Old Westbury Student Presentations at NCTE 2014 Annual Convention

Old Westbury Student Presentations at NCTE 2014 Annual Convention, Written by Dr. Nicole Sieben

“The best-kept secret in American education is the daily genius of the teachers in our classrooms.”

—Ernest Morrell, Presidential Address, NCTE Annual Convention 2014

On Friday, November 21, 2014 SUNY College at Old Westbury graduate students in the Masters in Teaching English program traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the 104th  National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention, “Story as the Landscape of Knowing,” at which over 7,000 K-16 English teachers met to “examine the power of story as the landscape within which we map the significance of experience and build towers of knowledge.” As NCTE has said, “Stories saturate our lives, woven so tightly into the fabric of the everyday that it’s easy to overlook their value as a way of knowing the world. They are the glue that creates community and binds us together around common purposes and values.” At SUNY Old Westbury, our students also create community through story telling by analyzing great works of literature, writing critical reflection and research papers, and creating innovative curricula. At the 2014 NCTE Annual Convention, three of our SUNY College at Old Westbury students had the opportunity to share their stories with the national professional community of English teachers.

As NCTE president and Columbia University professor, Dr. Ernest Morrell, shared in his presidential keynote address at the annual convention, NCTE is the oldest, most historic literacy organization in this country.  This November, our graduate students became a part of NCTE’s history and undoubtedly, its future. After working hard to prepare their presentations under the guidance of their English education professor, Dr. Nicole Sieben, the students arrived at the conference eager to share their work and network with other graduate students, English teachers, and scholars in the field. On Saturday, November 22, 2014, SUNY College at Old Westbury English Education graduate students–Griselda Ureña, Lindsey Johnston, and Jennifer Rollo– presented their research projects at the NCTE conference session “The Future is Now: Exploring 21st Century Teaching Ideas with the Next Generation of English Teachers.”  Griselda, Lindsey, and Jennifer presented alongside graduate students from 14 other universities across the country to an audience of over 130 attendees.

Our English teacher candidates represented the stories of SUNY Old Westbury education students and English majors as well as the stories of the students in the secondary English language arts classrooms in which they are observing. Jennifer Rollo’s presentation titled, “The Search for Identity through Inner Conflict in Hamlet” described the literary significance of this Shakespearean work and provided strategies for teaching the play to secondary school students in engaging ways.  Lindsey Johnston’s presentation, “Writing Connections: The Importance of Cross-Curricular Literacy,” detailed the importance of teaching writing across the curriculum in all school subjects in conjunction with teaching writing in English language arts classes. In Griselda Ureña’s presentation, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: A Pairing of Young Adult Literature with Canonical Classics to Promote Student Engagement,” Griselda shared strategies for pairing influential works of Young Adult literature with critical canonical texts in order to engage students’ literacy interests, motivations, and fluencies. During their session, the students also had the opportunity to engage in important conversations with other graduate students and notable scholars in English Education whose work they have studied this semester.

Throughout the conference, the students attended sessions that explored “the many dimensions of story as the landscape of knowing–story as literary and informational text, story as cross-disciplinary collaborations, story as multiple literacies and genres, story as memory and identity, story as teacher knowledge and research, story as community and culture, story as marginalization, and story as resistance.” As future secondary English language arts teachers, our teacher candidates felt that it was an extremely eye-opening and important conference for all future and current English teachers to attend; it is an influential step in their acculturation process as teachers of English and as life-long learners.  As one student noted after the conference, “It’s a place to talk about English and literature and writing where everyone is speaking your language. Everyone there is really interested in what we are doing because they are all doing it too. It’s a really great feeling of community.” Likewise, the NCTE community was impressed with the work that our students are doing and have expressed a hope that our students will participate in future NCTE conventions.

To close the convention, NCTE President Ernest Morrell echoed our students’ sentiments. He encouraged all teachers of English to stand collectively as a group for social justice, and he inspired us to walk together to teach critical, activist literacy for and with all students.  He reassured us, “It is much easier when you are walking with people. NCTE should be the place to say ‘if you are about literacy and social justice, you don’t have to walk alone.’ And, you do not have to walk alone.” Our SUNY College at Old Westbury students are among those English teachers who are about literacy and social justice, and it is clear they are eager to be a part of the activist literacy movement to which Dr. Morrell refers.

Pictured below from Left to Right are SUNY College at Old Westbury graduate students Griselda Ureña, Jennifer Rollo, & Lindsey Johnston with their professor, Dr. Nicole Sieben, at the 2014 NCTE Annual Convention

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Harmonia and Discordia Release Party!!!

The English Department’s new issues of Harmonia, the creative writing journal, and Discordia, the scholarly journal, are being released next Wednesday, October 15th from 12-1pm in NAB-1100. Come by, jump on the open mic, have some light snacks, and grab your free issues! 

All are welcome–please join us!!!

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Faculty Project Selected for Diversity and Academic Excellence Award

Congratulations are in order for Dr. Jacqueline Emery of the English Department and Dr. Carol Quirke of American Studies: “As part of the Sixth Annual Explorations for Diversity and Academic Excellence initiative, [Professors Emery and Quirke] were awarded $10,000 for their project “Crossing Borders, Erasing Borders: New Immigrants and Racial and Gender Inequalities in the 21st Century.”

See more at: http://www.oldwestbury.edu/news/1923

NY Times Letter Written by Dr. Hobson Quotes OW English Major

The English Department’s Dr. Christopher Z. Hobson recently had a letter to the New York Times editor published. The letter is about teaching James Baldwin and quotes one of our English majors! The letter reads: 

It’s welcome that James Baldwin’s reputation is rising again. But in focusing on early masterworks like “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Sonny’s Blues,” we risk neglecting Baldwin’s rich, deeply felt later novels, particularly “If Beale Street Could Talk” (1974) and “Just Above My Head” (1979). I teach these regularly.

