What a weekend! I have been an active member of the Georgia Council of Teachers of English (GCTE) since I was a preservice teacher over twelve years ago, and I have always enjoyed the annual conference the years I have been able to attend. Really, my doctoral pursuits really plugged me back into the organization as well as the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). I have presented at both conferences several times in the last five years, but this year was particularly special and was by far my favorite GCTE conference.
I found out two Fridays ago that I was named a GCTE Teacher of the Year, so Friday’s award was not a surprise, but keeping the news under wraps publicly was hard for me. It is the sort of award you want to shout about from the rooftops! Still, Friday, when Dr. Brenda Logan read from my teaching philosophy in a room of hundreds of fellow English teacher colleagues, I found myself excited, honored, and humbled all at once. I have to admit being humble is not easy for me at times. I have learned to own that I enjoy being publicly acknowledged for the work I do. This particular award was so special because it came from an organization I have so much respect for and have enjoyed being a part of for over a decade. The moment was also special because two of my colleagues were there to celebrate with me–Glenn Chance, who I presented with this year, and Ryan Proffitt. Their presence meant the world to me in large part because I mentored both of them over the last four years. I really cannot think of a better pair to share that moment with. I learned after receiving the award that my name and information will be put into national consideration at this year’s NCTE conference in Houston in November. Win or no win on a national level, I am looking forward to making it back to NCTE after a hiatus this year.
This year’s conference was also so special because of my colleagues from my school who trusted me when I told them to put in a proposal to present. Besides the incomparable Buffy Hamilton falling ill and having to forego presenting, there were six of us who represented Lanier High School this weekend. I am so proud of them all. We all received positive feedback from participants in our sessions and the organization.
That said, I had the chance to be part of two sessions this year. First, after spending a good month and half co-teaching and researching in Glenn’s room, we had a chance to present the work we did with visual literacy and teaching author’s purpose through the lens of Banksy’s art and the 2008 documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. Our session was well attended with about 15 or 16 participants in a relatively small room. My favorite piece of feedback I got from Glenn was his comment about how at ease he felt while presenting–the comment made my heart happy. We had great questions and a few teachers stick around afterward to exchange emails. I was also incredibly proud of Glenn. He rocked the presentation. He is becoming more and more comfortable in his own skin as an ELA teacher.
The second session was a roundtable called “The Future is Now” modeled after the roundtable of the same name that takes place at NCTE. The session welcomed preservice teachers to present to others in their same position and other audience members their classroom passion projects. I was absolutely blown away by the five women who presented at the table in which I acted as the respondent. My colleague Nick Thompson rightfully placed me at a table with up and coming teachers who all displayed a passion for identity exploration in the classroom and alternative assessment as well as the importance of counter-narratives in the ELA classroom. I would be thrilled to have any one of those student teachers be in my building!
I walked away from this year’s conference an award winner, but more importantly reinvigorated and excited to continue the work being done in my school. I even got excited enough to volunteer to help with next year’s conference (which I may or may not regret). Kidding aside, I am looking forward to helping GCTE grow even more next year. For any fellow ELA teachers who may read this post, I strongly encourage you to become a member and attend both the fall’s writing retreat and next year’s conference.