WVCTE Excellence in Teaching Award

WVCTE believes teachers do the most important work anywhere. And in West Virginia, we want to honor you.

Applications are now open for the WVCTE Excellence in Teaching Award. Celebrate your work!

Share with colleagues and consider applying.

Our mentor Bob Dandoy, WVCTE’s Obi-Wan, retired educator and affiliate leader for the PA Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts (PCTELA), former Region 2 Representative for NCTE’s Standing Committee on Affiliates and now Butler City, PA Council member, once said teachers should toot their own horns and celebrate their education and achievements. Bob is a teacher’s teacher, and he firmly believes in the expertise of educators. And he believes that expertise should be shared and celebrated.

And I agree. There are so many incredible teachers I work with/have worked with who are deserving of praise and recognition for making the impossible possible with their students.

Just this week I received an email from our school’s Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, who runs a professional-scale cafe with our students during the school day, and her enthusiasm is infectious. “Working with yeast is my jam!” she exclaimed when describing this week’s menu. These are the things that remind me how special teachers are and the talent and joy they bring to our young people.

I’m betting you know a teacher like this. I’d say there’s a good chance you are a teacher like this—one whose enthusiasm, expertise, dedication, and commitment to students and learning is infectious.

If this sounds like you or someone you know, let’s celebrate this important work.

Applications are now open for the WVCTE Excellence in Teaching Award. We have had a tremendous pool of nominees and finalists these past two years, and have awarded two extraordinary West Virginia teachers: Tia Miller of Chapmanville Regional High School, and Andrew Carroll of Elkins High School the WVCTE Excellence in Teaching Award.

Winners receive $100.00 and a pretty sweet engraved glass apple and are recognized at our annual awards luncheon at our state conference WVELA, co-sponsored by NWP@WVU.

Applications are simple. All you need to submit is an updated CV, a 2-page teaching philosophy, and 2 letters of reference. GO HERE to share this opportunity with colleagues or to submit your application.

WVCTE believes teachers do the most important work anywhere. And in West Virginia, we want to honor you.

Applications are due by Monday, March 2. Finalists will be notified by Monday, March 16, and the winner will be announced at the awards luncheon at WVELA20.

Celebrate your work! Share with colleagues and consider applying. Do what Bob Dandoy says…toot your own horn and celebrate the work you do with students each and every day.

There’s still time to submit! Present at WVELA20!

By Jessica Salfia

One of the things in my professional career that I’m most proud of is the work we’ve done to create WVELA. This conference is an opportunity for West Virginia’s ELA teachers to come together and share, collaborate, and grow. We all know that there is some truly extraordinary teaching happening across the mountain state. Let’s highlight it!

All West Virginia teachers:

This year’s theme is Voice, Identity, and Community: Responsive Teaching In and Out of Schools.


There are so many ways YOU could address this topic!

Got a story about how you’ve reached your students based on their needs? Come share it!

Want to talk about your work as a teacher organizer and activist? We’d love to hear from you even if you don’t teach in an ELA field!

Do you have a lesson or unit that asks students to consider their communities and their roles in it! Walk us through it!

Do you use your classroom as a vehicle for positive change in your school or community? Come tell us about it!


We hope you will join us in Morgantown this spring, and share your talents, your successes, your students’ successes with us!

To submit a proposal for WVELA 20, visit this link: https://wvcte554069452.wordpress.com/submit-a-proposal-2/

Finding Your End of Year Last Breath

This has been the month for state literacy conferences.  WVCTE and NWP@WVU led off with WVELA19 which was showcased on WVCTE blog earlier this month.  Not to be outdone, Marshall University and the Central West Virginia Writing Project (CWVWP) also hosted a 2 day event entitled Find Your Voice:  Growing Student Writers.

Over 120 educators from across the state converged on Marshall University for a weekend of literacy immersion.  Co-sponsored by the Central West Virginia Writing Project, I had the opportunity to not only present but also visit many sessions as part of my role as Project Co-Director.

ruth 2Ruth Culham, author of The Writing Thief and Teach Writing Well, opened the conference with a plenary session entitled Teach Writing Well:  Yes You Can!  She introduced her latest perspective on the 6 traits and how to dissect then spiral them into a meaningful year-long study to improve student writing.

