I have been very blessed to serve the Iowa Council of Teachers of English over the last two years as President, and even longer as a member of the Executive Board. I wanted to take a moment to share some of the ways in which ICTE has molded me into the teacher I am today.
Importance: ICTE taught me the importance of honoring teachers as well as finding time to re-energize myself. I found my own voice through participating and later presenting at ICTE conferences. Having professional conversations with educators across the state has allowed me to rediscover my passion. Listening to others at various ICTE events helped me to reflect on how many positive things are happening in classrooms across the state. That led me to a desire to serve on the ICTE Executive Board to raise those teacher voices in hopes of changing the negative narrative that sometimes exists in the public perception of education. Connecting other teachers to lift up those voices across the state has been the privilege of my time on the board.
Connection: My marigolds, my community, my place of refuge, of learning, of coming back to myself and my beliefs. Every year at the fall conference, at Eng Camp, at Executive Board meetings, writing retreats, and each month online I am reminded that there are others out there who share my passions, my struggles, my drive. There are others who are up late a night responding to student essays and can offer words of encouragement through back channel chats. There are others who feel like the lone voice advocating for students in a cacophony of politics, stress, and shrinking budgets. There are others out there who read and write because only in those moments are they truly at peace. These are the people who show up at ICTE’s many events, and I don’t know that I would have made it this long in education without them.
Truth: The first time I encountered a “This I Believe” essay, it was at an ICTE convention. Not long after, I experienced an Iowa Writing Project workshop and began to find my own truths as an English teacher. These truths have lasted, and they have shaped me into the educator I am now. Before ICTE, I could not have articulated nor advocated for what I believed in as an English teacher. ICTE has taught me how to build my voice and how to advocate for what I know to be true. I learned how to advocate for authentic reading and writing experiences for students and how to empower students to use their own voices by demonstrating the same. I believe in teachers and students working together to change the world, and I owe that to ICTE.
Encouragement: I have found so many mentors here at ICTE. Darin Johnson, a long time ICTE member and my department chair in Ames, first introduced me to the organization. His encouragement eventually led me to join the Executive Board. At the fall conference each year, I always find encouragement in the words of current and former professors who truly care about how I’m doing and what I’m doing to continue to grow as a teacher, writer, and reader. Additionally, I find the most value in getting to talk with other English teachers who are in the trenches every day – the work you do encourages me to continue to advocate for us and for our students.
ICTE has given me a professional home, and I will never be the same.
Erin Miller is a Teacher on Special Assignment for the Ames Community School District.