Field Notes: A Summer Filled with Members - National Council of Teachers of English
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Field Notes: A Summer Filled with Members

This summer NCTE, its groups, and its affiliates held six different meetings in six different locations with hundreds of NCTE members from across the country. We also hosted our third NCTE Reads, an online book club that has attracted more than 800 participants this year.

It was energizing to be part of these events and to watch the learning unfold in person and online as hundreds of members gathered to share, to dream, and to plan for the new school year that lies ahead.

Here are a few snapshots from the journey.


NCTE Summer Institute
Providence, Rhode Island

Led by NCTE Past President Leila Christenbury and Ken Lindblom, this was the second year of this Institute supporting mid- to senior-career English teachers. The 2019 Institute attracted a 25% increase in participation. In addition to the wisdom and expertise shared by teachers in attendance, guest speakers included Kim Parker, David Bowles, Alex Corbitt, and Patricia Dunn.


Literacies for All Summer Institute
Columbia, South Carolina

An incredible learning experience was had by all at this annual event hosted by the Whole Language Umbrella, which announced its new name:  Literacies and Languages for All. Among the speakers was our incoming vice president Valerie Kinloch! Here are just a few of the things participants were eager to share.



Affiliate Leadership Meeting
Washington, DC

Affiliate leaders from 36 states across the country, NCTE Early Career Educators of Color (ECEOC) award-winners, authors, and staff gathered in the nation’s capital to think about the roles we all play in moving the profession forward. The Folger Shakespeare Library, a strong partner of NCTE and English teachers, helped to begin the event with a lively speed-version of Hamlet and dinner in their gorgeous library. New YA author Matt Mendez spoke at the dinner and reminded us of the vital role teachers play in supporting students’ potential. The weekend also included a national membership expert as well as inspiring talks from NCTE Vice President Alfredo Celedón Luján and Past President Carol Jago. Several affiliates provided powerful presentations about what’s working in their communities on topics ranging from reinvigorating affiliates to pursuing robust policy agendas. We left energized by what can be done to grow this work and are already pursuing next steps.


NCTE affiliate leaders act out a line from Hamlet while Peggy O’Brien  of the Folger Shakespeare Library narrates the play.

“It is vitally important to give books, books with difficult truths, to kids who lead difficult lives . . . . Books shouldn’t be just about inspiration. They should also be about validation.”—Matt Mendez

“Each affiliate represents a region and the students there. They are the why of why we are. Thank you, affiliates, for advocating for young people.”—Alfredo Celedón Luján

Over two days of meetings and discussion, affiliate leaders learned about everything from new ways to participate in state-level advocacy to fresh approaches to membership recruitment and retention.

“English teachers have at our fingertips the very best tool for teaching social-emotional skills, and that is literature.”—Carol Jago

Our new ECEOC cohort shared the research they’ll be pursuing this year.


ELATE Summer Conference
Fayetteville, Arkansas

English educators traveled from all over to attend this biennial conference. Here is a map created by Karen Morris to show the reach of attendees:

The event was certainly worth the trip, as dozens of sessions and featured keynote speakers uplifted and inspired attendees around the theme of “Advocacy and Activism: English Language Arts Teacher Education to Save the World.” Among the highlights were talks from Parkland, FL, student and author Lauren Hogg, and author of The Dark Fantastic, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas.

“Kids are looking for that one teacher to make them feel wanted. To make them feel like they can speak up.”—Lauren Hogg (pictured with this year’s ELATE conference chair Chris Goering.)

“Let’s begin to transform the legacy of collective imagination.”—Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, associate professor, University of Pennsylvania, author of The Dark Fantastic, and NCTE member

Attendees listen intently during a plenary session.


Executive Committee Retreat
Baltimore, Maryland

Each year NCTE’s elected leaders gather during the summer to wrestle with big ideas and continue to chart the course of the Council. In recent years we’ve begun meeting in the city that will host our Annual Convention, providing an opportunity for EC members to explore the city and get a feel for where the big event will take place. Baltimore welcomed and inspired us, and we cannot wait to keep the learning going in this vibrant city in November!

The full Executive Committee took a tour of the convention center.

Some EC members went on a bus tour of Baltimore. They are pictured here with the Inner Harbor in the background.


Community Ambassador Orientation
Chicago, Illinois

We welcomed our new cohort of Community Ambassadors at the start of this month with three days of collaborative learning in Chicago. We were so inspired by their ideas and insights and look forward to continued learning in the months ahead.

The 2019 cohort of NCTE Community Ambassadors (pictured clockwise from top left): Jeremy Hyler, Shawn Towner, Michelle Rankins, Christina Nosek, Jessica Hunter, Lisa Castillo-Guajardo, Lindsay Schneider, and Lee Ann Rutherford

Conversations with the Community Ambassadors centered around ways in which we can support newcomers to our profession and our organization. NCTE President Franki Sibberson shared her own journey as an NCTE member with the group.

It was an honor to listen to and learn from this group of passionate teachers. Here, Michelle Rankins talks about her work both current and future at Cuyahoga Community College.


In Closing

This summer was filled with travel and, at each turn, an opportunity to engage with and support NCTE members. Our members’ passion for tapping literacy to improve our world gives hope and solace. It’s easy to be discouraged by each day’s news, but to be surrounded by teachers from across the country who are inquiring, innovating, uplifting, and advocating, I am reminded that education is where we find optimism. NCTE is the professional organization that offers a place for the English and literacy educator to grow, develop supportive networks, and move the profession forward, not in isolation but in community. My gratitude goes to NCTE’s tremendous staff team and our membership in all its diversity for making students and literacy education a leading priority.