Invaluable Alumni Professional Development at Neag School

Wendy Glenn, pictured on the far right, gathered with 13 Neag graduates at the ALAN conference in 2010.
Wendy Glenn, pictured on the far right, gathered with 13 Neag graduates at the ALAN conference in 2010.

Faculty from the Neag School of Education keep in touch with their graduates and offers alumni professional development opportunities to facilitate continual growth and development even after their students receive their diplomas from the University of Connecticut.

“Upon admission to the IB/M program, I always tell my students that our relationship will continue long after they leave UConn,” said Wendy Glenn, director of teacher education and associate professor of English education. “Professionally, these experiences are invaluable in helping teachers realize the ways in which they might contribute to and learn from the larger conversations occurring in the field”

“Our graduates are talented, innovative teachers who do creative and effective work that deserves to be recognized and potentially emulated by others in the field,” Glenn continued.

The National Council of Teachers (NCTE) of English’s annual conference is one of the experiences Neag alumni have participated in, a tradition spearheaded by Glenn.

“Each year, I send an email message to all Neag English education alumni and current fifth-year students inviting them to work with me to submit a proposal. This past year, 13 students were interested in and available to present at ALAN (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescent — an NCTE affiliate group),” Glenn said.

The past several years, Neag graduates and students have presented with Glenn at both NCTE and ALAN. In 2010 and 2011, they worked hands on with unique proposals containing mentoring components, guiding those who had not yet presented through the proposal, preparation and presentation process.

Professional opportunities, like NCTE, allow graduates working across the country to come together, share experiences and build a supportive network participants can benefit from long after the conference ends.

“NCTE/ALAN is a wonderful opportunity for me not only to enjoy meeting teachers from across the United States, but also to reconnect with members of my own English Education cohort, as well as to collaborate with Neag alumni from other years,” said Tiffany Smith, a participant in the 2009 and 2010 conferences and current second-year language arts teacher at Parish Hill Middle/High School in Chaplin, Conn.

“I learned so much from watching my fellow presenters and sharing our materials. It’s also really validating to have other teachers tell you that what you’ve created is good and that they plan to use your ideas in their own classrooms,” said Smith.

In this year’s conference, Smith and her colleagues gave a presentation entitled, “The Writer’s Craft: Young Adult Literature as Impetus for Writing,” where they discussed how to use young adult literature as mentor texts to foster awareness of the author’s craft and increase motivation and skills in writing.

Neag also commits to helping its teachers think and behave as researchers. They are taught that by examining and reflecting upon practice, teachers can improve their future performance. Interested students have worked with Glenn to translate conference presentations into peer-reviewed journal articles that have been accepted for publication.

“If I was at any other college, I never would have gotten so involved in professional development. Wendy Glenn is incredibly passionate, and every year, a large group of alumni join her at these conferences. Without her, I would probably be teaching in my classroom, unaware of all the opportunities out there,” said Erica Berg, an English teacher at Rockville High School in Vernon, Conn., who has attended NCTE/ALAN and similar, smaller conferences the last five years.

Additionally, Berg has presented in seven conferences and has published articles in national journals. She typically presents about Young Adult Literature and how to integrate it in the classroom.

Glenn sends regular emails and maintains in-person contact with graduates. She shares information about upcoming conferences, books teachers might wish to use with their students, and new practices and research from which they might benefit.

Glenn started getting involved with NCTE on her own with her graduates in mind. She simply thought alumni would benefit from the opportunity and says the process has been advisor-generated so far. The alumni are finding that the benefits of graduating from Neag extend well beyond their diplomas.