and the theme of ending racism.

Taking Action
Plans are underway for a public display of solidarity. Both a petition and organized protest are under discussion.

A Town Hall
A panel discussion is being assembled for Friday afternoon. Confirmed speakers will include St. Louis NAACP president Adolphus Pruitt; Superintendent of University City (Missouri) Sharonica L. Hardin-Bartley; a Missouri student; and leaders of various groups within NCTE.

Events external to the Convention are also being planned, and possibilities currently under development include visits to St. Louis schools, opportunities to connect visiting authors with St. Louis students, film screenings, and workshops.

Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick has been on the phone every day with meeting planners, community leaders, teachers, and convention center staff in order to:

  • Allocate staff and funding resources to provide support for new projects like the Local Engagement Committee.
  • Secure a discounted shuttle service to and from the airport.
  • Build a relationship with the St. Louis NAACP whose president, Adolphus Pruitt, will speak at the Convention.
  • Arrange for adding more convention space to hold local engagement committee activities and for permits to carry out the evolving ideas of members and organizational leadership

Everything described above is new or improved upon for the Convention this year based on changes we knew we needed to make in early August. That’s much to pull together in a short time! But long before August, this year’s convention General Sessions, featured panels, and sessions were already focused on how we privilege student voices and literacy skills. Inclusion, empowerment, lifelong literacy, and the power of language were key components of this year’s program from the start, and we believe these recent additions will make the experience all the richer.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more updates. We are so grateful for the time and effort staff and volunteers are putting forth right now. I have every confidence this will be a powerful and inspiring experience for us all.