41st annual Fall English Workshop to give ideas to area teachers

Teachers will be helping teachers come up with new ideas for their classrooms at the 41st annual Fall English Workshop on Friday, Sept. 26, in the Memorial Union at Fort Hays State University.

The theme of this year's workshop is "Teachers Helping Teachers," and according to Dr. Cheryl Duffy, associate professor of English and workshop committee member, the theme describes this workshop perfectly.

"Other workshops tend to be more theory-based, rather than practical," she said. "This is a conference where teachers can come get good ideas from other teachers who are actually in the classroom applying these ideas."

Presenters for the sessions will be teachers from Kansas schools who will speak on topics ranging from "Innovative Approaches to Book Reports" to "Reading Assessment and the Six-Traits." After looking at evaluation forms from past years, committee members realized that assessments were a topic of great interest with many of the teachers, so this year two of the sessions will cover this area.

Sharon Wilson, instructor of English and committee chair, said the increased interest in this subject is due in part to the pressure that teachers are now under to meet state standards through assessments.

The keynote speaker for the workshop will be Dr. Ralph Voss, who currently teaches English at the University of Alabama. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at FHSU. He has since returned to his alma mater to teach English during the summer semester.

"He's such a dynamic, fun-loving, down-to-earth person," said Wilson. "He's an excellent speaker because he doesn't talk over the heads of his audience."

His presentation is called "From Grain Bins to Cotton Gins: Reflections on Nearly 40 Years of Teaching English."

"It will be a retrospective of his years of teaching in the field of English," said Wilson.

Other presenters at the workshop include Karin Madorin and Cindy Hertel from Ellis High School, Deb Kohn from Oakley High School, Lynn Hewes from Cimarron High School, Amber Hardacre from Kensington High School, Cindy Harold from Weskan School, Jennifer Groves from Emporia State University, Danette Russell from St. John Junior High School, Jenny Peloquin from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, Leslie Struckhoff from Burlington High School, JoAnn Hoffman from Mill Creek Valley Junior High, Susan Schrader from Wabaunsee High School and Kris Rivers from Mill Creek Valley School.

Two sessions will be presented on assessment this year. These were crafted after a request from past participants to learn more about this. As an addition to this year's workshop, the committee sent out a letter to teachers who have participated in the workshop in the past five years, asking them what they would like to see presented at the workshop. An overwhelming response came back in favor of learning more about assessments. Wilson said this is due to the increased state standards that teachers are now under pressure to meet.

Another feature of this year's workshop is the Idea Exchanges. Any teacher who wants to take part can bring 20 copies of an idea that they are currently using in their classroom that works well. They can pass along this idea and pick up other effective ideas as well. One Idea Exchange will be "Teaching Grammar in the Real World" and the other will be "Crafting Writing Assignments that Discourage Plagiarism."

Wilson and Duffy said that this is a great opportunity for participants to share what they know and learn from a variety of other people.

Although they are hoping between 50 and 100 teachers attend this year's workshop, they are also aware of budget cuts that could limit their numbers.

"With the school budgets being cut in high school, it's very difficult for secondary teachers to attend conferences," Wilson said.

Nevertheless, Wilson and Duffy are positive about what will be accomplished at this years' workshop.

"We believe in this workshop," said Duffy. "It is good for everyone involved."

She added, "It helps us stay in touch with what's going on in the community colleges and public schools, and we do a service to them by giving them this opportunity to come together."

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