Two Exciting Opportunities from NJCTE!

Help us plan NJCTE’s Spring Conference 2023!
We need to hear from you, our members, to help finalize key details in our planning! Please take this brief survey and let your voice be heard! Also email us directly if you’d like to be even more involved with our conference planning.

We are thrilled to announce an exciting virtual workshop with Berit Gordon on October 6. See below and register here!

Berit Gordon

Get to a Well-Managed Classroom While Avoiding “Management”

We may work tremendously hard to manage our classroom, and still, our energy is sapped by directing and redirecting our students. This webinar will share 15 practical strategies that help you put your energy into teaching and students’ energy into learning. The goal is to avoid the exhausting task of “management” and build a culture where everyone thrives. (And maybe, just maybe, find a bit more joy in our teaching lives.)

Two Exciting Opportunities from NJCTE!

Register Today for NJCTE Summer Virtual Professional Development Sessions

Beat the heat this summer with lots of learning options to inspire you — our presenters are offering condensed, virtual versions of their spring conference sessions to benefit NJ educators this summer.

Join one, a few or all of the sessions — they are free to NJCTE members and only $5 for non-members! You can register for the sessions at the links below. Note that sessions will only run with five or more participants, so please be purposeful in your responses so that presenters can plan accordingly. We welcome your participation and enthusiasm at some or all of these awesome sessions this summer!

Thursday, July 16, 3pm, Janice Alvarez: This presentation will use various pieces of culturally responsive literature to demonstrate various lesson activities that will increase student motivation and achievement. Cornelius Minor’s book, We Got This, will be referenced and teachers will leave with tangible lesson ideas and a bibliography of culturally responsive and appropriate mentor texts.

Monday, July 20, 10am, Kristie-Anne Opaleski: There are a myriad of effective SEL programs available for the elementary and the middle school classrooms. However, options are limited for high school teachers though teens need this instruction equally, if not more. As the District SEL coordinator and instructional coach, I created SEL in the Secondary English Classroom for my high school colleagues encouraging them to try feasible and simple ways to integrate social-emotional learning in their English classes. Our district had a felt need at both high schools that all students, regardless of their academic level, needed coping skills; consequently, I created this Google Slide presentation as a springboard to start teaching SEL skills, specifically self-awareness and self-management to teens. The focus is on what teachers are already doing and capitalizing on ways to do it better. Most teachers care about their students, therefore some of these techniques are more of reminders than methods. I presented this to 40 high school English teachers and 95% of those surveyed felt like they could employ at least one of the strategies presented the next day.

Wednesday, July 22, 10:30am, Kate Overgaard: During this session, I will discuss the outline for implementing First Chapter Friday in classes, from elementary through college. The idea is to provide students with exposure to various texts and potentially open them up to different types of readings. I will share the list of readings used thus far and, provide sample lists for each grade level (elementary, middle, high school, college), etc.

Tuesday, July 28, 10am, Joe Pizzo: ELA Meets SEL 2.0 inspires ELA teachers to combine various strategies that infuse the fundamentals with fun wrapped in an envelope of SEL principles encouraging voice and choice. Participants will learn ways to connect with their students right from the first day of classes. The featured project is Character Comfort, an activity being featured in Shelby Witte’s new book for NCTE. The chance to create a Professional Learning Network (PLN) designed to continue the workshop experience will be offered. Bring your device, your energy, and your creativity!

Wednesday, July 29, 4pm, Mr. & Mrs. Krapels: As teachers, we all can probably recognize that student stress and anxiety levels seem to be increasing every year—especially when it comes to their grades. While this stress may be related and exacerbated by a number of factors, it’s evident that more and more, some students see their identities and their grade point averages as one and the same. Often, learning and reflection can take a backseat to the letters on their report card. This session aims to help teachers in the ELA classroom combat the obsession over grades by providing three replicable methods for teachers’ own classrooms. Because many of us teach in traditional schools that still rely on traditional grading methods and reporting, this session does not aim to help teachers “throw out grades.” Instead, its aims are to provide teachers with ideas that can help them challenge the traditional grading system while still providing the traditional letter-grade reporting that is required of so many of us. More importantly, this session will introduce participants to practices that if employed in their own classes, may help positively change students’ mindsets around grading and assessment.

Monday, August 3, 10am, Emily Meixner: In this session, the presenters will introduce the idea of reading “frames” and provide examples of how these frames can guide teachers’ use of whole class texts. Despite changing school demographics as well as an intensified awareness of the increasing social emotional needs of secondary students, the way in which English teachers “teach books” looks very much like it has for decades. The goal in this session is to model for teachers how they might identify and teach reading “frames” to provide students with not only greater purpose, but also with increased autonomy over how they read. Come prepared to reconsider texts you currently teach and/or imagine how you might approach new texts you’d like to explore with your students.

