Call for Papers: The 2020 Issue of New Jersey English Journal

New Jersey English Journal, a peer-reviewed publication of New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, invites you to share submissions on the theme, “What’s Next? Embarking Upon a New Decade of English Language Arts.

We seek research and practitioner-oriented pieces (1000-2000 words), as well as personal essays (700-1000 words) and other creative responses related to the theme and geared towards an audience of P–12 and postsecondary English Language Arts educators. In addition to submissions that respond to the theme, we also welcome poetry on the topic of teaching.

Submissions will be accepted until Friday, December 27, 2019. All submissions will be reviewed through a double-blind process by multiple members of the Editorial Board. Send any queries to

Attention NJ ELA teachers: Would you like to write for the NJCTE blog? We would be happy to publish your ideas and insights about your practice or resources you’ve had success with, etc. We welcome original pieces or those that have been posted elsewhere. Please send queries and contributions to

Call for Papers: The 2020 Issue of New Jersey English Journal

Notes from NCTE Business Meeting

printprogramcover-235x300by Audrey Fisch

As part of my responsibilities as President of the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, I attended NCTE in Baltimore, and the Annual Business Meeting of NCTE on Friday evening of the convention. Below, find some of my notes from the meeting, which I offer in the hope of keeping NJCTE members informed about NCTE.

Our own NJCTE Board Member Joe Pizzo, NCTE Historian, offered a moment in NCTE history, a signature feature of the NCTE Annual Business Meeting. We hope to publish his comments shortly on the NJCTE blog.

President’s Report, Franki Sibberson

  • 5 revised policy statements, 5 sunsetted
  • 2 new task forces to study mentoring and the convention
  • 2 new leadership awards – people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ award
  • Advocacy and Leadership Event in DC – 22 travel awards offered by NCTE to participants
  • The 2020 convention will feature scholarships – folks can donate
  • Funding from NCTE this year paid for placards highlighting LGBTQ+ and anti-racist statements posted throughout the convention center
  • Funding will continue for at least another two years for the early career educator of color leadership award

Emily Kirkpatrick, Executive Director Report

  • First year of positive membership growth in 18 years
  • 9% growth in books program revenue
  • Financial audit – highest possible ranking
  • Convention – 3163 presenters, 8600 attendance, 86% K-12, 48% first-time (overall high-water mark)
  • Increase in proposal submissions
  • NCTE Reads – 2019: 805 participants, summer book study, Workshopping the Canon
  • Summer Institute – Continuing the Journey, attendance grew by 21%, veteran and mid-career teacher focus
  • TYCA first national convention – 327 attendees
  • Leadership and advocacy – record attendance, meetings with legislative offices, keynote Laura Wides-Munoz
  • James Squire Center – policy research moving to Notre Dame under Ernest Morrell
  • Registration now open for the 2020 Leadership and Advocacy Summit – April 6-7, 2020
  • Partnerships with Library of Congress – releasing artifacts from Walt Whitman collection, largest attendance for any LOC event for educators
  • Teaching with primary sources, grant-funded $273,442
  • Affiliate leadership meeting Summer 2019 – 31 states (NJCTE was there!)
  • 2020 affiliate leadership meeting – July 17-19, Omaha, NE, to recognize affiliates in rural states and west of the Mississippi (NJCTE hopes to be there!)
  • 2019-2020 new ambassadors – 2-year term, elementary to community college
  • Webinar on Little Women
  • Partnered with Nimbus, a multicultural agency, worked on 2019 National Day of Writing, design for 2020 convention
  • Emily Kirkpatrick – attended Harvard Kennedy School program on leading diverse organizations

NCTE Convention 2020 – Nov 19-22, Denver, CO, Theme: ¡Confluencia! Songs of Ourselves. Call for proposals now open. Submit at by January 15, 2020.

And congratulations to the NJCTE Board and membership on recognition by NCTE for four 2019 affiliate awards: 2019 Website of Excellence Award, 2019 Newsletter of Excellence Award, 2019 Kent D. Williamson Affiliate Membership Award, 2019 Affiliate of Excellence Award!

Thanks also to Michelle Haiken (@teachingfactor) for hosting NJCTE for our second annual NCTE/NJCTE Convention Breakfast. We enjoyed yummy treats at the Bun Shop in Baltimore. And we were particularly grateful to see our own NJDOE representative, Erika Leak, at the meetup as well as NJCTE Spring 2020 Conference co-chair, Valerie Mattessich.

Meanwhile, I hope everyone enjoys a few days of family, food, and reading over the Thanksgiving break.

Notes from NCTE Business Meeting

Register Now for Technology Webinar with Katie Nieves — Dec. 3

Join us on December 3rd at 7:00 PM for our third NJCTE technology webinar. You get to decide which technology tool(s) you want to discover. Based on feedback and suggestions from our previous webinars, vote for the topic that excites you the most. The topic will be announced a few days before the webinar.

