This post was written by NCTE first-time Convention attendee Janina Schulz.
Attending an NCTE Convention has been on my bucket list for my entire two-decade career as an educator. I had the extraordinary privilege of attending the Convention in Anaheim with my friend and colleague, Jackie Smith. As high school teachers in the Central Valley of California, on the evening of November 16, 2022, we drove down Highway 99 and continued onto Interstate 5, coasting into Orange County ready to pursue the light!
Every aspect of the Convention was filled with an abundance of learning as I felt my educational philosophy validated and my energy restored. I attended the workshop, “Decolonizing the English Classroom” (W.5) on Thursday to support my fellow California Association of Teachers of English board member Kylowna Moton. Her team’s presentation of culturally responsive pedagogy, intersectionality, and pedagogy of the oppressed resonated with me as I continue to work to decolonize my own curriculum. Their call for teachers to work with students and peers from marginalized groups as equals, agents, and independent learners to disrupt the current balance of power encouraged me to pursue this work with my students and colleagues.
Having the opportunity to meet Javier Zamora and bring a signed copy of his book to my students was a top highlight of the weekend. His courage to speak to us about his harrowing experience crossing the border as a child was so humbling and reminded me what an honor it is to teach students who have made this difficult journey.
One last highlight was meeting Malcolm Mitchell, who has been one of my heroes since he played football at the University of Georgia. Hearing him speak in person about the literacy challenges he faced as a college athlete and how he overcame those obstacles was truly remarkable.
Even though NCTE 2022 was nearly one year ago, the lessons and experiences from that Convention still feel new. The theme “¡Sueños! Pursuing the Light!” continues to be a calling to me to challenge systems that oppress marginalized students and to learn my students’ stories so that I might help them to tell their stories.
Janina Schulz is a National Board-Certified Teacher and has taught English at Edison High School in Fresno Unified School District for over 20 years. She currently teaches AP language. In addition, Schulz is in a program for a Literacy, Culture, and Language EdD through Indiana University. Janina Schulz is the past president of Fresno Area Council of English Teachers (FACET), 2015–2022. When she is not teaching, she enjoys traveling with her husband and two children.
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