Friday Five: Reasons We’re Excited for the NCTE Affiliate Meeting

Today, NCTE affiliates from all over the country will meet in Atlanta, Georgia. There are so many reasons to be excited about this convergence of educators. Here are a few:

  1. Sharon Draper will be making the keynote address tonight! A former teacher and now award-winning author, she spoke at our 2016 PCTELA conference as well as the 2016 NCTE conference and is sure to be an engaging and energizing speaker.
  2. Informal conversations between affiliates. This, like those informal conversations at conferences, is often where we find out best ideas. Collaborations and conversations with other educators in other states is the goal here, and we’re excited to see what ideas the synergy of our conversations generate.
  3. The agenda is packed full of areas for improvement with more formal conversations around: membership, diversity, social media, advocacy. Like in our classrooms, our organization always has room for growth, and we look forward to the presentations and conversations afforded by this convergence of educators and affiliates.
  4. On Sunday, Millie Davis & Leila Christenbury will be presenting about Intellectual Freedom, a topic we’re particularly interested in right now.
  5. It feels like Thanksgiving in the summer! The energy and excitement of meeting other teachers and making connections in the summer is like attending the annual NCTE conference. We’re grateful to be a part of this organization and to add our voice to the conversation.

Posted by Kate, Blog Editor and Book Reviewer for PCTELA

Friday Five: Reasons We’re Excited for the NCTE Affiliate Meeting

Friday Five: Our Best Posts from 2016

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 7.39.43 PMThis Friday, we’re celebrating a year of professional development, a year of teaching, a year of reading, a year of writing, a year of poetry. The list below contains five of our most popular blog posts this year.

  1. “Where’s That Diploma? Claiming Respect as Teachers” written by PCTELA’s own Bob Dandoy
  2. “Let’s Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable” by Danielle Ambrosia
  3. “Book Review: Up Late with Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian” by Kate Walker
  4. “Friday Five: Reasons to Watch Stranger Things Before Going Back to School” by Brian Smith
  5. “A Poem: “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith” (check out Maggie Smith on twitter)

And if you’re making a New Year’s Resolution to write more, or to put yourself out there professionally, you’re always welcome to share a post with us and we’ll publish it. Just contact Kate (kap 17 @ scasd . org). We accept book reviews, opinion pieces, lesson ideas, and many other types of writing.

Posted by Kate, Blog Editor, PCTELA

Friday Five: Our Best Posts from 2016

Friday Five: My Top Five Moments of NCTE16

So this is totally my personal list of my Top Five Moments (although it was hard to only choose five), but feel free to add your own in the comments section. We all know conferences are about conversations, and there have been so many conversations today that made my day better–whether they were conversations in line for food or books, or conversations at or between sessions–each conversation enriched my experience. I feel privileged to call myself a teacher today in the company of these remarkable people.

In no particular order:

1. Listening to the opening General Session titled Authors as Advocates–what a conversation. Sharon Draper, Jason Reynolds, Ibtisam Barakat, e.E Charlton-Trujillo, Meg Medina, and G. Neri were phenomenal together.

2. Attending a session by sj Miller, titled “Teaching, Affirming, and Recognizing Trans* and Gender Creative Youth: A Queer Literacy Framework.” This session was small, but important, and I was reminded in this session this work matters so much–but why doesn’t it matter more?

3. Informal conversations as we passed in the halls with PCTELA people: Amy Nyholt, our President; Jennie Brown, past president; Bob Dandoy, our treasurer (and past Executive Director); and Glenda Daulerio, the VP of Middle Level.

Jennie Brown and Jennifer Novotney sign books

4. Talking to the exhibitors who really know their books. The Penguin Book and the HarperCollins booths were particularly helpful, and I walked away with a copy of Jacqueline Woodson’s  Another Brooklyn and a copy of The Red Bandana by Tom Rinaldi.  I’m looking forward to reading these and hopefully adding them to my curriculum.  The conversations at the booths with publishers are always enlightening.

5. Conversations with the authors themselves.  After talking to Sharon Draper at PCTELA about books, and then seeing her this morning, I found a copy of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and dropped it off for her while she was signing. Her face lit up–nothing like giving a book to a famous author to make you feel good. Then, I chatted with e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and had her book Fat Angie signed and we talked about gender-neutral salutations (Mx) and she signed my book like that!