College readers respond to Baldwin’s vivid language — colloquial as well as literary; to the wisdom and sorrow of “Just Above My Head”; and to Baldwin’s prophetic anticipation of today’s partial acceptance of homosexuality and America’s stalled racial reformation.

One of my seniors wrote that Baldwin “hurt me in such a beautiful way that I could not be angry with him,” and that is one mark of a great writer.

CHRISTOPHER Z. HOBSON
Old Westbury, N.Y., April 27, 2014

Click here to view the page directly (Dr. Hobson’s is the second letter on the page)

Gender, Sex, & Sauce: OW Students Serve Up Social Consciousness with Progress on the Side

“Gender, Sex, & Sauce: OW Students Serve Up Social Consciousness with Progress on the Side” by Jamel Sleem, English major.

On Monday, March 3. 2014, SUNY Old Westbury’s New Academic Building was host to The Student Symposium on Gender & Sexuality. This remarkable event – organized by the Women’s Center, Carol Quirke, Jessica Williams, and faculty from the departments of American Studies, English, Psychology and Sociology – saw the coming together of students and faculty from numerous disciplines all for the singular purpose of creating a public dialogue about an ever-important and ever-evolving issue: gender.

Five separate panels gave voice to various subject matter concerning each and every one of us. Subjects ranging from Gender Challenges, Masculinities, and Heroines, to Women & Religion and Women & Beauty helped to focus the conference and steer the discussion down productive avenues. Almost two dozen students from varying backgrounds and all walks of life brought their unique perspectives and voices to the conversation.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of program organizers and moderators – including the English Department’s Professors Williams, Emery, and Graf – the overall selection, which featured works from their combined classes as well as Professor Dissinger’s, touched on many important aspects of the ongoing and, in many cases, escalating conflicts faced by marginalized individuals the world over.

Of particular interest were presentations from English majors Alexa Bauman, Naomi Johnson, Joseph Lagalante, Jr., Jonathan Noyes, and Shakiraah Medford. Alexa presented her paper from Professor Emery’s Literature Across Cultures I class: Challenging Traditional Gender Roles in Society: Modern Female Protagonists in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Anowa and Marjane Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis. Joseph’s paper, The Dominican Model of Manhood and the Broken Sucio: Identifying Masculinity as the Unifying Theme in the Works of Junot Diaz, sprang from his work in Professor Graf’s Senior Seminar I class.  Professor Dissinger’s Literature Across Cultures I class was the fertile ground from which two presenters reaped their bountiful harvest. Naomi attacked the issue succinctly with Female Avenger: A Reading of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, while Jonathan opened eyes with his presentation, What’s Good for the Gander is Wrong for the Geese: Why the Construct of Gender is Harmful. Finally, Shaakirah Medford delivered a presentation titled Black Beauty and the Media: Redefining Our Own Beauty created for Professor Chipley’s Women and Media class.

Some students shared an event from their own past that helped to inform their present and altered their plans for the future. Others were motivated to share based on the struggles of family and friends and the impact those journeys had on their own lives. Still others were called to open up based on the influence that a specific text or work of art had on them, personally. And some simply had something important to say — and this distinct venue offered them an unprecedented platform from which to have their voices heard. Whatever the reason, each student brought something new and thought-provoking to the table.

The only thing more impressive than the tenor and tone of the discussion as a whole was the way in which it was received. Chairs ringed the hall but for much of the proceedings, the walls were lined with onlookers too engaged to leave for lack of adequate seating.

In one humble viewers opinion, this is an event that should be repeated in both form and function annually, as the length and breadth of the issues at hand multiply and shift with increased speed and readiness every day. Such a worthwhile pulpit should be maintained for future students in upcoming years.

An Interview with Professor Jennifer Person, author of new poetry book

An Interview with Professor Jennifer Person

by Destiny Rivera

Destiny Rivera is completing a double major in English and Psychology at SUNY College at Old Westbury. She spends most of her free time thinking about the implications of her continuous survival and seeks to make every moment something worth looking back on.

Professor Jennifer Person is an adjunct professor in the English Department at SUNY College at Old Westbury. Her first book of poetry, Look at Something Beautiful Every Day, was recently independently published by Xlibris Press and is available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Destiny Rivera: When did you decide that you wanted to write a book?

JP: I always wanted to write a book. This was a big life-long dream of mine. I started this book three years ago and I knew I wanted it to be poetry and art work together.  I woke up one morning at 3:00am and I had this idea and it was completely formed from start to finish in my mind. I started working on it right there and then.

[The book] went through a lot of transformations. At first, I was going to not only make it a poetry collection but I wanted it to have artwork from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well since I used to work there and had favorite pieces from the collections that I wanted to use. The idea transformed and [then] I thought that what I wanted is for it to be a textbook for art and literature students. This meant that the book would have to have a lot more pictures and a lot more topics.  It turned out that the book was way too big by that point and would have had to be scaled back in a major way. Who knows, maybe it will become Look at Something Beautiful Every Day – Part Two!

So I went to thinking about a smaller book of poetry and that’s when the ideas really took off.  I had a smaller idea and smaller images to accompany them. I started going through my neighborhood walking through the different places in my community and when I found something, an image, an object, even a person I stopped and asked permission to take a picture. There is a picture of a Buddha in the book that was in the window of an art studio. I spoke to the owner and she said “if you want to take a picture then that’s great –go ahead and use it in the book.” In the book there are also pictures from St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset, there is a picture of a woman in our neighborhood, there are pictures of objects that we have in our home that are particularly beautiful and we had a chance to include some nature, like flowers and trees. I am very pleased with the final format.

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