NJCTE Welcomes New Board Member Michelle Wittle

Please join us in welcoming new board member Michelle Wittle!

Michelle Wittle is currently an ELA Interventionist for the Palmyra School District and has serviced as an Instructional Coach and a Senior Lead Educator. She is also a college professor teaching writing at Rowan University and has presented at the NJWA conference on using writer’s workshop in the classroom. Additionally she has presented at NJCTE on reading like a writer and using a text x-ray in class to help students close read informational and literary texts. While she has been in education for over 20 years, she enjoys working with teachers and students as they learn about themselves as readers and writers. Lastly, she is  a published author with many poems, short stories, and plays to her credit. Her book, Three Decades and I’m Gone is her Creative Nonfiction flash memoir in which she explores the grief her parents’ death left her in.

NJCTE Welcomes New Board Member Michelle Wittle

NJCTE Welcomes New Board Member Val Mattesich

Please join us in welcoming new NJCTE Board Member Val Mattesich!

Valerie Mattessich is a veteran Pascack Valley High School English teacher and now serves as Pascack Valley Regional High School District’s Supervisor of English, Art and Libraries. Ms. Mattessich has long been a teacher-leader through the National Writing Project, previously at Rutgers and currently at Drew University, and also acts as an appointed member of the NCTE Secondary Steering Committee as well as a newly appointed Board member for NJCTE. Ms. Mattessich has planned, implemented and facilitated professional development workshops throughout the state and across the country. She has also published articles in Educational ViewpointsEnglish Leadership Quarterly, and New Jersey English Journal; her classroom and teaching strategies were also featured in Kristen Turner and Troy Hicks’ book Argument in the Real World.

NJCTE Welcomes New Board Member Val Mattesich

NJCTE Welcomes New Board Member Emily Meixner

Please join us in welcoming new NJCTE Board Member Emily Meixner!

Emily Meixner is an associate professor of English and the coordinator of the secondary English education program at The College of New Jersey where she teaches courses on secondary ELA reading and writing pedagogy as well as courses on children’s and young adult literature. When she is not on campus, she can often be found in local schools observing student teachers or working with teachers in professional development workshops. Dr. Meixner was most recently the program chair for the 2019 Conference on English Leadership national convention, is a member of NCTE, CEL, NJCTE, and ILA, and is one of the organizers of #nErDcampNJ.  She contributes regularly to the Nerdy Book Club blog and has published articles on teaching and learning in a variety of professional journals including Voices From the Middle, The Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, and English Leadership Quarterly.

NJCTE Welcomes New Board Member Emily Meixner

NJCTE Welcomes New Board Member Lynn M. Love-Kelly

Please join us in welcoming new NJCTE board member, Lynn M. Love-Kelly!

Lynn M. Love-Kelly is a secondary English teacher at Newark Tech in Newark, New Jersey. Lynn enjoys reading mystery novels and helping students find their voice when writing. Mrs. Love-Kelly has taught developmental college writing and reading courses, and presented workshops on infusing technology into urban literacy classrooms. She earned a BA in English from Douglass College, MS in Education with a specialization in Literacy Learning and Ed.S in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Teacher Leadership from Walden University.   She often assists NJCTE as a writing contest judge and curator.  In 2018 NJCTE honored Lynn with the Teachers for the Dream Award.


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 njcteblog@gmail.com.

NJCTE Welcomes New Board Member Lynn M. Love-Kelly

NJCTE Welcomes New Board Member Nicole Warchol

Nicole Warchol has been a 7th grade teacher at David Brearley Middle School in Kenilworth, New Jersey, for more than a decade. Known for her unrivaled energy, she is currently preparing her students for a writing workshop with National Book Award winner Elizabeth Acevedo. She previously served as one of the original NCTE Lead Ambassadors from 2017-2018. She also completed the Summer Institute becoming a Teacher Consultant with the Kean University Writing Project. She earned her master’s degree in Instruction and Curriculum, Secondary English from Kean University and has a graduate certificate from Montclair University in Teaching Writing. Nicole is excited to join the NJCTE board. She can be found on Twitter (@MsNWarchol) and Instagram (nicolewarchol).

