Providing the Keys to Professional Growth—and Personal Meaning - National Council of Teachers of English
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Providing the Keys to Professional Growth—and Personal Meaning

Typewriter auction helps NCTE member honor father’s memory


Carol Kazmierczak looks to NCTE to provide her with tools to support her professional growth as a high school and community college English teacher in Indiana. While attending the 2023 NCTE Annual Convention, Carol decided to indulge a personal interest—one that has helped her cope with the loss of her father while also allowing her to give back to NCTE.

The keynote speaker at the Saturday General Session at NCTE 2023 was Tom Hanks, who has appeared in Saving Private Ryan, Philadelphia, Apollo 13, and more than 40 other movies. Although Hanks is best known for his acting, he has cultivated a following among typewriter devotees by amassing a collection of more than 250 vintage Olivettis, Royals, Smith Coronas, and other models.

Hanks donated his time to NCTE and also answered an additional request made by the organization. At the conclusion of his keynote, Hanks announced he was donating a Corona Sterling typewriter to NCTE for auction, with the proceeds supporting the Council’s English language arts and literacy education programs. Carol, a fan of Hanks and his movies, was intrigued by the typewriter, all the more so because of what the actor said during his presentation.

“At the NCTE Convention, he spoke as a person and not just as an actor,” she says. “I didn’t realize he was a community college graduate, and he spoke so highly of that situation. That’s something I have done for the last 20 years—I’ve taught for Ivy Tech community colleges here in the Indianapolis area. I was really taken by his experiences and the fact that he remembered his teachers. For him to speak to teachers about teachers was very meaningful to me.”

The typewriter held additional meaning for Carol because her father, also a fan of Tom Hanks, had died a few months earlier.

“My dad was an engineer, and he was also a tinkerer,” she says. “He would take in things from neighborhood people to fix, like radios or typewriters or televisions. It seemed like there was always a typewriter in my house that my dad was working on. And my dad loved all things Tom Hanks. In his last days, he was in hospice and had Parkinson’s, and we were just trying to get him to know we were there, so we would play jazz music and Tom Hanks movies. When I saw Tom Hanks speaking about his typewriter, I thought, I’d love to have that typewriter. It seems like a perfect way to honor my dad.”

A further impetus for Carol to bid on the typewriter was that the auction proceeds would benefit NCTE. A member since 2016, Carol has experienced firsthand the value of NCTE’s member resources.

“NCTE has given so much to me over the years, and I’ve always known I could go to NCTE for help,” she says. “We’ve had a couple of books challenged, for example, and I just knew that NCTE would have something to help. And they did.”

‘So life-giving and refreshing’

The 2023 NCTE Conference in Columbus, Ohio, was Carol’s fifth, and she encourages fellow teachers to join her at these events. She even makes financial sacrifices if necessary to enable her colleagues to attend.

“I didn’t go to the Columbus NCTE Convention by myself; we sent two new teachers and two other teachers as well, so there were five of us,” she says. “I’m at a point in my career where, if my school can’t pay even just a portion of it, I go anyway. That’s what I did with the Columbus convention so that other people could go. The NCTE convention is just so life-giving and so refreshing to the soul that I think everybody should go every chance they get.”

That feeling of rejuvenation has imbued Carol with an enthusiasm and optimism normally associated with teachers who are just beginning their career. Indeed, after nearly 35 years of teaching, she says she has no desire to stop anytime soon.

“If you look for the good, you’ll always feel good at the end of the day,” she says. “I realize that kind of sounds like a rose-colored glasses kind of thing, but I really do believe it. And that’s kept me going for 34 years. I know that I’m a better person because I’ve spent time over the years with teenagers. I’ve seen all kinds of students from all walks of life, and the empathy has just grown in me so much.”

Carol’s passion for teaching is matched only by her commitment to professionalism, which fuels her membership and involvement in NCTE. As the Council approaches its 2024 Annual Conference in Boston, Carol says she is making plans to attend.

“What my mentor teacher told me right out of college was that we are professionals, and just like other professionals, we have to keep up on the latest research, the latest trends, the latest everything,” she says. “And just like a physician would sit down with their medical journal, we need to do that, too. So if you teach English, NCTE should be a huge part of your life.”