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-7-36-27-pmSo I admit it, I’m biased: I’m all about peace, love, and books. I’m all about conversations with people to create connections, and the NCTE conference is a phenomenal venue for that. So here’s to a great first day at the conference, and there are still two more left!

Kate Walker maintains the PCTELA blog. She’s a National Board Certified Teacher in State College, PA and a former board member of PCTELA.

Friday Five: My Top Five Moments of NCTE16

Books you can win this Friday & Saturday at our PCTELA conference

Check out these books we’ve reviewed here that you can win in our door prize raffle during our conference this week at the Penn Stater Friday, October 14 & Saturday, October 15.

Come for the professional development, stay for the fun!


Books you can win this Friday & Saturday at our PCTELA conference

Friday Five: Twitter Accounts You Should Check Out

Summer’s a great time to catch up on social media and spend some time exploring the web. This week we thought we’d do #FollowFriday for twitter. Here are 5 twitter accounts worth checking out:

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  1. We Need Diverse Books @diversebooks has a mission of putting more diverse characters into the hands of children. They do a great job curating and retweeting relevant articles.
  2. Maria Popova’s @brainpickings  offers links to short articles where she sifts through philosophy, literature, and all manner of texts that she distills into brilliant posts that make you think.
  3. Open Culture @openculture also offers links to different media with lists, stories, audio, and video.
  4. The Writer’s Almanac @writersalmanac posts daily poetry, prose, and literary history.
  5. Bibliophilia @Libroantiguo posts historic images and information about books and authors.


Friday Five: Twitter Accounts You Should Check Out

Advocacy Spotlight – ConnectED Initiative


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Last month, we were happy to kickstart our PCTELA Advocacy Spotlight Series, which will provide our membership with monthly articles featuring  trending issues related to teacher advocacy. In May, our focus was on the newly reauthorized Every Student Succeeds Act and its implications for the 2016-2017 school year. For the month of June, our focus will be on another one of the Obama Administration’s plans to reform education from the national level.

This month’s advocacy spotlight is on the ConnectED Initiative.

A Brief Overview

In June 2013, President Obama announced the ConnectED Initiative; a five-year plan to provide 99% of American students with the broadband and wireless connection necessary to enrich their academic experiences and equip them with the technological proficiency necessary to succeed in the digital age. This initiative promises to provide teachers with the training and professional development they need to incorporate new technology and rich digital content into classroom instruction. With ConnectED, the Obama Administration extended the opportunity for school districts to become advocates for students and communities who suffer from a lack of technological resources.

To see the video of President Obama’s announcement of the ConnectED Initiative and remarks on the importance of technology in American schools, click here.

The Digital Divide

According to a survey administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2013, about 80% of schools and libraries reported that they found their internet connection insufficient in meeting their educational needs.  The Obama Administration has found that the digital divide permeates throughout both school districts and individual households, with the benefits of technology being unevenly distributed across the nation. Students who come from households with higher levels of income and/or parent education are far more likely to have home internet connection than other students. Household location and race are also key factors in the likelihood of students having access to the internet at home. (For statistics of these findings and more information about the digital divide, please click here.)

A Call to Action

Obama called on both the private sector and the FCC to address this technological deficit by reallocating funding and support to provide the much needed high-speed internet availability to communities across America. The FCC Commissioner supported the ConnectED Initiative completely, leading the FCC to reform its E-rate program in 2014. A new modernization order was authorized, allowing for an increase in funding and maximizing options for academic entities seeking to secure high-speed broadband, regardless of location or socioeconomic status. In the last few years, federal government investments into this initiative have led to massive upgrades in network infrastructure, and the Obama Administration has broken ground in its commitments to preparing teachers, students, and families for success with these technological advancements.

Efforts of the Obama Administration

The Obama Administration is leading a three-pronged effort in closing the digital divide in our country: to provide internet access to as many households as possible, to improve technological support  in schools and libraries, and to prepare teachers to incorporate technology effectively in the classroom.

Students who do not have internet access at home are reported to perform worse on standardized tests and to have more difficulty finding jobs than their peers. In an effort to give students home access to internet assignments and online classes, and to provide more opportunities for independent  research, the Obama Administration announced the ConnectHome plan. This plan will attempt to provide high-speed broadband to families across the country, and its pilot program will reach 275,000 low-income households and about 200,000 children.