NJCTE Welcomes New Board Member Nicole Warchol

Welcome New Board Member Lauren Zucker

Please join the NJCTE board in welcoming its newest member, Dr. Lauren Zucker!

Dr. Lauren Zucker (@LGZreader) teaches English Language Arts at Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, NJ, and has taught education courses at Fordham University and Drew University. Her research lies at the intersection between technology and literacy; for example, her dissertation explored the practices that teens use when they read online outside of school. Learn more about her teaching and research at laurenzucker.org.

She earned a master’s degree in English from Rutgers University, and earned a doctorate in Contemporary Learning and Interdisciplinary Research at Fordham University.

Welcome New Board Member Lauren Zucker

MAKE SCHOOLS SAFE PLACES FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING: FOLLOW THE KIDS!

By Patricia L. Schall, Ph.D., professor emeritus, NJCTE Executive Board Member, republished from the NJCTE Newsletter e-Focus, Issue #38, Spring Conference Renewal.

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Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. … Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our society can remove this sickness from our land.” 
Robert F. Kennedy
As I write, I am reflecting on Easter, a holiday my whole family celebrated with eggs, chocolate bunnies, new clothes, church, and traditional Italian food. When the family gathered around the holiday table at my grandmother’s house, the children were relegated to the kids’ table, a metal collapsible table brought out for the holidays. Joining the main table as a young adult was a genuine rite of passage.

 

As children at the kids’ table, however, we were expected to enjoy our dinner but keep the volume down, refrain from killing each other, and maintain the requisite distance from the adults and their conversation. In my family, kids were to be seen and not heard. Joe Giaquinta, one of my favorite NYU professors, once joked in class that his upbringing in a Sicilian-American home was not “an exercise in participatory democracy.” I’ll never forget that characterization of his family since it described my family so well.

 

I was a “nice” kid, and if I questioned the family rules, I mostly did so quietly, voicing my objections more often to my mother than my father, a man who did not tolerate children with opinions. My mother could be stubborn too, but she was more flexible; and, if you caught her at the right moment, more willing to listen to your grievances. Still, I knew my job was to listen and obey.

 

My quiet kid image persisted in school, which I loved and where I was the proverbial good kid. I did all my work and was eager to please teachers, though I remained quiet, especially while going through my adolescent years in middle school and high school. I rarely raised my hand to speak and would answer mainly if teachers called on me. While I might be roaring inside, I was reticent on the outside. I went through college as a student who faded into the back of the classroom, responding only if the professor called on me, and letting my political proclivities hang out as a writer and artist for the college humor magazine, Galumph. Once I started teaching and especially after I entered a Ph.D. program, I finally found the courage of my voice.

 

Perhaps my own history has made me admire the student activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As I watch these students lead the nation in a fight for sensible gun regulations and school safety, I think about how unlike them I was at their age. They remain confident, exuberant, focused, articulate, and seemingly fearless in the face of many adults who aim to dominate them. They challenge legislators and well-funded, powerful groups like the National Rifle Association. They stand up to bullies in the media and especially in social media. Witness David Hogg’s takedown of Fox News commentator, Laura Ingraham, whose program lost many advertisers due to her media tirade against a high school student.

 

These young leaders refuse to back down when confronted by trolls whose vitriol and detached bravado grow exponentially with their virtual distance on Twitter and Facebook. These young women and men know how to use language to get things done in the world. They refuse to be victims.

 

When I was Emma Gonzalez’s age, I shook in fear when I had to speak in front of a class. Emma, however, addressed thousands of people from a stage in Washington, D.C. What courage! She now has 1.5 M followers on Twitter. David Hogg has 737.1K followers. Cameron Kasky, with 373K followers, summed up the student movement’s power in a tweet on 4/4/18: “For clarity–our elders are not bad people, I’m simply saying that social changes like this are so often brought about by the young and passionate. Countless people in generations before us have been infinitely kind to our movement, but we have to stand up. It’s never too early.”

