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November 25, 2019

English Educators’ Annual Convention Features “American Masters” Panels

From L-R: Sarah Richard, Lakisha Odlum, Jocelyn Chadwick, Kristina Kirtley.

Last weekend, 10,000 literacy educators from across the country descended on Baltimore for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention. The theme this year was Spirited Inquiry. The four-day gathering brought together authors, teachers, literacy experts, and young people to explore how schools can encourage curiosity and discovery in students.

WNET was invited to present two panels, one on the upcoming American Masters film Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am and the other on the recent N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear. More than 100 educators attended each panel.

Led by WNET Senior Producer Kristina Kirtley, the Morrison panel featured Sarah Richard, a high school English teacher and PhD candidate at Columbia University Teachers College; Lakisha Odlum, a middle school teacher and PhD candidate at Columbia Teachers College; and Dr. Jocelyn Chadwick, a Harvard professor, former President of NCTE, and personal friend of Toni Morrison. The panelists utilized clips from the film to explore how blending text with the film’s content can engage students in an exploration of race, history, America, and the human condition.

Jeffrey Palmer and Tommy Orange.

Also led by Kirtley, the panel on N. Scott Momaday brought together filmmaker Jeffrey Palmer and author Tommy Orange (There There) in a conversation about Native American literature, history, and representation. Momaday’s famous work, House Made of Dawn, won the Pulitzer Award for Fiction in 1969. He was the first Native American author to win the award and then it took another 50 years for a second Native writer – Tommy Orange – to be named a finalist. Drawing on resources available on PBS LearningMedia, the panel also provided resources for teachers looking to include Native voices in the classroom. Earlier in the day, Tommy Orange presented a keynote address about his book and the need for diverse literature in English classrooms.

In addition, more than 150 educators attended screenings of the American Masters film Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive, Great Performances: Julius Caesar, and the Shakespeare Uncovered episode on The Merchant of Venice as part of the NCTE film festival. In fact, 3 out of the 5 films screened at the festival were produced by THIRTEEN!

Other highlights from the convention include keynote addresses by George Takei (They Call Us Enemy), Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Dark Sky Rising) and Tara Westover (Educated).

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