Ruth breaks the traits down into 4 key qualities giving us the opportunity to teach a trait 4 times with a slightly different nuance.  By teaching the discrete qualities of traits, students can practice their writing in a more focused manner with continued practice on ALL traits vs. having a trait of the month practice.   Her website www.culhamwriting.com  offers many classroom ready graphics to explain her approach in a student friendly fashion.

spiraled traits

The Spiraled Traits

Ruth then challenged session participants to develop Writing Wallets for students as a way to eliminate useless worksheets and differentiate instruction.  She proposes that students keep 2-4 pieces of their own writing in the wallet for mini-lesson practice.  Not only does this provide student choice but serves as a mode of differentiation as students are practicing on their own authentic text.  Her book outlines the 9 benefits to using a Writing Wallet (Culham, 109):

  1. “Students work at their own levels.
  2. Students make choices and apply new skills on their own.
  3. Little to no management or grading is necessary.
  4. The teacher has a natural place to model writing skills—this is essential for all writing classrooms.
  5. Students make writing decisions that become more complex over time.
  6. The teacher helps by nudging students forward in brief, nonthreatening interaction.
  7. Collaboration among peers and with the teacher is encouraged.
  8. Revision and editing becomes manageable processes.
  9. Skills are transferred to independent writing through meaningful practice.”

I spent time with Ruth after her session discussing how to implement her spiral and wallet in my high school classroom.  Using a 5 day a week mini-lesson at the start of each class, I can work through her list of qualities in roughly 20 weeks.  This affords my students the opportunity to practice a different element of each of the traits at least 4 times.  When assessing more finished writing products, I would then focus on the trait qualities that I’ve taught.  This is doable, organized and simple!  Score a win for the students!

The wallet is going to be a bit tougher for me as a hardcore Writing Notebook fanatic but Ruth swears you can have both.  I’m still thinking through the logistics of managing writers’ notebook s and wallets at the same time.  Is this doable?  Seems like it…I can let you know in the fall how wallets go.

After this weekend conference, I must confess to having a new fan crush:  Dr. Steve Criniti from West Liberty University.  Dr. Criniti has partnered with John Marshall HS to coach their students and teachers on composition theory.  He has been working specifically with AP Lang classes on rhetorical analyses and preparing students for what college professors actually want vs. what we think they want their students to do.  In a nutshell to close the high school to college gap we should teach our students how to:  have something to say; say it to an authentic audience; use textual evidence in arguments; and make it look like grammatically correct English.  Based upon his lecture, I think it’s time to free the Holy Trinity of Thesis Statements, focus more on audience and give my kiddos more freedom!

The best part of the conference for me, besides attending so many robust sessions, was reconnecting with friends from across the state and sharing what is happening in our classes.  Having that teacher tribe keeps us strong and growing as classroom leaders.  This is my tribe! ❤

susie, steph and me

(L to R)  Cheryl Stahle, Co-Director CWVWP, Dr. Stephanie Burdette, Co-Director CWVWP, Susie Garrison, KCS Lead ELA teacher

Admittedly, I trudged to the conference in a state of teacher tired but left more energized to finish the year strong.  Ruth and Dr. C gave me fodder for improving my classroom as part of my summer homework.

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.

WVCTE wants to know how you are staying energized in the classroom this time of year.

Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!


Join us in March for #WVELA19!

By Jessica Salfia

We are gearing up for WVELA19 and we couldn’t be more excited!

Let’s be honest, the last few months—heck, the last few years–as a West Virginia teacher have been trying. We’ve listened to our elected officials falsely claim our schools are failing. We’ve spent the last few years advocating and fighting for our profession. We’ve walked in, walked out, lobbied our lawmakers, rallied together, and fought to make public education in West Virginia stronger.

Our work at WVCTE and the creation of this conference is part of that fight.

