Wednesday, April 4, 2012

NCFL Conference San Diego

I know I said that I would post about the work portion of our trip to San Diego on Tuesday, but I had to let Karen tell about her experience with hot yoga. Me personally, I prefer a hot pretzel, but each to his own I guess.

Just to catch you up, my friend and colleague Maria at Teaching in the 21st Century were invited by the good folks at the National Center for Family Literacy to present how we use their Wonderopolis website in our classrooms. We were part of a panel that included 3 other educators including one public librarian, more on that later.

After enjoying the city we had some responsibilities to fulfill on Sunday, one of them was the opening general session that included some very inspirational speakers. I was moved by the story of Jennifer Navarro Burns, a single mom from Long Beach that knew education was the only way to give her son the life she wished she had as a child growing up in Columbia. She used the ESL services provided by the Long Beach Family Literacy program, became proficient in English and began studying at Long Beach City College. From there she worked in a dentist office and decided to continue her college studies at Cerritos College to become a dental hygienist so she would have more time with her son Bryant a happy, successful first grader.

I must admit, before attending the conference, I didn't really know much about what NCFL did. While at the conference I heard countless stories of people in the trenches working with little or no budgets, with people who are struggling to make ends meet, but understanding that education is the ticket to a better life for them and their families.

On Monday we presented. We had 30 or 40 people attend our session. Our panel was made up of people who had received Wonderopolis mini grants from Better World Books. Maria and I were joined by 5th grade teacher Ashley Cripps from South Carolina; Julia Dweck, a multi talented gifted specialist from Pennsylvania and Aime Thomas, a public librarian from Brownsburg, Indiana. Each of us took about 15 minutes to present how we were using Wonderopolis in our classrooms or libraries and I was honored and humbled to be included in such a smart group of people. Quite honestly I came away with several ideas that I'm currently trying to implement into my library, so I'm sure the others in the room walked away with plenty of good ideas too.

That evening we attended the NCFL banquet, where we sat as a panel at a reserved table very near the front. They made us feel very important, but I must say that there was a lot of silverware around that plate, fortunately my new friends Heike and Donna from NCFL helped keep me straight. After dinner I was once again moved by another alum of programs sponsored by NCFL, Henry Hildreth, Jr. Henry is a proud Navajo from New Mexico who is also a veteran of Iraq. When he returned from his tour of duty he set his sights on becoming a better family man and especially father to his son Adam. He and Adam began participating in the FACE program, Family and Child Education. It's an exciting program in which the parents and children go to school together. For part of the day the kids do the preschool thing while the parents work on GEDs or other further education opportunities. The other part of the day they work together and learn ways to increase literacy in their homes, not only to help the children but the parents as well. Henry was very obviously a proud father, Adam who is ready for kindergarten this fall. It saddened Henry that he and Adam wouldn't be attending school together any more, but he will still be attending school, continuing his education in college. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Adam joined his father on stage, awesome!

On Tuesday we packed up and flew home to Ohio. It was an amazing week of fun, learning and inspiration. Maria is blogging about the conference today too, so check out Teaching in the 21st Century for her views on our week in San Diego.

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