Becky Jones-Webb, English teacher at Osceola’s Clarke High School, was selected to present at the prestigious National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference held in Baltimore in November.
Each year, the NCTE asks English educators from across the country to submit proposals to present a program that provides a positive impact on their students. The submissions are requested in December and January with final decisions made in March. Ms. Webb-Jones was recognized with the opportunity to present her program in three breakout ‘roundtable’ sessions throughout the national conference. The overall theme of the 2019 NCTE conference was ‘Hot Titles for Young Adult Literature’ with Ms. Jones-Webb’s specific sub-topic centering on establishing book clubs to create a deeper learning experiences in the classroom.
Currently in use in her own classrooms, these book clubs allow students to select a book from a pre-determined list of 4-5 titles. This gives students more control and more choice over what they’re reading, increasing interest in the book and leading to more meaningful participation in discussions.
“The best thing about this program is that not only do the students get more involved in class, but it gives me an opportunity to address specific needs of each students,” said Webb-Jones. “Book club lets me see who struggles with reading, who’s more advanced, and I can steer them toward books that are better suited for them.”
The NCTE conference took place over four days November 21-24, drawing in teachers and educators from across the country to learn, share information, and hear from a number of diverse and impressive authors and educators including George Takei, of Star Trek fame, New York Times best-selling Author, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. most from PBS’s program “Finding Your Roots.” Some topics covered over the course of the conference included African-American voices in literature, how to discourage kids from ‘fake reading’, and ways to help students deal with trauma through the English classroom.
“Clarke is already providing big-picture trauma training for the staff, but this session was specifically relevant to my classroom,” said Webb-Jones. “The Monday after the conference I was able to put some of the information to use, helping students learn how to better handle trauma through literature and writing.”
Attending education conferences is an important part of building better teachers and better school systems. And to take part in and experience these events on a national level provides exposure to a broader range of thoughts and ideas. They allow educators from different walks of life to share ideas with each other and to bring those techniques and programs back to share with their peers locally.
“When you are surrounded by all of these people who care so deeply about the same things you care about, it’s an incredibly motivating atmosphere,” said Webb-Jones.
Jones-Webb has already developed a new breakout session idea and proposed it for the 2020 national conference in Denver. Her proposal outlines using poetry to foster stronger collaboration and work in the classroom. She will know if her proposal for presentation is accepted in March of 2020.
“These conferences are great at a local level,” said Jones-Webb, “But to bring national perspective and big ideas back to the district benefits everyone from administration on through to the students and their families.”