Regional high school teachers invited to present workshop

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The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has invited four Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School teachers to present a professional workshop at its annual convention in Orlando, Florida. This is the first time in the school’s history that an interdisciplinary team of teachers has received an invitation to address the prestigious organization, according to a press release.

On November 21 Kate Holter and Corinne Kurtz from the history department and Bill McCarthy and Dan Sharkovitz from the English department will present a session titled The Inverted Periscope: How to Find the Monsters of Insight Under the Sea.

California teacher, author, and literacy specialist Jim Burke will serve as the chairman of the Vineyard teachers’ session. Mr. Burke, who has written extensively about teaching, is best known for authoring one of the most widely used texts about English teaching in the country — “The English Teacher’s Companion: A Complete Guide to Classroom, Curriculum, and the Profession.”

“We may be isolated geographically, teaching on an Island, but that does not mean our pedagogy has to suffer,” Mr. Kurtz said. “The fact that we were invited to present at a national conference indicates we are doing some important and cutting-edge work here.”

The Vineyard teachers will present a classroom demonstration to an audience of both high school and college faculty that will focus on a number of strategies— also known as heuristics — they have developed. The methods involve discussions, simulations, and guided inquiry designed to help students write with greater insight and originality.

“While we are presenting a session, we’ll also be able to attend workshops and seminars,” Mr. McCarthy said. “There are so many exciting developments in literacy instruction — especially concerning how we can connect students with authentic online writing communities from around the world. We’ll be able to meet and talk with other high school teachers, college professors, authors, publishers, and researchers. When we return, we’ll be able to share what we have learned.”

The theme of the 2010 NCTE Convention, Teachers and Students Together: Living Literate Lives, reflects the organization’s concerns with ways that communities of teachers can renew themselves at a time when schools are being asked to standardize more and more of their teaching and testing practices.

The Vineyard teachers’ session is being presented as part of a convention designed to explore ways of structuring learning environments and literacy experiences that inspire and empower students, teachers, as well as those in the wider community.

“Just the work the four of us have done to prepare for the convention has been a great learning opportunity,” English department chairman Mr. Sharkovitz said. “Collaborating with teachers from different departments requires that we think deeply about what we do and why we do it. The discussion sharpens our thinking and helps improve methods of attaining our most important goal — helping all our students learn things worth learning.”