Thursday, August 6, 4pm, Bryan Weber: This presentation will introduce teachers to creative ways to build empathy in their students. Bryan will demonstrate how the use of critical lenses and creative assessments can foster greater understanding of diverse perspectives and experiences. Bryan will provide examples of actual activities he has used in his high school ELA classroom that assist students to feel and show empathy for others, especially with regards to women, individuals on the autism spectrum, and refugees.

Wednesday, August 19, 10am, Berit Gordon: How do we get to more joy and less struggle in a profession where people put in such tremendous effort and do such essential work? No matter what supports you might have in your school or district, you can take charge of your teacher growth and craft your own learning journey. This workshop will show that the expert is already in you, and will offer you some hands-on strategies/guidance you need and crave in order to become the high-impact teacher every student deserves. This workshop will provide a structure to help K–12 teachers reflect on your own professional development needs, set goals that work for you and your students, and access a host of practical strategies that will help you meet that goal. We will look at self-assessment checklists to help you find your own entry point. Once you have determined which goal you want to start with, you will look at the list of strategies and choose one to try.

Friday, August, 21, 10am, Colleen Potter: In our new hybrid world, digital portfolios are becoming an increasingly relevant tool for educators looking for ways to empower their students to communicate evidence of learning anywhere, anytime. Student-driven digital portfolios serve to document student learning and are a valuable space for prompting student reflection to integrate more thoughtful SEL education into the classroom. By capturing learning as it happens with audio, video, files from the cloud, readings, and artifacts from the ELA classroom, teachers can challenge students to reflect on their learning, feelings, and areas of improvement. This session will give a technology-agnostic overview of how digital portfolios can be used to capture learning and demonstrate social and emotional learning.

Register Today for NJCTE Summer Virtual Professional Development Sessions

Upcoming Virtual PD


The New Jersey Department of Education is partnering with Newsela to host a series of free webinars designed to help teachers maximize the use of Newsela as an instructional tool. Newsela is a cross-curricular online resource that provides high-quality news articles at varying reading levels for students. Access to Newsela and its subscription services are free to educators through the 2019-2020 school year.

The first webinar will equip teachers of grades 3-6 with effective online teaching strategies such as addressing multiple skills through one assignment and blending the varying student needs such as ELL instruction, SEL strategies as well as accommodating the special needs of learners. This webinar will be offered twice: once on Tuesday, May 5, and again on Thursday, May 7. Both will begin at 3:00 p.m. The links for registration can be accessed here:

May 5 Webinar: Remote Instruction for Grades 3-6 with Newsela (free resource to NJ educators)

May 7 Webinar: Remote Instruction for Grades 3-6 with Newsela (free resource to NJ educators)

Webinar participants will receive a certificate documenting 1 hour of professional development.


Climate Generation is hosting several events in May to celebrate Earth Day and to support ELA teachers in their transition to virtual learning. Climate generation strives to engage and empower educators and youth in climate change solutions.

Webinar: Using Storytelling and Literature to Build Student Engagement and Connection During a Global Crisis
Thursday, May 7, at 1pm ET
Join on Zoom to find new resources and lessons, and to hear how storytelling, Climate Fiction (CliFi), and writing can increase student engagement and connection during global crises.


Upcoming Virtual PD

It may be August, but it’s not too late for summer PD!

by Emily Meixner

In some states around the country, students and teachers are already heading back to school.  Luckily, in New Jersey, we still have a few more weeks before our official, usually post-Labor Day start date. If you’re like me, the last few weeks in August can get lost in a haze of school shopping, panicked planning, and attempts to squeeze out a few more minutes with family and friends.  August doesn’t always seem like the perfect time to pack in some personal professional development. And yet…

