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A Legacy of Pride

Reflections from NCTE Vice President
Jocelyn
A. Chadwick

presidentsSince its founding in 1911, NCTE has been an organization devoted to representing, encouraging, and celebrating the fundamental role of English teachers in classrooms across America. The accomplishments of the many teachers who have joined and supported NCTE for more than 100 years have bestowed on us what can truly be heralded as a Legacy of PrideWe the entirety of the NCTE membership today—educators all—caucuses, assemblies, conferences—all of us are the legatees of this rich legacy. And, indeed this legacy is a rich and diverse one.

Throughout the year I’ll be sharing highlights from this history, beginning this month with the critical role played by African American teachers who have served and strengthened the organization for generations. They have helped to enrich and improve the lives of students of all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. NCTE’s growth has also benefitted from the dynamic leadership of a group of inspired African American presidents whose work has helped to broaden the scope of the organization’s mission.

William Jenkins, Marjorie Farmer, Charlotte K. Brooks, Miriam Chaplin, Jesse Perry, Keith Gilyard, Ernest Morrell, and I are all parts of this legacy-tapestry—our legacy-tapestry—all of us. As Charlotte K. Brooks, a strong, teacher-intellectual in DC schools expressed in 1976 to the entirety of our membership:

There is no tangible foe somewhere out there, seeking to destroy all teachers of English. There are critics and writers and parents and others who are terribly concerned about the teaching of reading and writing and who speak out loudly, often in confusion and despair because they think they know what should be taught. The real enemy is ignorance [italics mine], and we can work together [italics mine] to combat that ignorance with knowledge.

Let’s never forget or put aside NCTE’s Legacy of Pride, for we have much about which to be proud. Are we where we want to be in perpetuity? Of course not. And we know this universal truth. Ours is a mission bequeathed by our past presidents to continue confronting and seeking change and improvement for all our students.