Nicole deGuzman of the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School was one of the 2015 recipients of the Gallo Grant from ALAN, which provides funds to assist early career teachers with travel and registration costs for the workshop in November. Here are Nicole’s reflections on attending ALAN in Minneapolis:
I received the opportunity to attend ALAN for the first time through the Gallo Grant. In the days leading up to the workshop, after concluding parent-teacher conferences and somehow managing to move the day before my flight, I made it to Minneapolis and embarked on an incredible two days. Those two days turned into a highlight of my entire year. The evening before ALAN began, I connected with old friends from my alma mater of Millersville University, and met some new ones, over a delicious pub dinner on Nicollet Mall. The next morning, we finally lined up, collected book boxes and bags, and basked in the haul! I got a lot of books, “geeked out” over authors old and new, and took many memorable notes that now rest in my notebook on my desk at school.
One invaluable takeaway from my first ALAN experience, of course, included the sheer volume of books with which I returned home. But what came of those books is the important part: stronger relationships with students. I teach at a cyberschool, so we do not have the pleasure of a library. The books I received at ALAN allowed me to do prize drawings and giveaways to get books into students’ hands, a boon for my school’s Million Pages Challenge . Being able to send a special book to a special student in my class means even more. And though I may run my classes online, the ability to hold up a physical book during a booktalk still counts for something.
My biggest takeaway, however, proved much simpler. The giddy overload of ALAN, the stuff of tweets and one-off photos, is fleeting. The part of ALAN that sustains me even now, months after its end, is the renewal I found. It’s hard to forget the contagious buzz of the workshop room, the combined brilliance of so many talented educators, writers, and others coming together, buzzing with a common purpose. It’s been an uphill battle at my school to deliver more young adult lit to actual young adults, a battle I’m still fighting. At ALAN, I got a break and a breath I barely knew I needed, in a haze of camaraderie I didn’t know existed. At ALAN, I got a vital renewal in the belief that YA literature matters.