Free for NJCTE members! $5 for non-NJCTE members.

Register now!

Attention NJ ELA teachers: Would you like to write for the NJCTE blog? We would be happy to publish your ideas and insights about your practice or resources you’ve had success with, etc. We welcome original pieces or those that have been posted elsewhere. Please send queries and contributions to

Register Now for Technology Webinar with Katie Nieves — Dec. 3

Where to Find NJCTE at NCTE!

printprogramcover-235x300If you are traveling to Baltimore for the NCTE and/or CEL conventions, you can find NJCTE members at the following sessions — and see below for details about an informal early morning coffee meet-up for all NJCTE members! (If you’re an NJCTE member who is presenting at NCTE, and your session is not already listed here, please add the details in the comments below!) The NCTE 2019 Convention program is available online.

Thursday, November 21

  • (A.40) Stories from the Sticks: Reversing Nature Deficit Disorder and Raising Environmentalists via Literary Inquiry into the Natural World — 9:30-10:45 AM, Room 339

Panel discussion featuring NJCTE board member Sarah Mulhern Gross, with authors Maria Gianferrari, Carole Lindstrom, Ishta Mercurio, Liz Garton Scanlon, and Kao Kalia Yang

  • (B.36) Media as Mentor: 25 Ways Journalism Can Inspire Student Writing and Inquiry Projects — 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM, Room 346

Panel discussion featuring NJCTE board member Sarah Mulhern Gross, with Rebeka O’Dell, Katherine Schulten, and Brett Vogelsinger

  • (C.01) Cultures of Reading — 1:00-2:15 PM, Ballrooms I & III

Roundtable discussion featuring NJCTE board member Oona Marie Abrams and many other educators and authors

Friday, November 22

  • First-Timers’ Welcome — 7:00-7:45 AM, Ballrooms I & III

If this will be your first time attending the NCTE convention, please join NJCTE board members Jennifer Ansbach, Oona Marie Abrams, Joseph Pizzo, and other welcoming people for breakfast!

  • (H.09) Nuts & Bolts for New ELA Teachers — Roundtable Session (ELATE Strand) — 2:00-3:15 PM, Room 308

Presenters: NJCTE board member Joseph Pizzo (“Flattening Out the Hills: Academic, Social, and Personal Challenges for Early Career ELA Teachers”), as well as David E. Kirkland, Ken Lindblom, Lisa Fink, Jennifer Ochoa, Tracey Flores, Dave Stuart, Jr., and others

  • (HI.01) High School Matters: #DisruptTexts — 2:00-4:45 PM, Ballroom I

NJCTE board member Sarah Mulhern Gross will be leading one of the roundtable discussions.

  • (I.20) The Landscape of Escape: Interdisciplinary Inquiry with Sci-Fi & Fantasy — 3:30-4:45 PM, Room 319

Panel discussion featuring NJCTE board member Oona Marie Abrams

  • (I.33) Using Informational Texts to Spark Inspired Inquiry in Students and Teachers — 3:30-4:45 PM, Room 332

Presentation by NJCTE President Audrey Fisch and NJCTE board member Susan Chenelle

Saturday, November 23

  • NJCTE Member Coffee Meet-Up — 7:00-8:00 AM, The Bun Shop, 239 W. Read Street

Join NJCTE President Audrey Fisch, board member Susan Chenelle, and others for an informal meet-up with coffee and sweets!

  • ALAN Breakfast — 7:00-9:15 AM, Ballrooms I & III

Join NJCTE board member Jennifer Ansbach, who will present new board members and the ALAN president-elect.

  • (J.08) Inquiring Minds Need to Know: 10 Middle Grade and YA Books to Inspire Inquiry Around “Contentious” Issues — 8:00-9:15 AM, Room 307

Panel discussion featuring NJCTE board member Sarah Mulhern Gross, with Mollie Gross Noel and authors Samira Ahmed, Nancy Castaldo, I.W. Gregorio, Angie Manfredi, Michelle Roehm McCann, Nicole Melleby, Karyn Parsons, Ruta Septys, Amy Spalding, and Alicia D. Williams

  • (L.10) Teachers as Writers: Nurturing the Wanderings and Wonderings — 12:30-1:45 PM, Room 310

Panel discussion featuring NJCTE board member Oona Marie Abrams

Sunday, November 24

  • (O.08) Wondering and Wandering: Biography Picture Books for Curious Readers and Writers — 9:00-10:15 AM, Room 308

Panel discussion featuring NJCTE board member Oona Marie Abrams




Where to Find NJCTE at NCTE!

