My desk is currently covered in Post-It notes. Grocery lists, To-do lists, bills to pay lists. There is also a students whose grades need updated list and recommendation letters to be written list, a texts and ideas to remember for next semester list, and like most of you, a last minute gifts I need to buy and and put a bow on just in time for Christmas list.

I have more lists, too, of course. But these lists are tucked away out of plain site in my notebook. I have lists reminding me how to be. I have lists of ideas and goals, of poems and verses—reflections on how to love my children, my students, and myself better.

I’ve written about it before here, but I believe that when you make a commitment, it should be a definite yes. A risk? Maybe. But a yes.

Each year, one way I commit to growing both personally and professionally is by seeking out and attending relevant and engaging professional development. I’ve found experiences such as the National Council of Teachers of English annual convention and the Appalachian Studies Association conference both meaningful and challenging. When I learn from educators and writers who challenge ideas about what it means to be an effective and responsible educator, I grow as a teacher and a person.

If, like me, you’re making your lists and checking them twice this season, consider adding one (or two) more: WVCTE’s co-sponsored conference in collaboration with NWP@WVU, the West Virginia English Language Arts (WVELA) conference, held in Morgantown on West Virginia University’s main campus. This year’s conference is March 29-30. The conference theme is A West Virginia For All: Creating Diverse and Inclusive ELA Classrooms.

Plus, there’s still time to submit a proposal and share your expertise with teachers from all over West Virginia and the country. You don’t want to miss the necessary learning that happens this weekend.

Here’s why…

1—The brilliant Dr. Jocelyn Chadwick, a classroom teacher for over 30 years, former Harvard Graduate professor and current guest lecturer, consultant, and former NCTE president, will kick off the conference on Friday morning. Her energy will engage and challenge you. Dr. Chadwick will inspire you to reflect on your practice and think critically about your role as a classroom teacher. She is known for engaging with participants in hallways or over the lunch table, and if you don’t know, she loves West Virginia.

WVCTE Executive Committee members with Dr. Chadwick in Houston at #NCTE18

2—THE Kwame Alexander is set to be Saturday’s afternoon keynote speaker. If you’ve shared any of Mr. Alexander’s work with your students, you already know the depth of passion and talent he offers. With books like The Crossover, Newbery and Coretta Scott King award, Rebound, Solo, and Swing, and tons of engaging lesson plans and activities to implement in your classroom, you will leave feeling inspired and energized by this acclaimed author’s talk. Plus! You can have books signed for your classroom library!

Kwame Alexander visiting the WVCTE booth & one of his biggest fans at WV Book Festival

3—Tricia Ebarvia, #DisruptTexts co-founder and Heinemann fellow, will also join us Saturday. Tricia’s work is some of the most important work being done in education today. And that is the work of “challeng[ing] the traditional canon in order to create a more inclusive, representative, and equitable language arts curriculum [and] to aid and develop teachers committed to anti-racist/anti-bias teaching pedagogy and practices.” Read Tricia’s essay We Teach Who We Are: Unpacking our Identities, and come learn from her. You will leave a better teacher.

a Tricia Ebarvia after school pic in her classroom

4—Oh, and the hits keep on coming. Folger Shakespeare Library Education is back with us for a second year this year! We are honored and humbled by Dr. Peggy O’Brien and Corinne Viglietta who believe deeply in the work of WVCTE and WV teachers, and likewise, we admire their passion and commitment to teachers and how they bring Shakespeare into classrooms. At WVELA18, teachers said Folger was the some of the best professional development they had ever received, and we have to agree. This year, Dr. O’Brien will share the Folger method, a pedagogy applicable to any complex text, and offer up ways you can disrupt Shakespeare through text pairings.

Up close selfie with Dr. Peggy O’Brien at the Folger booth at #NCTE18

5—But if you’re still not convinced, a few more. Affrilachian poet Chrystal Good will be reading Friday, and she is amazing! Check out her poem “Boom Boom” here . Warning: it will stick with you for a long while. Also, Ann Pancake will also be reading! Yes, you read that right: fellow Appalachian Ann Pancake, author of works such as Strange as this Weather Has Been and Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley.

Chrystal Good reading “Boom Boom” in an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown

PLUS, dozens of teachers and teacher leaders from all over teaching and leading sessions on how to strengthen our curriculums and practice for our students in our classrooms.

As my friend Susan Barber says often, we are influencing the next generation. And on my list this year, leading the next generation with eyes and heart open…that is a definite yes.

We hope you’ll consider joining us for what can only be a remarkable weekend of learning. Remember, there is still time to submit a proposal, and we’d love it if you added that to your list, too. West Virginia, out of state, and preservice teachers are all welcome to attend and present.

Register ( and share!) at

Wishing you the happiest of holidays full of love, beauty, rest, and wonder. See you in Morgantown.  

Karla, Executive Vice President WVCTE

Have questions for WVCTE about #WVELA19? You can email us at or connect with us on Twitter or Facebook @WVCTE.

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