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

Book Review: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Book Review: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

I was lucky enough to interact with Sharon Draper not once but twice this fall–at our PCTELA conference in October and at the NCTE conference in November.  But it took me until the end of December to read Out of My Mind. Forgive me, it was the busy time of year. I absolutely devoured this middle grade novel about Melody, a young woman with cerebral palsy.

Melody is sassy and smart–the only problem is she can’t communicate verbally, and until she finds a way to procure a Medi-Talker, nobody knows the depths of her intellect. I was also fascinated because Melody has synesthesia, they type where she can hear colors for music. (Another favorite book about synesthesia is A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass.)

This book demonstrated how Melody had to negotiate her desires to be “normal” like other kids in her class–like when she invited Rose to go to the aquarium with her family and they ran into other kids from school. The awkward moments were realistic–Draper doesn’t pull any punches in the way some of the other students react to Melody and the other students in room H-5

I was sucked right in to the story of Melody, her family (including her dog Butterscotch, her younger sister Penny) and her phenomenal friends and neighbors, like Catherine and Mrs. V. I admit, I was a little shocked at some of the story twists–I did NOT expect them, so brace yourself for a story with a lot of reality and tough turns.


image from Sharon Draper’s website

Posted by Kate, Blog Editor for PCTELA

Book Review: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

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

Friday Five: Tweets from the 2016 Conference at the Penn Stater

Welcome to our Friday Five (a day late). With all the excitement of the conference yesterday, we didn’t have a chance to post. Today we have our second day of the conference and there’s plenty of time to keep tweeting about it using the hashtag #pctela16. If you’re not at the conference this year, follow what’s happening by looking at the #pctela16 posts on twitter.

Here are some great tweets from yesterday:
A photo of one of our featured speakers, Marcia Nelson:


Some posts about Sarah W. Bartlett’s session where participants practiced writing and sharing work:


One of the door prizes attendees could have won (we have more for today’s attendees):


So many great concurrent sessions to choose from:

And of course, hanging out with famous authors who know how to have a good time is always a highlight of the conference:


Join us next year when we host Laurie Halse Anderson near Pittsburgh, PA at the Doubletree in Greentree, PA, October 20-21.

Friday Five: Tweets from the 2016 Conference at the Penn Stater