This post was written by NCTE member Roxanne Henkin.
It’s almost time for the 2021 NCTE Annual Convention. I can feel my excitement building already. How can you not be thrilled to listen to Michelle Obama, George M. Johnson, Colson Whitehead, and Amanda Gorman? The theme of this year’s Convention, “Equity, Justice, and Antiracist Teaching,” is so important for all of us. While I’m sad we won’t be together in person this year, I gained so much from the 2020 NCTE Virtual Convention that I know I’ll again be inspired, educated, and renewed this year, too.
Almost forty years ago, as a classroom teacher, I remember walking the halls of the NCTE Convention in awe. I was among so many classroom teachers who were sharing innovative and thoughtful lessons that I was overwhelmed. I wanted to soak in all the knowledge around me.
I went to my first Convention when Janet Emig and Donald Graves invited me to share the writing my first graders were creating. We presented, and I was invited to go to lunch with them. It was like being with superstars. It was my first NCTE Convention, and I’ve never missed one since. I just fell in love. I had found my people.
I’m so excited for the 2021 NCTE Annual Convention. From the first minutes of the Convention, it’s a time to attend sessions, participate in meetings, and visit the Exhibit Hall for all those wonderful books and resources. The opportunity to get discounted and/or not-yet-published books fills me with adrenalin! Meeting so many authors and having them autograph copies of their books is an even greater thrill.
Yes, this year the Exhibit Hall will be virtual, but there are still many opportunities to purchase discounted and signed books. And if you attend the ALAN Workshop following the NCTE Convention, you can receive a large box full of the newest YA books. It’s the best preholiday gift a literacy teacher could ever desire!
Every year the current Convention becomes my favorite Convention, but the two years that filmmaker Debra Chasnoff presented her films and gave a day-long workshop were extra special. Debra’s films focused on all kinds of diverse families and children and often led to groundbreaking conversations for the teachers who attended the sessions. I also was thrilled to listen to and first meet Jerome Harste and Ken and Yetta Goodman at NCTE Conventions. I admired them so much and was thrilled when they became mentors and dear friends. Over the years, I’ve met so many of my literacy heroes and made so many lifetime friends; my involvement in NCTE has enriched me both professionally and personally.
Although I had planned to attend the 2021 NCTE Annual Convention in person this year, I know that I will still be inspired and renewed with the digital platform. Last year my close friend and frequent copresenter Dr. Aurelia de Silva and I watched the live sessions while texting with each other. We did the same with the LLA sessions and the ALAN Workshop. Perhaps the most special gift for both of us was that for the first time in all the years that we’ve been attending the NCTE Conventions, we were able to see every presenter and every session that we wanted to because of the extended time period for viewing the digial content. We texted and called each other all the way through January until the digital availability ended.
My advice to those who are attending an NCTE Convention for the first time is to participate both in the Convention and in the organization as much as possible. The more sessions you attend, the more you’ll learn and grow as a literacy professional.
Then think about joining one of the many committees that NCTE offers and/or run for a steering committee position. You might volunteer to be a proposal reviewer for the 2022 Annual Convention. You might even consider writing a proposal for the Convention, an article for one of our journals, or even a book about your literacy practice.
NCTE is our organization, and the more we participate, the stronger our profession will be. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing you online in November at our 2021 NCTE Annual Convention. If you have any questions about the Convention or NCTE, I’d be glad to speak to you. You can reach me at Dr.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roxanne Henkin is a professor emeritus in the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning & Teaching at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She had 18 years of teaching experience in public schools before becoming a professor at National-Louis University in Chicago and later joining the faculty of UTSA. She has published many articles and books, and has served on NCTE’s Executive Committee and as president of Literacies and Languages for All (LLA), in addition to other leadership roles with NCTE. She is also the recipient of the 2020 LGBTQ+ Advocacy and Leadership Award, the 2009 Halle Award, and the LLA 2020 Lifetime Membership Award.
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*Early-bird registration closes 11/1!