 

Did these young men and women ever sit at the kids’ table? While the “Never Again” movement sprang from tragedy, these students were ready for action. They understand the power of solidarity and persistence. Adults are following their lead. Among those countless “kind people” who have supported the students and their initiatives are parents and teachers.

 

Some of the parents of the Parkland student activists have commented in the media about their continuing need to support their children as they pursue their hard-won mission and still provide them with the guidance all kids need to fulfill the typical responsibilities of students moving through high school, growing up, and preparing for college. Cameron’s father, Jeff Kasky, endorses his son’s mission, admitting, “We’re the ones who screwed this up and, fortunately, they have the wherewithal and the voice and the power to work on this.”

 

The educators and staff at Stoneman Douglas High School share the trauma of the losses, and many of them can take pride in their students’ commitment to a growing movement. As teachers ourselves, we can appreciate our colleagues in Florida who helped these students develop and manifest the literacy skills that have made them nationally recognized social activists. They can take some credit for helping them use reading, writing, speaking, and listening to get things done in the world. In harnessing the power of literacy, these students mastered social media to broadcast their message to the wider world. Parkland teachers  must proudly recognize in their students’ accomplishments that there is more to teaching and learning than preparing students for standardized tests. Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, for instance, credit a social studies teacher who taught them valuable lessons about citizenship.

 

Many of the Parkland teachers, led by their students,  participated in the March for Our
Lives too, while perhaps wondering about their own rights as citizens and educators who engage in protest and activism. The country may be seeing a new wave of civic activism as teachers engage in job actions, publicly revealing their frustration with legislators who refuse to hear their voices as educators and ignore their concerns about school safety, working conditions, benefits, salaries, and their right to more self-determination as professionals.

 

At NJCTE’s Annual Spring Conference, attendees posted messages of support on a graffiti wall and wrote notes and letters that were mailed to Stoneman Douglas High School. As educators, we believed it was important to stand with students and teachers in Florida and beyond. The gun violence that has plagued schools and other public place needs to end. There are more mass shootings in the USA than in any other country in the world. America tops the list of per capita gun ownership throughout the world.

 

These gun statistics remind us that we have reached the 50th anniversary of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Despite the undeniable progress made through the Civil Rights Movement, too many unresolved problems remain. Many residents of cities, especially unarmed young Black males, die in police shootings.

 

The Black Lives Matter Movement continues to fight hard to hold police accountable for these killings. Even people who are licensed and trained to use guns contribute to needless deaths. The concern with guns and their use extends beyond the statistics on mass shootings. As Robert Kennedy said, “Violence breeds violence.”  People need to be safe where they live and learn.

 

NJCTE will continue to support teachers as they advocate for the school safety and a stronger voice in shaping the laws and regulations that govern their work. Professional organizations can help. NCTE has many resources for teachers to build their awareness of issues that affect their professional lives. Teachers also can look to their unions for additional support through the NJ Education Association (NJEA), the National Education Association (NEA), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

 

As I consider these options we have to make our voices heard as professionals, I return to my reflections on my own life growing up in a home that was not an exercise in “participatory democracy.” I think my mother recognized my capacity to challenge the rules of the family and perhaps the world beyond. She had a good feel for her kids’ personalities and a habit of characterizing us with pronouncements about us as people. Her favorite comment about me, even into her old age, was, “Patty, well, Patty is a pain in the ass.”

 

Well, Mom, you were right! I finally escaped from the kids’ table, and I am confident that all of us can do the same. As Cameron Kasky said, “It is never too early.” I say, it is never too late.

 

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New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English
MAKE SCHOOLS SAFE PLACES FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING: FOLLOW THE KIDS!