Thousands of NCTE members understand the value of being involved at the state affiliate level. It’s an opportunity to build a professional network, take on a variety of leadership roles showcasing our talents, and have a meaningful role in ELA education for students. But, rather than spelling out specifics of affiliate benefits, we’ve opted to have some of our active affiliate members share their own journey—and that of their state group.
Carolyn D. “Carrie” Perry and FCTE
Back in 1990, Carolyn Perry attended her first state-level professional development at the recommendation of a colleague on an accreditation team visit. Today the ELA teacher for grades six through twelve at Prew Academy, Sarasota, FL, finds herself firmly entrenched in her state affiliate.
“I like to think of NCTE as the brain and affiliates as the heart,” says Perry, who recently shifted from president of the Florida Council of Teachers of English (FCTE) to immediate past president. “While I was already a member of NCTE, I was unaware of a state ELA organization,” Perry says.
I moved to North Carolina and then Virginia, where I got involved with the Virginia Association of Teachers of English, first as a conference cochair and then in the “presidential process,” as second vice president, first vice president, president, and past president. . . . When I moved back to Florida, I started working at a small private school where I was (and still am) the only English teacher for our 45 students. It is a lovely school, and there are a number of perks to working at a private school, but . . . it’s very isolated. I miss having a department of 10 to 30 other ELA teachers for collegial conversations.
So she joined FCTE, first as a volunteer at the NCTE Annual Convention, then as vendor chair, before being elected into the presidential lineup in 2014.
“FCTE is first and foremost a state affiliate of NCTE,” Perry says. She continues,
We share the same values as NCTE and strive to promote literacy and language development in the state of Florida. We represent the thousands of ELA teachers in Florida by writing position statements in response to legislative action. We offer to serve as ELA representatives when the state is making decisions regarding ELA instruction. We hold annual professional development institutes to provide Florida’s ELA teachers with quality workshops on teaching literature, writing, reading, and research.
Most of its members are classroom teachers, grades six through twelve, as well as college professors who are mostly in teacher preparation programs, and preservice teachers. The affiliate communicates through its website, its professional journal, The Florida English Journal, social media sites, and regular informational emails.
Perry explains the benefits:
The most crucial reason, in my opinion, for teachers to join their state affiliate is to increase the power of teacher voice at the state level. . . . When educators do not unite, then they run the risk of becoming victims of the forces—the state legislature, the state Department of Education, the testing industry, the textbook industry—that make decisions for them. This is more of a state than a national issue, so state membership is critical.
The biggest benefits for me personally have been the collegial connections I’ve made and the support I’ve gotten for lifelong learning. I could never be the kind of teacher who teaches something the same way every year, year after year after year. I attend the FCTE PDI and the NCTE [Annual] Convention to grow as an educator—to keep up with the needs of my students. I am afraid that many teachers who do not belong to NCTE or their state affiliate may suffer a kind of “echo-chamber” teaching, in which their practice is reinforced by the closed system within which they are working.
This network of educators who want to grow their practice is what we are trying to provide at FCTE; it is what we believe is the most valuable benefit we can provide to other teachers.
Perry sees state affiliates having two important purposes:
Individual teachers touch thousands of student lives over the course of their careers, but teachers, now more than ever, seem to work under the thumbs of politicians who may understand very little about teaching and learning. A strong state affiliate can amplify teachers’ voices on issues that affect them and their students. It is at the state and not the national level that political decision-making has its greatest impact on teachers and students. NCTE cannot represent every teacher in the nation when teachers in Texas are tackling one set of issues while teachers in Florida are facing a vastly different battle. That’s where the state affiliates come in.
Additionally, we know that teacher burnout continues to be a serious issue confronting teachers in every state across the United States. While I love the NCTE Convention, . . . it is the state conference that always makes me feel connected to other people who do what I do, who share similar problems, concerns, and questions. Other teachers who laugh and cry and worry over their students. It is the state conference that brings me the most energy to get back into the trenches and keep doing what I’ve been doing for over 30 years now.
How to Get Involved
For those interested in affiliate leadership, most elected positions in state affiliates include the presidential chain—second vice president to first vice president to president to past president—treasurer; executive secretary; and recording secretary. Other positions may include webmaster, historian, vendor chair, public relations chair, parliamentarian, awards chair, nominations chair, and college, high school, middle school, and elementary school members-at-large.
We hope you’ll find inspiration in our affiliates’ efforts. If you’re involved at the state level, thank you! If you’re not, contact your affiliate so you can join in. If you need some help figuring out who to contact, visit the Affiliate page on the NCTE website.
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.