Teachers bone up on literacy

More than 300 educators expected at Juneau conference

Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2006

The five-day weekend for Juneau students is giving teachers around the state a chance to get together and share tips on improving literacy in all aspects of the classroom.

The Alaska Literary Conference starts at 7:30 a.m. today at Juneau-Douglas High School and runs through Saturday afternoon. More than 300 K-12 teachers from around the state and the Lower 48 are expected to attend.

Haines is sending teachers from its entire district. Today and Friday are in-service instructional days for teachers in the Juneau School District.

"We have a diverse population that were lucky enough to serve in Alaska," said Gerianne McLeod, conference co-coordinator.

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"The teachers from across the state need to share information about working with diverse classrooms and how to meet the needs of these students in different areas of literacy."

Last year's conference was in Kenai. The 2004 meeting was in Fairbanks. The last Alaska Literary Conference in Juneau was in 2000.

The Juneau-Haines Reading Council and the Alaska State Literacy Association are sponsoring the conference, "Alaska's Diverse Community: Literacy and Leadership."

The conference allows school districts the chance to select and discuss materials for future use in the classroom. More than 30 exhibitors of national products will be setting up booths in the JDHS commons during the conference. Exhibits open at 7:30 p.m. each day, and wrap up by 4 p.m.

Special events*


6-9 p.m. - "A Poetic Feast," with Brett Dillingham and Jason Ohler, at the Back Room at the Silverbow Inn.

7-9:30 p.m. - "An Evening of Storytelling," with Amelia Jenkins, Pat McLear and Grace Elliott, at the Hangar on the Wharf.


noon-1 p.m. - A presentation of work by Breadloaf, Room 202, JDHS.

12:30-1:30 p.m. - "Teacher as Writer, Writer as Teacher," by Claire Rudolf Murphy, Room 307, JDHS.


9:30-11 a.m. - "Daughters of Desert," a discussion with Claire Rudolf Murphy, downtown Juneau Public Library.

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. - Juneau authors brunch, at the Baranof Hotel.

*Admission varies to each event.

"We're trying to provide workshops that will meet just about everybody's need in some way," said Sharon Denton, a teacher at Glacier Valley Elementary School.

"It's a way to hear new ideas, just to strengthen you craft," she said. "It doesn't matter what you're teaching. You're going to have to use reading to learn the content."

Harvey Daniels, professor of language at National-Louis University in Chicago, and Taffy E. Raphael, professor of curriculum and instruction at University of Illinois-Chicago, are the keynote speakers. Daniels will present "Content Area Reading and Writing" at 8 a.m. today, while Raphael will lecture on "Achieving High Levels of Literacy through QAR" at 8 a.m. Friday.

At Friday's 6 p.m. banquet at the Baranof Hotel, writer Claire Rudolf Murphy, a 25-year Alaskan, will be presented an award for her retelling of a Tsimshian legend, "The Prince and the Salmon People." Murphy also will deliver the keynote speech, "Writing from the Inside Out: A Life Journey."

Murphy spent time as a teacher and writer in Fairbanks, North Pole and St. Mary's. She's written 14 children's books. The first 10 were about Alaska.

"I grew up in Spokane and yet I have this yearning to learn about people who are on the outside," Murphy said. "That's driven my writing. I think students are hungry for it. We're always yearning to find that in the classroom."

Murphy will speak during the conference, presenting, "Teacher as Writer, Writer as Teacher." She also will lead a discussion at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the downtown Juneau Public Library on her book "Daughters of the Desert." The book explores the lost stories of Christian, Muslim and Jewish women who have descended from monotheistic Abrahamic religions. Christian, Muslim and Jewish women will attend Saturday's presentation and share their stories.

"Teachers love reading, but some of them don't write a lot. They don't have a lot of time," Murphy said. "It's helpful for someone who's writing every day to come in and say, 'This is what I do.'"

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