ConnectED’s public and private commitments have to date provided about 3 million students across all 50 states with new educational tools produced by high-speed internet connections in schools. Over 30 major cities and counties have announced that they will participate in the Library Challenge, a plan Obama announced last April. This plan encourages  libraries to work together with local officials and school leaders in order to provide all students with a library card and access to programming that supports their technological learning needs.

The Enhancing Education Through Technology Program enables more school districts to provide professional development as teachers transition to enhanced access to technology in the classroom. The U.S. Department of Education has released guidelines on how school administration can leverage existing federal funds to support teacher training and curriculum development during this time. ConnectED sponsors interactive demonstrations for teachers who opt to participate in professional collaboration, and it allows teachers to engage in meaningful conversation with other educators worldwide. ConnectED also fosters relationships with multiple private sectors to strengthen the presence of digital resources in the classroom.

How can you and your school district get involved?

The Future Ready pledge was created to provide accountability for superintendents who commit to foster a culture of digital learning in their district. By signing the pledge, superintendents are publicly demonstrating their intent to collaborate with district stakeholders, empower teachers, and mentor superintendents from other districts in their transition to digital learning.

This summer, there will be a number of Future Ready Summits held around the country for district teams to brainstorm and plan out their visions for digital learning in their schools this year. There will be workshops, discussions, and exemplars led by experts to foster conversation about technological growth in each school district.

If you are a superintendent, you can sign the pledge today! If you are not a superintendent, you can encourage your school administration to become involved. The District Assessment is a free planning tool that can provide valuable insight and opportunities for your district on how to integrate technology into effective instruction. You can also create a team and register for free to attend any of the summits planned for this summer. And lastly, you can sign up for updates from the White House regarding future progress made by the Obama Administration to connect America.

In the digital world we live in, it is up to educators and school administration to advocate for the technological advancements and support needed to create the next generation of technologically responsible, digitally literate, and well-rounded Americans.


Written by: Christie Stelljes

Advocacy Spotlight – ConnectED Initiative

Eligible–A Pride & Prejudice Retelling

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld, is part of the Austen Project, where modern authors retell Jane Austen’s famous stories in modern day (the other books include Sense and Sensibility  by Joanna Trollope, Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid, and Emma by Alexander McCall Smith). I read this book in just one sitting, as I was in need of some quiet, alone time after a particularly taxing social day, and it was exactly what I needed.

While I adored this retelling (Liz was sufficiently annoying about hating Darcy when we all know she was making a big mistake and too many assumptions), Ursula K. LeGuin’s review in the The Guardian was fairly scathing.  I guess I can see how some hardcore Austen fans might not love this retelling, but honestly, I think Sittenfeld captured with verisimilitude what the Bennet family would be like today, if they grew up in Cincinnati. Jane, the oldest, teaches yoga in New York City, and Liz, a magazine writer, also lives in New York, while Mary stays in her room back home and works toward a third online degree, and Lydia and Kitty do crossfit all day while still living at home as well. While I was a little taken aback at the crassness of Lydia and Kitty, I realized that’s exactly how those young women would act in today’s world–faces glued to phones and social media, and completely oblivious to manners and decorum.

I’m a fan of Sittenfeld’s other novels, Prep, American Wife, Sisterland, and The Man of My Dreams and I also thought this novel captured what it meant to be human–and particularly what it meant to be a single working woman close to forty in today’s world.

Here are a few of my favorite passages from the reading.  I particularly like Sittenfeld’s use of metaphors.

  • “It occurred to Liz one day, as she waited on hold for an estimate from a yard service, that her parents’ home was like an extremely obese person who could no longer see, touch, or maintain jurisdiction over all of his body; there was simply too much of it, and he—they—had grown weary and inflexible.”
  • “There’s a belief that to take care of someone else, or to let someone else take care of you–that both are inherently unfeminist. I don’t agree.  There’s no shame in devoting yourself to another person, as long as he devotes himself to you in return.”
  • “Such compliments–they were thrilling but almost impossible to absorb in this quantity, at this pace.  It was like she was being pelted with magnificent hail, and she wished she could save the individual stones to examine later, but they’d exist with such potency only now, in this moment.”

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary of PCTELA

Eligible–A Pride & Prejudice Retelling