WVCTE and NWP@WVU know that empowering teachers, providing opportunities for collaboration, and working together to make our classrooms and teaching stronger than ever is one of the powerful weapons we have. This March our second annual WVELA Conference is focusing on creating more diverse and inclusive classrooms.  We hope you will join us for this incredible weekend of learning, collaboration, and empowering conversation.

In addition to the over 50 concurrent presentations from super star teachers from all over the country, you won’t want to miss these featured keynote sessions!

  1. Award Winning YA Author, Kwame Alexander


Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 28 books, including SWING, SOLO, and REBOUND, the follow-up to his, NEWBERY medal-winning middle grade novel, THE CROSSOVER. Some of his other works include BOOKED, a NATIONAL BOOK AWARD Nominee, THE PLAYBOOK: 52 RULES TO HELP YOU AIM, SHOOT, AND SCORE IN THIS GAME OF LIFE, and the picture books, OUT OF WONDER, SURF’S UP, and THE UNDEFEATED.

A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, Kwame is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Coretta Scott King Author Honor, The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Prize, Three NAACP Image Award Nominations, and the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award. He believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people around the world through THE WRITE THING, his K-12 Writing Workshop. The 2018 NEA Read Across America Ambassador, Kwame is the founder of VERSIFY, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the host and producer of the literary variety/talk show, Bookish, which airs on Facebook Watch. He’s led cultural exchange delegations to Brazil, Italy, Singapore, and Ghana, where he built the Barbara E. Alexander Memorial Library and Health Clinic, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program he co-founded.

  1. Educator, Author, and Past President of NCTE, Jocelyn Chadwick

Joceyln Chadwick

Jocelyn A. Chadwick has been an English teacher for over thirty years—beginning at Irving High School in Texas and later moving on to the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she was a professor for nine years and still guest lectures. Dr. Chadwick also serves as a consultant for school districts around the country and assists English departments with curricula to reflect diversity and cross-curricular content. For the past two years, she has served as a consultant for NBC News Education’s Common Core Project for Parents, ParentToolkit. In June 2015, Chadwick was elected Vice President for the National Council of Teachers of English.

Throughout her career, she has published articles in leading academic journals, presented papers at scholarly conferences, and conducted teacher workshops around the country and abroad. Her many publications include The Jim Dilemma: Reading Race in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, “Making Characters Come Alive! Using Characters for Identification and Engagement,” “Assessment: Our (Re) Inventing the Future of English,” and her April 2015 book, Common Core: Paradigmatic Shift. Summing up her career, Dr. Chadwick says she was born to be an English teacher and will always be one.

  1. Educator and #DisruptTexts co-founder, Tricia Ebarvia

selfie after school

In addition to teaching, Tricia is the co-Director for the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project (PAWLP), a site of the National Writing Project (NWP). A blogger and regular contributor to the “From the Classroom” column on the PAWLP website and monthly to MovingWriters.org.Her writing has also been published in English Journal, Literacy Today, and Education Week. In May 2016, she was named to the second cohort of Heinemann Fellows, an action-research “think tank” of teachers led by Ellin Keene. In 2018, she co-founded the anti-bias, anti-racist pedagogy effort #DisruptTexts with the goal of advocating for more inclusive and equitable curricula and pedagogies. Currently, she also provides professional development to teachers and school districts in her role as a literacy consultant and teaching fellow with The Educator Collaborative.

