2023 CEL Convention Keynote Speakers - National Council of Teachers of English


2023 CEL Convention Keynote Speakers


Sunday, November 19 | 2:20–3:20 p.m. 

Carol D. Lee is the Edwina S. Tarry Professor Emerita in the School of Education and Social Policy and African-American Studies at Northwestern University. She is president of the National Academy of Education, a past president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), AERA’s past representative to the World Educational Research Association, past vice-president of Division G of AERA, past president of the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy, and past co-chair of the Research Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is a member of the National Academy of Education; a fellow of the American Educational Research Association, the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy, and the International Society of the Learning Sciences; a former fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences; and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Reading Hall of Fame. She has received numerous awards, including Distinguished Contributions to Education from AERA; the McGraw Prize in Education, the Squire Award, and the Distinguished Service Award from the National Council of Teachers of English; Scholars of Color Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Educational Research Association; the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Illinois-Urbana; The President’s Pacesetters Award from the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education; the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education; and an honorary doctorate from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. In 2023, she was selected by President Joe Biden to serve on the National Board of Education Sciences. 

She is an author/editor of numerous journal articles, handbook chapters, and 10 books and special journal issues. Her research addresses cultural supports for learning that include a broad ecological focus, with attention to language and literacy and African-American youth.  

Her career spans 56 years, including work as an ELA teacher at the high school and community college levels, a primary grade teacher, and a university professor. She is a founder of four African centered schools that span a 49-year history, including two charter schools under the umbrella of the Betty Shabazz International Charter Schools, where she serves as chair of the Board of Directors.


Monday, November 20 | 8:20–9:20 a.m. 

Dr. Cathy Fleischer is a professor emerita at Eastern Michigan University, where she taught courses in English education and writing studies for 32 years. A former high school English teacher, Fleischer co-directed the Eastern Michigan Writing Project for many years and still leads the EMWP Teacher Research group. She publishes widely on writing pedagogy, teacher research, and teacher advocacy, and leads professional learning experiences for teachers at all levels. Her most recent work is devoted to helping teachers raise their voices to change the public narrative about schooling, especially surrounding book banning. 



Monday, November 20 | 12:45–1:45 p.m. 

Dr. Sawsan Jaber is a global educator, presenter, equity strategist, curriculum designer, and keynote speaker of 20+ years. She has held a variety of leadership positions, both in the U.S. and abroad. Dr. Jaber is currently a high school English teacher and a district equity leader at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, IL. Dr. Jaber founded Education Unfiltered Consulting and works with schools nationally and internationally. She completed her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, with a focus on inclusion and belonging of students from marginalized communities, and particularly focusing on Arab American students in historically homogenous communities. Dr. Jaber was awarded the Cook County Teacher of the year in 2023, ISTE 20 to Watch Award for 2023, and IDEA Teacher of the Year in 2022, and was nominated as the Illinois Teacher of the Year for 2023. Dr. Jaber is a board director of Our Voice Alliance (OVA), which is charged with amplifying the voices of teachers of color to create more equity for students of color. Additionally, Dr. Jaber is one of the founders of the Arab American Education Network (AAEN). She is a member of the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Community Leader Network. She is a member of NCTE’s Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English. Dr. Jaber is a National Board certified teacher, and focuses most of her research on engaging all students in equity work and advocating for Arab and Muslim students. Among other projects, she is currently working on national and international equity centered projects with Google and the National Board Association. Dr. Jaber is a Pulitzer Teacher Fellow. She has been featured in several conferences and podcasts, and written several blogs, journals, and newsletter publications with the hopes to continue working with educators to empower students to work towards global equity and justice. She has published several scholarly works and a chapter in the book Navigating Precarity in Educational Contexts: Reflection, Pedagogy, and Activism for Change. Dr. Jaber has several other publications being released in the next few months. However, her favorite work is being an activist scholar and co-conspirator for justice alongside her students. She brings the perspective of being the daughter of refugees from Deir Yasin, Palestine.  

Tuesday, November 21 | 8:30–9:20 a.m. 

Lucas Johnson is a global leader in conversations about shaping public life and building community across lines of difference. He has been shaped by his time learning from veterans of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., most closely Vincent Harding and Dorothy Cotton, and by his work with human rights activists around the world, especially in Africa, Europe, and Latin America. He brings this deep experience in the lived philosophy of nonviolence, conflict transformation, and community organizing to his leadership at On Being.

For four years prior to joining On Being, he served as general secretary of global operations of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) in Amsterdam, where he incubated a Beloved Communities Project in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and helped to create an Ethics of Reciprocity initiative with the United Nations. For the previous six years, he led IFOR’s Southeast and mid-Atlantic chapter in the United States.

Johnson studied at Mercer University and Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He was born in Germany in a military family, grew up in Georgia (U.S.), and now resides between Amsterdam and the United States.