I love linking up to a wonderful celebratory community, inspired by Ruth Ayres, every Saturday!
I'm probably the last to write about the NCTE 2015 experience, but I'm finally getting around to it after a whirlwind couple of weeks! This is only my second NCTE Convention - my first was two years ago at Boston. This one was unique in that my conference and presenting buddy, Megan, couldn't go with me at the last minute. Because I had already booked a flight and the hotel, I asked my husband to go instead. Now, this is tricky business. I would venture to say most non-English teacher-type spouses would want to stay far away from a convention center full of nerdy book fanatics. However, he said yes. He's a lot of fun to travel with, so I was really happy, but I did feel badly about what he might do while I was at the conference all day (turned out to be no problem - he worked remotely). Plus, there were a couple evening things I wanted to attend (the Penguin Nerdy Book Club party and the Scholastic dinner) that I didn't know if he'd enjoy. Ed's a great sport, though, and I did want to introduce him to some of my literacy friends and mentors, so off we went to Minneapolis on a Thursday night after school!
Even though we didn't arrive until after 1 in the morning, I was up bright and early on Friday. One of the things I was most excited about, besides presenting for the first time at NCTE, was meeting Margaret Simon and Carol Varsalona in real life. These two women have been part of my blogging/writing/reading/collaborating/Tweeting life for a long time, and Carol had been the instrumental leader in gathering our roundtable team together. So off I went to my first chosen session (there are always major opportunity costs when choosing a session - SOOOO many other good ones you're bound to miss and hear about how wonderful they were), The Power of the Newbery led by Colby Sharp and John Schumacher and featuring Newbery authors, Kate DiCamillo, Laura Amy Schlitz, Rebecca Stead, Thanhha Lai, and Katherine Applegate (I know, right?). The first three people I saw and hugged (after having negotiated the amazing but confusing Skywalk system that connects the city by looking lost and capturing the pity of two English teacher attendees who let me follow them the mile and a half to the convention center) were Colby Sharp, Mr. Schu, and Gigi McAllister. How awesome! I got to talk to Colby about The Yarn gift (a two-page spread from Sunny Side Up) that would be coming my way soon. He Tweeted about it a couple days ago that it was in the mail. Can't wait to see it!! The session was just as I had imagined - first of all, it was the first time I had seen Colby and Mr. Schu present together, and they are hilarious! The authors were amazing, of course. Laura Amy Schlitz has a wicked sense of humor, by the way! Listening to them talk about their reading and writing lives was inspiring and fascinating.
On my search for session #2, I finally got to meet Carol and Margaret - what a fun meeting!! They were just as I knew they would be - passionate, kind, and interesting. We could pretty much skip a lot of small talk since I felt like I knew them so well. We were able to start talking about our families, teaching, faith (they are part of my Spiritual Journey Thursday community) and thinking right away. We were able to eat lunch together and then meet up again later for our roundtable.
Trudy Ludwig, Me, Terry Thompson, Carol Varsalona, Margaret Simon, Debbie Diller, Paul Hankins
After several other wonderful sessions, it was time for ours! I had been nervous earlier in the day, but when the time finally came, I was pretty calm. The other roundtable presenters were wonderful and welcoming. I loved talking with Trudy about her picture book, The Invisible Boy, and teaching empathy in the classroom. After some technology glitches, we were up and running with Carol's introductions. I presented my Prezi twice to the groups who came to my table. Interestingly, most of the teachers who wanted to hear my presentation were junior high and high school teachers. Here is my Prezi, if you're interested:
In it, I credit Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts's book, Falling in Love with Close Reading for inspiring the ideas. My presentation seemed well-received, and I was honored and thrilled to be able to present at a national level!
After the presentation, I was able to relax and head toward the Penguin Nerdy Book Club party. Ed had agreed to come, and while he was waiting for me outside of the venue, he texted, "Teachers everywhere. People are holding books in there. I feel like I am in the principal's office." Ha. Of course, as in the case with every Nerdy Book Club gathering, you feel like you're walking into a group of old friends, and you can instantly talk books. Heaven. I got to introduce Ed to a handful of people that he's heard me talk about for years: Colby, Mr. Schu, Donalyn Miller, Gigi McAllister, Suzanne Gibbs, JoEllen McCarthy, Katherine Sokolowski, Brian Wyzlic, and more. Fan moments included a wonderful conversation with Lauren Castillo and a picture with Ingrid Law.
(BTW, sorry about the strange white background - tried to fix it, but can't seem to.)
After the party, Ed and I headed to an amazingly delicious restaurant, Zelo's, and he listened to me debrief. Wonderful day!
Day Two brought equally wonderful sessions. One of my favorites was Lester Laminack's panel on Mentor Texts. He brought along a teacher, Jason Augustowski, who brought three of his students. They did their own presentations and were fantastic! I was so impressed. It was so nice to see kids at the convention, and so well spoken and passionate. We called them "The Bow Tie Boys" because of their snazzy homage to Lester's signature tie!
Another favorite was hearing Kwame Alexander, Pam Allyn, and Ernest Morrell speak. I scored a picture with Kwame, and got to tell him how much my students and I admire his Newbery winning book, Crossover (it was one of my 5th grade read aloud last year, and they loved it). He has a way of speaking poetically all the time - I could've listened to him talk all day (I feel the same way about Kate DiCamillo).
I also enjoyed a nonfiction panel led by Alyson Beecher (I wrote a little more about that in my Nonfiction Wednesday post) and a panel featuring the NCTE Donald H. Graves Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing recipients, which included Margaret Simon. And of course, the NCTE experience is not complete without meeting and talking with authors and illustrators and getting books signed!
My last event was the Scholastic Dinner, where we were treated to a Thanksgiving dinner, a bag of Scholastic books, and good company. NCTE is exhausting, but it is a time of excitement, fan moments, exhilarating sessions, inspiration, and the coming together of educators, advocates of education, authors, students (I'd love to see more of them included), and illustrators who are passionate about what they do. Until 2016!!