With the emphasis on STEM these days in education, sometimes I feel like English gets lost in the shuffle and with that, our English-loving students do as well. How do we keep the fire for reading and writing lit when students are pulled (or pushed) into other areas?
This past year, I chartered a student chapter of the National English Honor Society (NEHS). West Virginia hosts only five chapters in the entire state. NEHS is sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta and is the only international organization that recognizes students (high school through college) and faculty who excel in English. Nationally, NEHS offers several scholarship opportunities for students along with a network of like-minded bibliophiles. It’s a wonderful opportunity to provide to students.
Gelast Sceal Mid Are or duty goes with honor is the foundation for NEHS and our chapter at Parkersburg High School has embraced that through literacy based service. Now at 32 members, NEHS candidates must demonstrate excellence in academics, provide a writing sample and propose a group service project in order to be considered for membership. And that just gets them in the door.
Once accepted, members are expected to participate in a group service project, individual service projects and engage in literacy based activities such as blogging or tutoring.
In our first year, PHS’ chapter had over 100 hours of service supporting 22 different organizations. We raised money to buy books for the school library and we launched a blog. Within the group, we had book studies and participated in essay contests. This group stayed busy.
Our 2019-2020 class has been inducted and they have big plans. Our work for the fall has begun. We will be putting together community based workshops for college application essays, launching a tutoring center and hosting community book swaps. Over the summer students will be developing proposals for their individual service projects, participating in book study groups and blogging.
So why am I bragging on my kids? Well they’re awesome for sure but I wanted to challenge other HS teachers to charter chapters in their schools. It’s a relatively easy process but does take time to have an application processed and accepted.
Once you have established an NEHS chapter at your school, you need to create the infrastructure to support your students then turn them loose. As an advisor, you have the opportunity to read and evaluate essays for the national Common Reader contest and network with colleagues throughout the country. Working with NEHS has definitely become a highlight of my year and something that balances out some of the stressors associated with teaching English
If you are interested in chartering a chapter, I am willing to help you! Yes, it is extra work but the rewards are so worth it. Our book loving kids need a place to call their own.
Cheryl Stahle is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. She teaches at Parkersburg High School and is the Co-Director of the Central West Virginia Writing Project based out of Marshall University. Cheryl is also the Vice President of the Marshall Reading Council. She is a not so regular tweeter @msstahleclass but is enamored with Instagram (@stahlecheryl). Besides teaching American Literature, her other classroom goal is to teach 1970s classic rock to her students.
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