NWP/NCTE 2012: Mentoring Matters

Natalie Merchant opens up NCTE 2012
Natalie Merchant opens up NCTE 2012

As NCTE President Sandy Hayes said at the very beginning of the convention, this entire weekend would feel like Christmas: so long in the making, with the magic lasting only a moment.

Still, what a moment it was, and continues to be, as the many conversations I had this weekend still resonate with me. Natalie Merchant opening the conference, for one, still echoes.

Identifying a key theme is always a difficult task, yet if I had to zero in on just one, it would be this: mentorship. The power of mentors in small moments — and across generations of teachers — continues to amaze, it keeps me connected to the profession of teaching and thinking about how best to empower students.

There are the mentors who guide me mostly through the books and articles that they write, and with whom I was able to share a few moments to describe my appreciation: Lucy Calkins, Katie Wood Ray, and Linda Christensen were three in particular that I hadn’t met before and I was able to spend a few moment with each. Others, like Barry Lane, Jim Burke, Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Richard Kent, and Jeff Wilhelm have invited me into this profession as a fellow author, friend, and colleague.

And, now, I am beginning to have more opportunities to interact with my contemporaries, all of whom mentor me in different ways. Fellow authors and English Educators like Rob Rozema, Allen Webb, Cathy Fleischer, Bill Tucker, Elaine Hunyadi, Lindsay Ellis, Sara Kajder, Jory Brass, Jim Fredricksen, Leah Zuidema, Janet Swenson, Carl Young, Sam Caughlin, Anne Ruggles Gere, David Kirkland and Ken Lindbloom have all provided me with opportunities to collaborate and learn from them. Kristen Turner and I were honored with a grant from CEE, and we continue our collaborations around digital writing and teacher education. Friends and colleagues who defy categorization because they touch so many parts of my professional life were all here, too: Jennifer Collison (and Jim,too!), Paul Oh, Paul Allison, Chris Sloan, April Niemela, Bud Hunt, and Kevin Cordi.

Yet, most importantly, I appreciate the opportunities that I have had to mentor others, especially through my work with the National Writing Project. Seven teachers from my site were on the program at the NCTE annual convention: Erin Busch-Grabmeyer, Jeremy Hyler, Beth Nelson, Penny Lew, Andy Schoenborn, Kathy Kurtze, and Amanda Smoker. More colleagues than I can count from broader NWP circles were on the program, too, and one of them, Dawn Reed, has now been invited to be a Co-Director of the Red Cedar Writing Project, a role I once proudly held and shared with colleagues like Mitch Nobis, Renee Webster, and Toby Kahn-Loftus. I met people who I first knew through twitter — like Meenoo Rami, Cindy Minnich, and Chad Sansing — and others who I will now know better through twitter. Also, I was fortunate enough to meet with a number of doctoral students, especially from Fordham and Liz Homan from U of M.

I have now been to a decade of consecutive NCTE conventions, as well a trip to Detroit for the 1996 convention. Over those ten years, I have been able to go from being a face in the crowd to, I hope, a face who welcomes others to the crowd. All of my sessions were fun, but in particular I enjoy the hour at the “tech to go” kiosk and my CEE round table discussion, interacting with just a small handful of colleagues over the course of an hour. These small moments where we have time to dig deep into a number of ideas that will, I hope, help us all improve teaching, learning, and assessment.

As I do each year, I head back to campus to work with pre-service teachers, fresh with ideas, knowing that all of these mentors and mentees, colleagues and friends will come with me. I try to describe the power of these professional networks to my students, but even in writing this post I know how futile a task this really is. Handshakes, hugs, and smiles are the best way to see what I mean, and these are way to hard to capture writing, or even in pictures, as these are fleeting moments.

The real mentoring happens during the other 360 days of the year, when we exchange emails and tweets, create new projects, write about the ones we are doing, and prepare to enter our classrooms again. And, I am sure that I have inadvertently left off many other names of colleagues with whom I met this weekend — as well as those who I didn’t even get to catch up with, like Kevin Hodgson and Antero Garcia — and for that I apologize.

I wish you all well as you step back into your classrooms and enjoy Thanksgiving with your families. I continue to be thankful for the mentoring you have provided me, and the mentoring you allow me to provide you.

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Preparing for NWP/NCTE 2012

NCTE 2012 Convention Logo
NCTE 2012 Convention Logo

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for English teachers!

We are just weeks, days really, away from the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention and the National Writing Project Annual Meeting.

As a way of gathering my wits and preparing to head to Las Vegas in a few weeks, I am listing the sessions that I am presenting in during these two gatherings. I do this not to brag (because really I need to learn how to say “no” just a bit more often), but more as a way to think through what I need to do for each session and to offer a quick sense of what will be happening in each (if you are interested in catching any one of them). So, without further adieu, here is my schedule.

