Nervous…Excited…Grateful: My First Time at NCTE

A pre-service teacher experiences the wonders of the #NCTE19 convention in Baltimore


Katie Voortmann perches on the big green NCTE couch in Baltimore.

Katie Voortmann, Teacher-Writer

I’ll admit, I was a little nervous as I was boarding the plane at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport in order to go to Baltimore. After winning a travel stipend for a writing contest at Buena Vista University, my advisor recommended I go to NCTE. The first words out of her mouth were, “It’s going to be a little overwhelming, but you’ll learn SO much.” I was hoping to come back with some new ideas and books which I could use within my own future classroom.

When we got to Baltimore, I went to the convention center to check in for registration. Surprised and shocked were the two emotions I felt when I got my program and saw that it was an inch thick. How was I supposed to choose just one session to attend each hour when there were over 50 for each time slot? Eagerly, I sat down Thursday night and skimmed through all of the pages, deciding what to attend.

Friday morning, I woke up at 4 a.m. because I was so excited to attend the conference. As a college student who runs on caffeine, I grabbed an iced coffee from Starbucks and went to the first-timer’s breakfast. Our group leader, Angela Moore, talked about the conference and how NCTE builds a community of teachers. She insisted we all exchange emails and said she would be checking in with us from time to time. And with that, the conference was underway.

Pullquote Photo

This session gave me 50 different strategies that I could use in my classroom

— Katie Voortmann

I went to many different sessions that day, but my favorite one had to be “Raising a Community of Writers: 50 Ways to Engage Students Within Their Writing.” This session gave me 50 different strategies that I could use in my classroom. As a pre-service teacher, this is the best thing I could ask for, and there is no doubt I will be using some of them in my classroom!

I decided to venture through the exhibit hall, and it was comparable to Black Friday except all of the “customers” were teachers waiting for free books.

Saturday brought just as much excitement. I went to one session which used and talked about the Folger Method. This session was interactive because we were reading dialogue from the famous book, Their Eyes Were Watching God. At first everyone was quiet and kept to themselves, but by the end, we had acted out scenes and had perfected the dialect which was used within the book. I left this session feeling energized, and it helped remind me literature can be super fun and engaging if taught in the right way.

Sunday morning arrived and even though exhaustion had taken root in my body, I couldn’t wait to get back to the conference. My final session I attended had Donalyn Miller as the speaker. I had heard from previous teachers and professors she was awesome to listen to. Her message revolved around just how important it is for students to have access to books—something I want to make sure I do when I have my own classroom.

After the session, I took time to reflect on everything I learned. I was thankful for this opportunity, but even more grateful to have grown as a person along the way. It made me realize that I can’t wait to have my own classroom one day, and I am super excited to be an English teacher!