By Karla Hilliard


As 2017 draws to a close, I do what teachers do: I stuff my face with Christmas cookies, stress about end of semester grading, hit up my kids’ school concerts while ensuring proper picture-taking parental embarrassment, frantically finish up my shopping somewhere between December 23 and December 24, and reflect on the times the odds have been in my favor and when they’ve…well, when I’ve been running through a seemingly inescapable hellscape.

2017 has been good to me. For others, not so much. I try to keep this in mind. Like a lot of teachers, I try to focus on the good—on the places the sun shines in—on the kids I’ve helped, the colleagues I’ve connected with, the small victories of each day.

And we all know this, so let’s just get it out of the way—sometimes, it ain’t easy. Sometimes it’s hard to pull perspective when you have 17 emails that require an immediate reply, five college recommendations to write (for amazing kids so you need to make art), you can’t see over your stack of to-be-graded essays, and it’s 11:30 PM and your kid just puked on the carpeted floor upstairs. Or at least that’s what people tell me anyway.

A teacher’s day is complicated in a thousand different ways. There’s no need to rehash or justify the reasons. If you’re reading this blog and you’re in this business, you already know—you live it. You are the job, and you understand how a teacher’s day and time and talents and (because we’re being real) life is divided and then divided again and then once more for good measure.

But, I try to focus on the good. And although the past few weeks have been a bumpy ride, the sun has surely shined in 2017.

So as I reflect, I can’t let this opportunity pass without acknowledging my sincere gratitude to the wonderful, wonderful people along the way of the WVCTE journey this past year.

  • Our WVCTE Executive Committee

They are the goods. If you haven’t met these awesome ladies behind the scenes, they are:  

  • Melissa Elliott of Martinsburg High School
  • Rhonda Foreman of Martinsburg High School
  • Jeni Gearhart of Hedgesville High School
  • Dr. Louise McDonald of Wildwood Middle School
  • Amy Shank of Hedgesville Middle School

These brilliant women believe in WVCTE and our membership’s collective power to impact ELA classrooms across WV. They have committed their time, their talents, and their smart and necessary feedback to every single project, idea, and goal we have ever pitched or planned.

They are the backbone of this organization, and Jess and I are forever grateful to them for their professionalism and friendship.

And a shout out as well to Jenny Unger for joining us in getting this thing off the ground and running.


  • The WVCTE Blogging Team

Holy smokes. These people. These people! Our blogging team shares their best lessons, their triumphs and challenges, and their reflections and questions because they love their jobs and learning.

Each of our contributing writers is a successful, talented teacher who is in the trenches with students day in and day out. If there are any trusted voices in education, it should be theirs.

Jess and I are a part of the team, too, and because of the quality content our team regularly publishes, it won WVCTE an NCTE Affiliate Website of Excellence Award this past November at national convention in St. Louis.

The best practices blog has been my baby, and it’s so affirming to see its growth and impact.

Jess and I accepting the web site of excellence award and later high-fiving.


  • Familiar Faces at #NCTE17

As Jess and I deboarded in Saint Louis, made our way to luggage, and skipped over to the hotel shuttle line (the skipping being that it’s NCTE convention go-time) the first familiar face we see? Our affiliate mentor Bob Dandoy, Executive Director of PCTELA! We not only saw our friend Bob in line at shuttle services, but again at the Marriott where we were all lodged, again on the convention floor, again in a session, again at an affiliate breakfast, and once again out and about. 

Another familiar face we were happy to see smiling back at us in St. Louis was Millie Davis, NCTE Director of Affiliates. She has supported WVCTE every step of the way, and we were so excited to be there to celebrate her retirement along with other state affiliates at the Affiliate Roundtable Breakfast.

We also had a chance to hang out with some fine West Virginia educators representing at this year’s convention. It seems that no matter where you are when you put some West Virginians in a room together, you’ve got a party. We love our Berkeley County crew and Morgantown crew, and the diverse talents and expertise they bring to our affiliate. These folks have been an important part of building our membership and sharing this professional network. 



  • New Connections

Dr. Audra Slocum is a consummate professional and all around awesome lady. As the kids say, she is #goals. She is warm and encouraging, and and she believes in us and WVCTE. Dr. Slocum, or Audra as we call her, is an Associate Professor of English Education at West Virginia University, the Co-Director of National Writing Project at WVU, and the advisor to NCTE’Eers, WVU’s student affiliate.

Last spring, she invited Jess and I to present at NWP@WVU’s spring conference, Teachers as Leaders and Writers, and afforded us an opportunity to reach a new membership base in Central WV.

Not only did we have a blast, meet some great people, and take away exciting and inventive strategies for our classrooms, but we walked away with a partner in NWP@WVU and in Dr. Slocum. Had we but time and empty notebook pages that afternoon in Morgantown, they would have been full of brainstorming notes.

Since then, with Audra, Jess, and Shana, we have solidified our partnership and worked to create a joint conference to reach as many West Virginia teachers as possible, offering them (you!) meaningful and relevant professional development that elevates and celebrates the resources of home—most prominently, our teachers.

If you’re just now hearing about it, you definitely need to check it out. Already registered, but interested in submitting a proposal and contributing your voice? Send us your idea by January 15.

Seriously, what are you waiting for?!


And while we’re at it with conference talk, another valuable connection WVCTE made this year is one that would require strictly emoji to describe our excitement and the potential level of impact. While it’s a little too early to tell you much about it, I’ll give you a hint — it’s a library housing the world’s largest Shakespeare collections. And no, I am not kidding (!).

Want to know more? You’ll have to stay tuned in to our conference updates on Facebook and Twitter. We CAN’T WAIT to spill the details!

Looking back, I’m left with a deep sense of gratitude. I have a feeling the forecast for WVCTE’s 2018 is full of light.  


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