Thursday, November 15th at NWP Annual Meeting

NWP 2012 Annual Meeting
NWP 2012 Annual Meeting

A6: Digital Writing and the Common Core

Time: – 1:15pm – 3:00pm

Location: MGM Conference Center, 3rd Floor, 307

Digital writing is a prominent feature of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. How are sites leveraging this reality to provide professional development opportunities for their service area? Join Troy Hicks of the Chippewa River Writing Project and Michelle Rogge-Gannon of the Dakota Writing Project as they share experiences of local institutes that focused on responding to the Common Core’s call for digital writing.


  • Michelle Rogge Gannon, Dakota Writing Project
  • Troy Hicks, Chippewa River Writing Project

Friday, November 16th at NCTE Convention


Time: 12:30 PM – 1:45 PM

Location: Grand Ballroom Room 119, Level One, MGM Grand

Session Wiki: Chippewa River Writing Project

Description: National Writing Project Teacher Consultants demonstrate ways to invigorate the learner and teacher alike through innovative writing instruction by exploring different genres and technologies while using the Common Core State Standards as the foundation.


  • Chair: Troy Hicks Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant –
  • Speaker: Erin Busch-Grabmeyer Chippewa River Writing Project, Alma, Michigan – Argumentative Writing
  • Speaker: Jeremy Hyler Chippewa River Writing Project, Greenville, Michigan – Informational Writing
  • Speaker: Elizabeth Nelson Chippewa River Writing Project, Greenville, Michigan – Narrative Writing

Saturday, November 17th at NCTE Convention


Time: 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM

Location: Room 301, Level Three, MGM Grand

Session Wiki: School TM

Description: English teachers encounter commercial textbooks, curriculum packages, testing programs, and technologies that often limit their decision-making and student participation. Presenters will describe the benefits and constraints of for-profit educational materials, identifying ways to save money, address the learning needs of students, foster greater classroom freedom, and still reach high standards for learning.


  • Speaker: Jory Brass Arizona State University, Tempe –
  • Speaker: Robert Rozema Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan –
  • Speaker: Allen Webb Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo – From Pearson to PlatoR, From K12 Inc. to Accelerated Reader TM: Profiting Students, Not Corporations
  • Respondent: Troy Hicks Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant –


Time: 1:15 PM – 2:30 PM

Location: Grand Ballroom Room 117, Level One, MGM Grand

Session Wiki: ENG 315

Description: Commission members of the CEE Commission on New Literacies, Technologies, and Teacher Education will hold interactive roundtable presentations addressing how digital technologies can help foster and enhance connections and community in the teaching of English and English Teacher Education.


  • Roundtable Leader: Troy Hicks Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant – The Digital Writing Workshop as a Component of Methods Courses

Tech-To-Go Kiosk: Capturing Student Work, Creating Digital Portfolios

Time: 1:15 PM – 2:30 PM

Location: Tech-to-Go Kiosk

Session Wiki: NWPM Portfolio Institute Resources

As mobile devices become more and more a part of our teaching and learning, there are powerful tools that we can use to capture students’ work and reflections through image, audio, and video. Using mobile apps such as Evernote, VoiceThread, and Three Ring, we will explore ways to create digital portfolios that students can share with you, their families, and the world.


It’s high energy-Vegas style-Come join in the fun as middle level teachers meet to dream-to connect-to ignite at this year’s mosaic! We have lively entertainment, dynamic speakers, spirited roundtable discussions, techno gadgets and fun demonstrations-and some special surprises from Vegas history in store for all!

Time: 2:45 PM – 5:30 PM

Location: Studio Ballroom B, at Entrance of Grand Garden Arena, MGM Grand


  • Chair: Heidi Huckabee New Mexico Military Institute, Roswell –
  • Associate Chair: Michael J. Vokoun Corbett Preparatory School of ISD, Tampa, Florida –
  • Keynote Speaker: Troy Hicks Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant –
  • Keynote Speaker: Bud Hunt St. Vrain Valley School District, Longmont, Colorado –
  • Keynote Speaker: Sara Kajder Shadyside Academy Middle School, Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania –
  • Keynote Speaker: Barry Lane Discover Writing Press, Shoreham, Vermont –
  • Keynote Speaker: David Lubar author, Tor/Forge/Starscape/Tor Teen, New York, New York – The Drama of Engaged Reading
  • Keynote Speaker: Jeff Wilhelm Boise State University, Idaho – The Drama of Engaged Reading

Sunday, November 18th at NCTE Convention


Time: 8:30 AM – 9:45 AM
Location: Grand Ballroom Room 115, Level One, MGM Grand
Description: Here are three of our profession’s ‘cyberspace superheroes’ who are doing things in the classroom that haven’t even been invented yet! Find out what is possible and promising when the newest technologies-including wikis, podcasts, digital stories, and social networks-are used to develop the newest literacies.


  • Chair: Jeffrey N. Golub consultant, Seattle, Washington –
  • Speaker: Troy Hicks Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant –
  • Speaker: Bud Hunt St. Vrain Valley School District, Longmont, Colorado –
  • Speaker: Sara Kajder Shadyside Academy Middle School, Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania –


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