Review: Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl

kidslikeuscoverby Audrey Fisch

At the NJCTE Fall 2019 conference, we inaugurated a new tradition – the authors’ breakfast. More than 10 local and regional authors gathered to socialize and share their work with NJCTE members and conference attendees. It was a wonderful new event, initiated by NJCTE Board Member and Fall Conference Co-chair Denise Weintraut.

At the event, I had the great privilege to speak with Hilary Reyl, author of Kids Like Us, published in 2017 by Square Fish/Macmillan. She gifted me a signed copy of her novel, which I had the great delight of finishing on a recent cold evening. I know that many NJCTE members share with me the feeling of wonder and delight of meeting an author and marveling at their ability to create a moving, compelling universe in the words of their text. Beyond the pleasures of the classroom and the work we do with our students, surely this is one of the great delights of our roles as teachers of English.

Let me recommend to you, then, the world of Kids Like Us, the brilliant and deeply satisfying work of Hilary Reyl. The novel revolves around Martin Dubois, a bilingual, autistic young teen who finds himself navigating a “general-ed” school and a constellation of neurotypical kids in France while his filmmaker mother does her work and his sister prepares for medical school and navigates a break-up. Martin is also processing the loss of his father to prison and navigating a long-distance friendship with Layla, his best friend from the Center, the special school for kids on the spectrum they attend together in Los Angeles.

Martin processes life through the angle of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time; his friend Layla has an “affinity” to Downtown Abbey. They and their peers at the Center use affinities as a “portal into real life,” and so Search, as Martin calls it, functions as a kind of ur-text, the prism through which he makes sense out of everything and everyone.

It’s a marvelous conceit, and it functions perfectly well even for those who don’t know (or have forgotten, like me) their Proust. We watch as Martin falls for a girl who to him is Proust’s Gilberte, and we see him navigate how Alice (Gilberte) is and is not a magical Proustian character. Martin makes his way in this world, coming to recognize his strengths and weaknesses as an autistic person, and to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the people around him as they do and do not successfully navigate the complex social interactions of the world.

Along the way, Reyl gently raises some fundamental questions about whether the therapeutic model in relation to people on the autism spectrum needs to move away from cures and normalization. Martin, at one point, asks his mother if she would be okay if he were gay and then spells out the analogy for her: “I think the point is that we don’t need to be cured, like gay people don’t need to be cured.” This thoughtful, provocative moment in the novel, however, is in no way strident or pedantic. Instead, what makes the novel so charming and moving is how it allows the reader to journey alongside Martin, and in so doing celebrate his growth and success at making friends and finding love at his general-ed school.

Kids Like Us will, of course, be compared with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Reyl’s novel, however, unlike Mark Haddon’s, is young adult literature at its finest. The novel is first and foremost focused on the young man at the center of the novel. Reyl needs no greater drama than the struggle of a young man working to find his voice and place in the world. Martin, like the protagonists of many great YA texts, comes to understand and appreciate what makes him unique and to connect with and empathize with his peers.

Along the way, of course, readers do the same: We come to understand and appreciate what makes Martin and Layla unique and special, but also what they have in common with their neurotypical peers, also struggling with anger, emotion, and a complicated world of class, adults, beer, and kissing.

Thanks, Hilary Reyl, for bringing me into that world for the space of the novel (and beyond). Thanks to all the wonderful authors who so generously came to the Fall 2019 NJCTE conference and shared their work with us. And thanks, Denise Weintraut and NJCTE, for making all of this happen and bringing me together with more great authors and books.

Review: Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl

Join NJCTE at NJEA and NCTE!

Screen Shot 2019-10-31 at 9.10.56 PMIf you are attending NJEA next week, come see us in the exhibit hall or attend one of our presentations:

  • Bias/Trust: Experiential Lessons in Confirmation Bias and Motivated Reasoning (Audrey Fisch, Thursday at 11am)
  • Using Informational Text to Spark Inquiry in Students and Teachers (Audrey Fisch and Susan Chenelle, Thursday at 3pm)
  • ELA 2.0: Blending Fun with Fundamentals (Joe Pizzo, Thursday at 3:15pm)
  • Google A to Z: Extensions & Add-Ons (Katie Nieves, Friday at 10am)
  • Get a Grant: Write On! (Joe Pizzo, Friday at 3pm)


kent d williamson awardNJCTE will also be well-represented at NCTE in Baltimore. We will be celebrating our NCTE affiliate awards: NCTE Affiliate of Excellence, Newsletter, Website, and Membership. Hooray!

We will also be holding our annual NCTE/NJCTE coffee meetup: an informal, spontaneous opportunity to catch up with our NJCTE peers at NCTE. It’s a great way to start your busy, NCTE day. Look for details to follow.

And if you are an NJCTE member presenting at NCTE, please let us know the details so that we can publicize your presentation (

Join NJCTE at NJEA and NCTE!