By Dr. Vicki Seeger
If you’re reading this, chances are you are an elementary educator who is looking for a state organization that meets your literacy needs as an educator, a professional learner, a literacy leader, and a member of a connected community. If you’re like me, you have missed having an organization dedicated to the literacy needs and interests of elementary educators across the state, in our regional areas, and in our communities. As President of the Kansas Reading Association when it was determined that it was no longer a viable organization, I can assure you that I have missed my literacy colleagues. The Kansas Association of Teachers of English has served to fill the void left since that time.
KATE, an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English, provides avenues for attending annual conferences, writing articles for a peer-reviewed journal, honoring new and seasoned educators, and participating in professional learning like book studies and trainings.
The annual conference held in the fall each year holds opportunities to learn, to present, and to mentor. The fall 2019 conference theme was “Growing Empathy and Inspiring Authenticity.” Attendees learned from well-known authors Alan Gratz and Tiffany Jackson. They attended inspiring sessions to inform practice and expand knowledge about theory. I walked away with new ideas for the elementary classroom and was able to apply information from secondary educators to the elementary setting. And, even though the fall 2020 conference will be held virtually, the opportunities are not in any way diminished. Nic Stone will speak about her important novels. This year’s theme is “Teachers as Artists: Reignite Your Creative Voice,” and it is the perfect time for you to submit a proposal to present. You have had to be creative during this time. Think about the challenges every elementary educator has faced during the spring and fall semesters. How are you reaching your students virtually, in a hybrid format, or in person? The literacy methods you are using now are like no other time. Consider submitting a proposal and joining KATE members virtually for the fall conference. Here is a link to details about the fall webinar and proposal submissions.
Another benefit to joining KATE is access to Kansas English, a state journal currently housed at Wichita State University and edited by Dr. Katie Cramer. The quality of the journal is stellar and offers articles on a wide range of topics. It recently won the Affiliate Journal of Excellence Award from the National Council of Teachers of English for 2020. The journal welcomes articles by elementary educators and includes opportunities to be a reviewer for manuscript submissions, as well.
Looking for a way to honor a new or veteran educator? KATE has that, too. At the fall conference, awards are given for outstanding elementary and secondary educators who are members of KATE. You all know what it is like to be an educator right now. Receiving recognition for the work being done in unprecedented times may just mean keeping an educator in the field of teaching. Check out the 2019 awardees here.
Finally, there are important and inspiring opportunities for professional learning through KATE that come at no cost to members. These offerings tackle critical issues in education like racism, equity in the classroom, LGBTQIA topics, and culturally responsive teaching. This summer, I participated in a book study with Michaela Liebst. We read Untamed by Glennon Doyle. Michaela facilitated by sending out weekly email messages where we could discuss the book and ended with a Zoom session for those that participated. While this was a memoir, other book studies have included young adult literature. Safe Zone Training was facilitated by Nathan Whitman in three one-hour sessions this summer. Learning how to meet the needs of LGBTQ students is important no matter what grade level you teach. Nathan, the current president of KATE, is always open to new ideas for professional development opportunities based on the suggestions of members, and he provides leadership based on the interests of the membership.
Elementary educators, consider making KATE your professional educator organization. KATE needs the voices of elementary educators. They already have so much to offer, AND they are looking for ideas to keep you engaged.
About the Author
Vicki Seeger teaches undergraduate courses in literacy and social studies methods and in the graduate reading and curriculum and instruction programs at Northwest Missouri State University. She serves on the Executive Board of KATE and reviews articles for Kansas English.
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