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

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 (njctepresident@gmail.com).

Join NJCTE at NJEA and NCTE!

Win a Class Set of To Kill a Mockingbird

Occasionally, we hear about opportunities that we think NJCTE members might like to take advantage of; however, passing them along is not intended as any official endorsement or sponsorship by NJCTE.

To Kill a Mockingbird Book Giveaway

In partnership with the American Federation of Teachers and First Book, Share My Lesson is continuing our ongoing giveaway series with an exciting opportunity to win a set of 30 copies of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird!

Open to AFT members working in a Title I or Title I-eligible school, you can enter the giveaway by simply answering one of these questions in the First Book community on SML:

Why this book and why now? Well, AFT President Randi Weingarten’s favorite novel to teach was To Kill a Mockingbird.

“When I was in the classroom teaching in New York City, I used To Kill a Mockingbird as a vehicle to address racial inequality and social injustice, and to spark discussion among my students about serious issues in our country that are still serious today,” says Weingarten. “This helpful novel tackles head-on the issues of race, class and gender inequities in our country, but also shows how ordinary Americans can show courage and compassion.”

To Kill a Mockingbird, first published in 1960, details the racially charged trial of an innocent black man in the Deep South, and its impact on his community, including the white lawyer who represents him and the lawyer’s impressionable young daughter, Scout. Teaching the book opens opportunities to discuss how the novel’s themes resonate today, and also how its 1960s-era perspective demonstrates a lack of voice for the African American characters in the novel.

The AFT edition marks the union’s commitment to teaching human and civil rights to everyone–including students in the low-income communities where Title I schools are situated–and was made possible when the estate of author Harper Lee granted rare permission to publish it.

If you are an AFT member and work in a Title I or Title I-eligible school, you can win a set for your classroom or school library by:

  • Answering a discussion question (worth one entry each) here:
  • Uploading a Lesson Plan (worth 10 entries!) here:
    • Upload a lesson plan that you use to teach To Kill a Mockingbird.
    • Upload a lesson plan that you use to teach your favorite book.

Read the book giveaway entry details and terms and conditionsDrawings are held every two weeks, and you can enter more than once! We’ll look for 25 winners on Nov. 1, Nov. 15, Nov. 29 and Dec. 13, so enter often! Not working in a Title I school? Stay tuned for more giveaway opportunities, coming soon!

Win a Class Set of To Kill a Mockingbird

Panasonic Student Eco Citizenship Project — 6th Year in New Jersey!

Panasonic EcoParticipate at No Cost!

Panasonic Corporation of North America and the Foundation for Impact on Literacy and Learning are excited to announce the 6th year of the Eco Citizenship Project.  All subject area 5th-8th grade New Jersey teachers are welcome to participate for free! Registered teachers will be provided with resources to guide their students to be eco-minded and to engage with their community to create environmental change.

This experiential learning process is composed of lessons aligned to Next Generation Science Standards and Student Standards from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).  Students will:

Define environmental issues.

Create actions to help solve the issue.

Apply actions in their community to help solve the problem.

Evaluate actions conducted and share the results.

Student teams will then write about and visually document their actions in their Eco Diaries and submit their entry into the Eco Picture Diary competition for prizes. Prizes also awarded to teachers!

Each registered teacher will receive a Welcome Box with a teacher guide, student workbooks, eco diaries and more! REGISTER HERE!

For more information, go to www.ecocitizenship.org.

Panasonic Student Eco Citizenship Project — 6th Year in New Jersey!

NJCTE Announces 2020 Becker Award Winner: Adib Khorram

adib khorram headshotNJCTE is pleased to announce the winner of the 2020 Becker Award Adib Khorram, author of Darius the Great Is Not Okay. Khorram will be honored at NJCTE’s 2020 Spring Conference on March 28, 2020.

The Muriel Becker Award is the highest honor bestowed on a writer by the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English. It has been given annually since the 1980s to a writer deemed by the Becker Award committee to be someone who reflects the best of positive ideals that inspire young readers to high achievement.

About Adib Khorram:

darius coverIf he’s not writing (or at his day job as a graphic designer), you can probably find him trying to get his 100-yard Freestyle under a minute, learning to do a Lutz Jump, or steeping a cup of oolong. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where people don’t usually talk about themselves in the third person. You can find him on Twitter (@adibkhorram), Instagram (@adibkhorram), or on the web at adibkhorram.com.

Spring 2020 Conference: SEL and ELA — Literacy for Life

Saturday, March 28, 2020


Pascack Valley High School
200 Piermont Ave
Hillsdale, NJ 07642

According to CASEL.org, social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. The Spring 2020 NJCTE conference theme, “SEL & ELA: Literacy for Life,” invites educators to share their expertise in creating and sustaining social and emotional learning through the English Language Arts in their classrooms and schools.





NJCTE Announces 2020 Becker Award Winner: Adib Khorram

NJCTE High School Writing Contest “Hindsight” is OPEN!

Submission deadline: December 6, 2019

2020 Categories

  • Poetry (one poem, 50-line max.) – FREE CHOICE
  • Short story (5-page max. double-spaced) – FREE CHOICE
  • Personal essay (5-page max., double-spaced) – RESPOND TO PROMPT

Write a personal essay or narrative about the effect hindsight had on your life.

Hindsight is understanding a situation or event only after it has happened or developed.  In life, as in literature, hindsight might lead to happiness or success. Write a personal essay about hindsight. This may be about your own hindsight or vision that someone had about you or for you. What led to the discovery of the importance of hindsight? How has hindsight affected your life? Try to steer away from general observations. Describe a concrete experience and reflect on how hindsight hurt or helped you.

For more information, go to https://www.njcte.org/writing-contest.

Want to become involved as a judge? Reach out to njctepresident@gmail.com.

NJCTE High School Writing Contest “Hindsight” is OPEN!