Congratulations to the many winners of our 2021 Writing Contest! This year, we had 231 entries! Forty new teachers submitted their students’ work (59 teachers in total). Thirty-one high schools participated.
Five first-time teachers had winning submissions. There was heavy participation in the essay and poetry divisions. A total of 20 judges assisted through multiple rounds.
Thanks to all the amazing students and teachers who submitted work, to the incredible volunteers who gave of their time in judging the contest, and to NJCTE Writing Contest Chair and Board Member Lynn Kelly!
Please join us in congratulating our winners!
1st Place- Essay Title: “There Is Promise of Light Even in Darkness” Student Name: Heather Roselle School: Point Pleasant Borough High School Teacher: Mrs. Lynn Thompson
2nd Place- Essay Title: “More Than a Hashtag, More Than a Movement” Student Name: Allanah Mednard School: Pascack Hills High School Teacher: Jamie Marootian
3rd Place- Essay Title: “A Tumultuous Time” Student Name: Kieran Cunningham School: Morristown High School Teacher: Claudine Priola
1st Place- Poetry Title: “Elegy for My Stupid Brother in College” Student Name: Catherine Park School: Bergen County Academies Teacher: Richard Weems
2nd Place- Poetry Title: “Foraging” Student Name: Kristen Park School: High Technology High School Teacher: Kristy Agazarian
3rd Place– Poetry Title: “on the brown couch” Student Name: Rebecca Guzman School: Bruriah School for Girls Teacher: Rachel Zylberman
1st Place–Fiction Title: “Mirror From the Past” Student Name: Celeste McKenzie School: North Brunswick Township High School Teacher: Carolyn Hassenkamp
2nd Place– Fiction Title: “Two Days, One Step” Student Name: Tessa Rothman School: Glen Ridge High School Teacher: Allison Gallo
3rd Place- Fiction Title: “Two Truths and a Lie” Student Name: Gian Lee School: Academy of the Holy Angels Teacher: Nancy Schneberger
The Nominating Committee, chaired by Susan Reese with members Joseph Pizzo and Nichol Warchol, wishes to submit the following slate of officers for board positions.
President – Valerie Mattessich (Pascack Valley Regional High School)
“In terms of vision, I’m thinking of a theme of ‘connection.’ I’d like to explore ways in which we can partner with a variety of people and other organizations, and ways to connect more teachers to each other regionally, to increase member engagement and provide fulfilling professional learning experiences. “
Recording Secretary – TBA We welcome nominations from the membership.
Treasurer – Audrey Fisch (New Jersey City University) and Katie Nieves Licwinko (Sparta Middle School)
This election will take place on May 10, 2021, at 5 p.m. on Zoom and is open to all NJCTE members. Join us to nominate yourself or any other person and to vote on these positions. In particular, we are eager to find a recording secretary from the membership. If you are willing to come to our monthly online meetings and take notes, please consider nominating yourself for this role.
by Susan Chenelle, NJCTE blog editor, and Audrey A. Fisch, NJCTE President
Thinking of the works we read with our students as “windows and mirrors” has become a popular way of conceptualizing why and how we diversify our curricula, thanks to Emily Style who named the concept in 1988. In “Curriculum as Window and Mirror,” she wrote:
“… [S]tudents’ educational diet is not balanced if they see themselves in the mirror all the time. Likewise, democracy’s school curriculum is unbalanced if a black student sits in school, year after year, forced to look through the window upon the (validated) experiences of white others while seldom, if ever, having the central mirror held up to the particularities of her or his own experience. Such racial imbalance is harmful as well to white students whose seeing of humanity’s different realities is also profoundly obscured.”
Through the work of individual teachers, teachers working collaboratively with colleagues, groups like DisruptTexts and ProjectLit, and professional organizations like NCTE, our curricula are becoming more diverse. In addition, we continue to ask ourselves how we use texts in our classrooms, given the disparate teaching contexts each of us faces, the students we are teaching, and the events of the world swirling around us.
While we turn to works of fiction and their characters to humanize past, present, and visions of the future, our students still can struggle to connect with stories about times, places, and people that are far off from their own experience or to realize that fictional stories are derived from the experiences of real people.
Style’s article is helpful again in understanding this:
“In considering how the curriculum functions, it is essential to note the connection between eyesight and insight. … no student acquires knowledge in the abstract; learning is always personal. Furthermore, learning never takes place in a vacuum; it is always contextual.”
The remarkable array of voices collected by Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi in their 2019 collection, Tell Me Who You Are: Sharing Our Stories of Race, Culture, & Identity, can provide just such personal context for a wide range of works, both fiction and nonfiction. Following their graduation from high school(!), Guo and Vulchi traveled the United States, starting in Anchorage, Alaska, in July 2017, and completing their journey in Charlottesville, Virginia, in February 2018. Along the way, they interviewed more than 500 people and recorded their stories in their own words. Bound together, these stories, each with a photograph of its teller, present a beautiful encyclopedia of the people of the United States, featuring unique experiences, histories, and perspectives that many readers – both adults and students – will not have heard before and/or will recognize themselves in.
Particular excerpts readily lend themselves to connections with texts frequently taught in ELA classrooms. Butler, a man from Montgomery, Alabama, tells the story of his mother, Aurelia Browder, who was the lead plaintiff in the federal court case that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and legally ended desegregation. This story would provide valuable context for students reading Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice; while Guo and Vulchi’s interview with present-day students at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, provides powerful connections with Melba Pattillo Beals’ memoir Warriors Don’t Cry.
Louise from Seattle tells of being interned with her family, and all Japanese-Americans on the West Coast, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, just six months before she was supposed to graduate from high school. While she shares her experience of the concentration camps, she also talks about her life afterward and how she feels about being an American now. Louise’s story is an obvious complement to Farewell to Manzanar. The story of Claudette, a rising chef from Chula Vista, California, meanwhile, provides a real-life role-model similar to the heroine of Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High.
Tell Me Who You Are provides a wealth of windows and mirrors that allow readers to see aspects of ourselves in others and to see how each of our identities shapes our views and experiences of the world. Each story is short, usually 2-3 pages, so it can be easily accessed once a week or so, allowing students to meet new people and consider their way of living in the world. This collection is also a very human and accessible illustration of intersectionality, a concept Guo and Vulchi return to frequently as they narrate their journey as two young BIPOC women talking to people all around the United States. (The website of CHOOSE, the racial literacy organization they founded, also provides a rich array of resources, including profiles of teachers and K-12 lesson plans across all disciplines.) Finally, as we began writing this, we shared in the widespread tributes to Beverly Cleary, who passed away this week, at the age of 104. In her honor, let us continue to give our students opportunities to read stories they can see themselves in, to encourage them to “embrace their too much-ness,” and to write the books that they want to read. And let’s continue to create the ELA classrooms we and our students need and want.