There are still ways to make use of these last few weeks that can contribute to our professional growth as teachers as well as our students’ learning during the next school year.  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Put together a list of the first 10 books you want to book talk or (if you love and use picture books) read aloud to your students. These could be books you read over the summer or books your students loved last year. Sometimes having books pre-selected takes the pressure off. It’s one less thing you have to think about during those first few weeks of school, and knowing which books you want to book talk will help you establish a culture of reading with your students. 
  2. Find a new professional blog or teaching resource website that you enjoy.  Maybe you’re addicted to children’s and YA literature. If so, check out The Nerdy Book Club blog.  Maybe you love current events. If that’s the case, you might enjoy The Learning Network from The New York Times. Other possibilities include Edutopia, Cult of Pedagogy, Disrupt Texts, Moving Writers, Teaching for Change, Welcoming Schools, Teaching Tolerance, The Educator Collaborative, and many many more. All of these sites are thoughtfully curated and can support the teaching you want to do or are already doing. 
  3. Seek out and follow a new hashtag on Twitter. You could decide to follow something local like #njcte, #nerdcampnj, #njamle, #njliteracy, or #njela. Or, maybe you want to try a larger organization like #ncte, #NCTEVillage, #CELchat, #TheEdCollab or #ProjectLitBookClub. Or, maybe you want to follow the conversations that are happening with #DisruptTexts, #BuildYourStack, #ClearTheAir, #educolor, or #futurereadylibs Whatever you choose, you’ll find yourself meeting educators from all over the country who are excited about their work, asking important questions, and sharing ideas.
  4. Stalk or (better yet) participate in a Twitter Chat.  Some chats only last 30 minutes; others last an hour. Many of the hashtags listed above host regular (either weekly or monthly chats) as do groups like #mgbookchat or #titletalk This is another great way to meet other like-minded, like-spirited teachers. And, these chats can provide inspiration and new resources when the teacher well starts to run dry later in the year.
  5. Learn how to use a new digital tool. Maybe this is the year you’re finally going to give FlipGrid a go, or maybe you want to try your hand at screencasting (if you have Chromebooks, Screencastify is super easy).  Or, maybe like me, you’re curious about voice recording as a way to generate or give feedback on student writing. Whatever your interest might be, pick a tool and try it. If you hate it, your students will never know.  If you love it, you’ll know how to use it when school begins!
  6. Commit yourself to finishing one more book.  This could be fiction, non-fiction, YA, or a professional book you’ve been meaning to get to. It really doesn’t matter if you read this book or listen to it. Both count. What matters is the act of engaging in the exact literacy practices you want to cultivate in your students. 
  7. Organize a book club for the fall with friends or colleagues. Sometimes it’s hard to keep reading once the school year starts because life gets crazy. Organizing or hosting a book club can help and provide some much needed time to learn while also unwinding with friends or colleagues (food and fun are a must!). Maybe there’s a book you and some of your colleagues are thinking about teaching, or maybe there’s something you’ve been dying to read. Or, maybe there’s a problem at school that a professional development book can help you and other teachers start to solve. Pick a book, invite some people, and go for it!
  8. Finally…before this list gets too long…Find a local or national conference or PD institute you’d like to attend and put it on your calendar. Think big and ask for help from your school. Particularly if you want to attend something like the annual NCTE convention or a summer institute of some sort, asking administrators months in advance can be advantageous. If they can’t or won’t commit the resources, then look locally.  NJCTE offers two inexpensive conference every year, one in the fall and one in the spring. Both are great. 

So, even though it’s already August, it’s not too late!  There’s still time to get inspired and grow professionally.  

Here’s to a great school year!

Emily Meixner is an Associate Professor of English at The College of New Jersey where she serves as the coordinator of the Secondary English Education Program.

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


It may be August, but it’s not too late for summer PD!

Summer Professional Development Opportunity

We are sharing the following as an opportunity that might interest NJCTE members and other NJ educators.

NJAMLE is offering three half-day morning PD sessions this summer in the north central, and southern part of NJ. Middle level teachers and administrators from all disciplines will have the opportunity to learn from some of the best middle level educators who will share their best practices. In addition to workshops sponsored by NJ Literacy Association,  NJ Future Ready Schools, and NJ Schools to Watch, teaching tips, strategies, and resources will be explored in the areas of coding digital literacy, student choice, differentiation, and more. In addition, NJCTE Board Member Joe Pizzo will share his 44 years of classroom experience as he demonstrates various methods to blend fun with the fundamentals in ELA classrooms through cross-curricular and skill-specific activities.  Learn, connect, and share this summer with other Middle Level educators. Come spend the morning discussing hot Middle School topics such as:

  • NJ Literacy Association
  • NJ Future Ready Schools
  • NJ Schools to Watch
  • Google Tools & Tricks
  • Computational Thinking & Coding
  • The Student-Centered Classroom
  • Math Instruction in the Middle
  • Formative Assessment Strategies
  • Digital Literacy & Connected Reading
  • Improving Literacy with Text Sets
  • Empowering the Struggling Learner
  • Student Choice through PBL
  • Integrating STEM Throughout the Curriculum
  • Positive Behavior Supports in School (PBSIS)
  • Technology Integration & Application Ideas
  • Differentiation Strategies that Work

These workshops will be held throughout New Jersey during July and August. There is no cost for NJAMLE individual members, for faculty at a school that has a membership, and for pre-service teachers. Non-members will be charged $20. For more information, go to

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Summer Professional Development Opportunity