  1. The Folger Shakespeare Library and Dr. Peggy O’Brien

Join Shakespeare scholar, educator SUPERSTAR, and Dr. Peggy O’Brien for a deep dive into the language of The Bard. Dr. O’Brien was named the Folger’s director of education in May 2013. A former Folger educator, she established the Library’s education philosophy and the bulk of its programs in the 1980s and led the department until 1994, when she left to become director of education programs for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Most recently, she was the chief of family and public engagement for D.C. public schools and a member of the Chancellor’s leadership team. Dr. O’Brien earned an A.B. from Trinity College, an M.A. from Catholic University of America, and a Ph.D. from The American University. She serves on a variety of boards and advisory committees and is frequently called upon to delivery keynote addresses and papers. Among her publications are the Shakespeare Set Free series published by Simon and Schuster. Her long and distinguished career has brought her numerous awards and honors, including Doctor of Laws honoris causa from Trinity University, Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa from Georgetown University, the Public Humanities Award from the D.C. Community Humanities Council, and the Folger Shakespeare Library’s 2008 Shakespeare Steward Award. Prior to her first appointment at the Folger, she spent a number of years teaching high school English in the DC Public Schools, and since then has taught undergraduate courses at Georgetown University.

  1. Award Winning Appalachian Author, Ann Pancake

ann pancake.jpg

Ann Pancake grew up in Romney and Summersville, West Virginia. Her second short story collection, Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley, was published by Counterpoint Press in February 2015.

Her first novel, Strange As This Weather Has Been (Counterpoint 2007), features a southern West Virginia family devastated by mountaintop removal mining. Based on interviews and real events, the novel was one of Kirkus Review’s Top Ten Fiction Books of 2007, won the 2007 Weatherford Award, and was a finalist for the 2008 Orion Book Award.

Pancake’s first collection of short stories, Given Ground, won the 2000 Bakeless award, and she has also received a Whiting Award, an NEA Grant, a Pushcart Prize, and creative writing fellowships from the states of Washington, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Her fiction and essays have appeared in journals and anthologies like The Georgia ReviewPoets and WritersNarrative, and New Stories from the South. She earned her BA in English at West Virginia University and a PhD. in English Literature from the University of Washington.

  1. Affrilachian Poet and Speaker, Crystal Good


Crystal Good is a writer poet. Quantum Christian. Tunk player. Libra charmer. Underdog cheerleader.As a member of the Affrilachian (African-American- Appalachian) Poets, she is a featured poet/speaker at universities and colleges. “Valley Girl” is her first book of poetry. The poems explore themes in quantum physics, Appalachian culture, gender equality, and mountaintop removal. Crystal has been published in: Pluck! The Journal for Affrilachian Culture, Appalachian Heritage, The Book of Now Poetry for the Rising Tide, Black Bone, Eyes Glowing At The Edge Of The Woods, Appalachian Rekoning and Global Mountain Regions. Her work is the subject of print and online interviews and articles and she was a speaker at the 2013 TEDx conference in Lewisburg, WV.

Don’t miss this incredible opportunity!

We hope you will join us for this incredible conference, but more importantly, we hope you will join us to add your voice to the conversation about the success in our schools and how we can make West Virginia schools stronger than ever.



WVCTE Excellence in Teaching Award


A New (and Exciting!) Way to do Shakespeare

I know I should probably keep this a secret, but I hate teaching Shakespeare. I visibly cringe (and occasionally twitch) when that part of the semester rolls around. I can hear the eyes rolling before I can even completely get the name Shakespeare off my tongue (and, yes, when 28 sets of eyes all roll simultaneously it’s as audible as gravel grinding against asphalt). And, if I’m honest, I’m holding back my own eye roll, as I pass out the tired and worn out materials of the same-old-same-old and prepare for the halting, robotic voices that stumble and stall out over Shakespeare’s unfamiliar language.

Now, though, things are different.

Last Spring, I attended the WV ELA Conference at WVU, hosted by WVCTE and NWP. There, I had the great pleasure of meeting Corinne Viglietta of Folger Shakespeare Library and participating in two of her sessions. I almost didn’t go to the breakout session, because “Ew. Shakespeare. Amiright?!”–BUT! I did. And sweet bard and butter, I’m glad I did! Because guess what? My kids had FUN with Shakespeare–and so did I.

After the conference, I quickly secured a teacher membership with Folger Shakespeare Library (which came with an awesome t-shirt, by the way!) and began scouring Forsooth, the IN-CRED-I-BLE teacher resource/community addition to the Folger Library, for all things Macbeth. I did a complete overhaul of my unit, Folger Ed style.

