The Hype is Real: #WVCTE18 Conference Preview

By Jessica Salfia

It’s 2018 which means it’s CONFERENCE year, folks!

(Here’s some live footage of me whenever I think about our upcoming WVCTE conference):

We have partnered with the National Writing Project at WVU and the WVU NCTE student affiliate, the NCTE’eers, to bring the teachers of West Virginia an opportunity to celebrate The Power of Place.

April 20-21 ELA educators from all over West Virginia will take over the Mountain Lair on the campus of WVU to hear master teachers from West Virginia and across the country share best practices from their own classrooms and enjoy some truly amazing featured speakers and presenters.

Our affiliate, especially our WVCTE Executive Committee, and our friends at WVU have done extraordinary work to not just give West Virginia educators this chance to gather together to hone their craft and celebrate great teaching, but to also highlight the resources of home.

Today, I’d like to share with you some of the conference highlights.

1. Marc Harshman, The West Virginia Poet Laureate

We are thrilled to kick off this conference with our state poet laureate as the first featured session on Friday morning. If you are unfamiliar with Harshman’s work, stop what you’re doing right now and pick up one of his poetry collections or one of the many beautiful childrens’ books he has authored, or read this blog post I authored about how I’ve used Harshman’s work in my own classroom.

As a resource for classroom teachers, Marc has something to offer any ELA classroom.  I have watched him keep high school students on the edge of their seats, and then head straight to an elementary school classroom to read and share his children’s books with the “little guys”.  If you are interested in the #TeachLivingPoets movement happening in classrooms across the country, then there is no better poet to start with than one of our very own.

2. Authors from Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods, a panel discussion

WVU Press has published a truly extraordinary collection of contemporary prose and poetry from West Virginia writers. On Friday, April 20 featured authors from Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods will share the stage to read from this beautiful anthology and participate in a panel discussion that explores writing in West Virginia and way to incorporate more regional writing into the classroom.

In addition to Marc Harshman, panelists will include:

  • Doug Van Gundy: Van Gundy’s first book of poetry, A Life Above Water, was published in 2007, and his poems and essays have appeared in The Oxford American, Ecotone, and The Fretboard Journal. He is currently Director of the Honors Program at West Virginia Weslyan College.
  • Randi Ward: Ward is a poet, photographer, and translator. Check out how Karla Hilliard has used Ward’s Whipstitches (2015) in her AP Lit classroom HERE, and learn more about Randi and her extraordinary poetry and art by vising
  • Natalie Sypolt: Sypolt, a writer and teacher at Pierpont Community & Technical College in Fairmont, and also is the high school coordinator for the West Virginia Writers Workshop in Morgantown, WV. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals including Glimmer Trainr.kv.r.y,  Kenyon Review Online,Willow Springs ReviewThe Queen City Review,FlashquakePotomac ReviewOklahoma Review, and Kestrel. Natalie’s writing has received several awards, including the Glimmer Train New Writer award, the 2009 West Virginia Fiction Award from Shepherd University, judged by Silas House and the 2009 Betty Gabehart Prize sponsored by the Kentucky Women’s Writers Conference. She is the author of The Sound of Holding Your Breath (2018).  You can learn more about Natalie at
  • Renée K. Nicholson: Nicholson is assistant professor in the Programs for Multi- and Interdisciplinary Studies Program at West Virginia University, and the author of the poetry collection Roundabout Directions to Lincoln Center (Urban Farmhouse Press, 2014) and is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Bodies of Truth: Narratives of Illness, Disability, and Medicine (University of Nebraska Press, 2019). Renée was the 2011 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State-Altoona, and her writing has appeared in Poets & Writers, Midwestern Gothic, Moon City Review, The Superstition Review, Electric Literature, The Gettysburg Review and elsewhere. She has received grants from The West Virginia Commission for the Arts, WVU ADVANCE, West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, and others. Her creative collaborations include a narrative medicine project writing with over fifty patients with cancer receiving care at the WVU Cancer Institute. Her website is


3. Roger May, Looking at Appalachia

On Friday evening, join us for a conversation with Roger May. Roger May’s photographs, essays, and interviews have been published by The New York Times, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera America, National Geographic, The Oxford American, Le Monde diplomatique, Photo District News, and others. In February 2014, he started the crowdsourced Looking at Appalachia project.  If you’re interested in teaching visual rhetoric, be sure to check out May’s work at or visit Looking at Appalachia.

4. Brian Stzabnik, Talks with Teachers

Satuday will kick off with a presentation from Brian Sztabnik. Sztabnik created the Talks With Teachers podcast,, and #aplitchat on Twitter. He has taught English Language Arts for 11 years in middle schools, high schools, the inner city and the suburbs. He is currently the lead English teacher at a high school on Long Island, where he teaches AP Literature and Composition, Creative a Writing, and Public Speaking. He is the College Board adviser for AP Literature and was a 2015 Bammy! nominee for Education Commentor/ Blogger.

5. Robert Gipe, author of Trampoline (2015) and Weedeater (2018)

Saturday afternoon get ready for a reading and a conversation with Kentucky based writer, Robert Gipe.  Gipe is the Appalachian Program Director at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, and teaches English and Appalachian Studies, manages the Southeast Kentucky Revitalization Project, and is the coordinator of the Higher Ground community performance project.  Gipe has also facilitated the It’s Good To Be Young in the Mountains conference, and for the past seventeen years the coordination of SKCTC’s participation in the Appalachian Teaching Project (ATP) which brings together students from colleges and universities across the region who have been working in classes on community development projects targeted at communities within the mountain region. Gipe is also the author of the novels Trampoline (2015) and Weedeater (2018).  If you haven’t read it, check out this WVCTE Best Practices blog post about Trampoline

(We can’t WAIT to read Weedeater!)

6. The Folger Shakespeare Library

IT’S THE FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY! Need we say more?  On Saturday, conference attendees will have access to multiple sessions led by master teachers in the Folger National Teacher Corps, these workshops provide lively, hands-on practice with techniques that work with all kinds of students in all kinds of classrooms. Through a range of activities rooted in Shakespeare’s language and aligned to national standards, teachers learn how to get students on their feet and into complex texts in minutes. Professional Learning Days draw on the Folger’s unique blend of scholarship, performance, and education, and can be customized to incorporate texts from your school’s curriculum.

7. In addition to these incredible featured sessions, teachers from West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan will be sharing best practices and classroom strategies and resources that work.

Register HERE for #WVCTE18 Exploring the Power of Place.

I can’t wait for April!  Hope to see YOU there!

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