Day one of the unit, I would normally torture students with a day of Charlie Brown teachering about good ole’ Billy Shakes, the Globe, iambic pentameter, and yada-yada-yada–you get the picture: glazed eyes, bodies so slouched and low you’d swear they were melting, drool pooling in the corners of mouths–the whole shebang. This time, things went a bit differently.

I began by counting students off by three, separating them into smaller groups. Each student got a card with a word from one of Shakespeare’s works (I have a list if you want them!), and each group got a ball. The idea was simple: the first person says their word out loud, tosses the ball to another person in the circle who says their word out loud before tossing the ball to yet another group member, repeat. I let them do this long enough that most people had spoken their words a handful of times. Then, I asked them to continue the same process, but this time when they say the word, they may say it in a rage, seductively, or as a question or in confusion. Some of them got pretty animated–especially with the rage option. But I saw them having fun and enjoying the language, even though they may not have realized it. We talked about how the activity felt (which ranged from cathartic to weird to silly to fun) and where we thought these words might come from–someone in each class guessed Shakespeare.

We then shifted from language to looking at style and meaning in Shakespeare’s writing with an activity shared with us at the conference by Brain Sztabnik. I reviewed the elements of a sonnet with students and divided them up–boys against girls for a bit of friendly competition. Both groups received a copy of Sonnet 116 cut into its fourteen separate lines. Working together and using the notes on the board about sonnets and their own abilities to create meaning from texts, each group had to reassemble the sonnet. Whichever group got it correct first, won.

And boy, was competition fierce. The boys huddled together and moved with urgency, arguing over inferences and theories informing decisions on line order. The girls worked in hushed whispers, but listened and communicated well with one another. It was interesting to see the different approaches, but it was awesome to see all students eager and involved. In my second block, the girls won, leading the boys to call for a rematch. But in fourth block, the boys kept neck and neck with the girls and pushed ahead for the win right at the end. We talked through each quatrain, making meaning from what another student said might as well be a foreign language. When the bell rang dismissing class, they left full of energy and excitement, talking about Shakespeare!

The next day, we began class by putting on brief performances with two-line scenes, a great resource available through Forsooth. Each student was given a slip of paper with a line from Macbeth on it; after pairing up, they make a mini scene using only the lines they were given. I had all the desks arranged in a large circle, and each group would enter the ring to perform their scenes, many of which were hilarious, and would exit the ring to the sound of thunderous applause. We followed this up by a very animated 20-minute Macbeth (also a Folger activity!) before moving into the first Act. When it came time to assign roles, students were jumping at the opportunity to participate.

Just two days in, I was so excited and energized by what I had seen so far, and I could not wait to move through this play with those kids. I think the most successful element that ties all these activities together is the mentality of “safety in numbers”–what I mean is this: no one was alone. No one had to stand in the middle and be the only person performing; everything was done with a partner or the occasional trio. It was a risk to perform in front of everyone, but it was a shared risk. Everyone was goofy, everyone laughed, and with everyone in on the joke, no one felt highly self-conscientious. And wasn’t that what Shakespeare’s plays were intended for–entertainment?

Over the next several weeks, we moved through the play with a variety of incredibly engaging activities and, as a culminating group project, students had to put on their own production of a scene. They had to turn the play into a script, make notes about scenery and tone and character positions, entrances, exits, costume, props, etc. They cut lines, and in some places added them. The ultimate goal was to perform the finished product for the class, and several groups chose to film their performance rather than perform live (which actually lead to some pretty sick effects being applied–kids are editing geniuses these days). I was overwhelmingly impressed and entertained by each and every group performance. Not a single one was “just meh.” And we had fun. All of us. We were all engaged from the first day to the last, and when we were finished, they had a better understanding of the play than any other group I have ever done this play with.

So, long story short, I don’t hate teaching Shakespeare anymore. In fact, it’s something I very much look forward to. If you have the pleasure and good fortune to be attending the conference this March, the Folger sessions are an absolute must. I promise it will change your teacher life.