Bringing it Back: Bread Loaf Teachers Reflect on Summer Learning

Jan 16th, 2018 | By | Category: BLTN Teachers, Bringing It Back, Impacts, Winter 2018

With each issue of the Bread Loaf Teacher Network Journal, we feature BLTN Fellows’ reflections on how their summer coursework propels their thinking about pedagogy and collaboration. We invite you to use the comments feature on this page to inquire into the thinking and plans our fellows share here. 


Fallon Abel
Sharon Academy Middle School
Sharon, VT
Vermont BLTN Fellow

This summer at Bread Loaf, I took Playwriting with Dare Clubb. My work in Playwriting has been especially formative in thinking about this upcoming year, particularly in regard to ways of creating a supportive community of writers in the classroom. The notion of a dramatic image that communicates a nexus of meanings is something I plan to explore with my students through BLTN writing exchanges. For example, what might the image of a typical Vermont table communicate to our Kentucky pen pals about Vermont values and culture, or how can theater be used to explore and take action on the social justice issues we discuss during our human rights unit?

7018  Playwriting

D. Clubb/M, W 2–4:45

This course concerns itself with the many ways we express ourselves through dramatic form. An initial consideration of the resources at hand will give way to regular discussions of established structures and techniques. Members of the class are asked to write a scene for each class meeting. Throughout the course we will be searching for new forms, new ways of ordering experience, and new ways of putting our own imaginations in front of us.

Kendra Bauer
Lowell High School
Lowell, MA
Esperanza Fellow

This summer I took Deformity and Disability in British Literature with Brenda Brueggemann. Disability in literature is everywhere, but I have never used a critical lens to examine it, and, thus, I have never explored it properly in my own English classroom. Piggy in Lord of the Flies, Candy and Crooks in Of Mice and Men, and Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird are all characters, who demand conversations about ableism and deformity—conversations which have never happened in my classroom. I am startled and awakened to new ways of framing texts I have worked with for the past 15 years. Because of my work in urban settings, I have always been aware of the concepts of universal design for teaching all students, and I consider this a strong point of my own teaching, but I have not truly considered the agency of seeing oneself or one’s disability reflected in literature. I am enamored with the new ways in which Brueggemann employed technologies such as Google Docs in classroom discussions and beyond. She pulled on prior knowledge and created a record of our discourse by creating space for our thoughts to be scribed by classmates during class. This is one of many techniques I will take back to the classroom this fall. Additionally, every assignment Brueggemann gave had five to ten alternative and creative options. She allowed freedom of choice in what we wanted to study further and how we wanted to present our information. I try to do this in my own classroom, but it is really helpful to engage in the actual assignments.

7273  Disability and Deformity in British Literature 1600–present

B. Brueggemann/M–Th 9:35–10:50

Literature of all cultures and histories is rife (and ripe) with representations of disability and/or deformity—once we know how to look for it. But why, and how, does the condition of the body—infirm or whole, crippled or complete, abnormal or extraordinary—matter in literature? Using the lens of critical disability studies applied to British literature since 1600, we will explore this primary question. Beginning with Shakespeare’s Richard III, we will consider the following primary questions (and surely more): How do ideas about disability and deformity in British literature from 1600 forward create and then enforce the divide between “normality” and “abnormality”? What are the plots, metaphors, and character moves that disability/deformity makes in this literature? What did it mean to “have a body” (deformed, disabled, and “normal” as well), and how are these bodily forms expressed in this literature? (The course may also be used to satisfy a Group 3 requirement.)

Texts: Shakespeare, Richard III, ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine (Simon & Schuster/Folger); Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (Penguin); Bernard Pomerance, The Elephant Man (Grove); Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden (Signet); William Golding, Lord of the Flies (Penguin); Mark Haddon, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Vintage); David Lodge, Deaf Sentence (Penguin). The following selections are available online: William Hay, “On Deformity” (1754); Samuel Johnson, “Life of Pope” (1781); Thomas Hardy, “The Withered Arm” (1888); H. G. Wells, “The Country of the Blind” (1904); D.H. Lawrence, “The Blind Man” (1918). Additional readings will be provided during the session.

Laura Benton
Woodford County High School
Versailles, KY
C.E. and S. Fellow

My final summer as a Bread Loaf student was absolutely fantastic. I had the good fortune to be in American Weird with Professor Marshall and The Arabian Nights with Professor Goldman. Both classes worked really well together and provided great opportunities for critical thinking and creativity.

In American Weird we studied everything from Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft to more contemporary writers such as James Vandermeer and Mat Johnson. This class was absolutely fantastic. At this point I feel like I truly understand the genesis of weird in American literature as well as its function in realistic fiction and genre. I plan to teach Annihilation (one of our texts) this coming spring in my creative writing class. While teaching Annihilation, I will try to sneak in a BLTN project based on this class.

In the Arabian Nights course, Professor Goldman provided an informative overview of Islamic culture and the Arabian Nights. For my final project I created a lesson plan that combined elements of Islamic cultural studies, The Arabian Nights and Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories. I ended up being really proud of this work and will use it this coming fall with a group of creative writing kids in my creative writing class that will function as a focused BLTN workshop.

7630  American Weird

K. Marshall/M–Th 8:10–9:25

In this course we will inhabit the profound weirdness at the heart of the American literary tradition, traceable not only to the Weird Tales popular in the early 20th century, but also to the gothic horror of the early American wilderness and its contemporary resurgence in tales of sentient, catastrophic landscapes. In addition to the traditional “weird” of H. P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, we will look to the old American weird of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Charles Brockden Brown, and to writers of the “new weird,” from Kelly Link’s fabulism to Jeff VanderMeer’s revisitation of cosmic horror in his Southern Reach trilogy. The course will also read the weird through contemporary engagements with its racial legacy in novels by Mat Johnson and Victor LaValle.

Texts: H. P. Lovecraft, Tales (Library of America); Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) (some students may want to read all three novels in the Southern Reach trilogy); Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (Dover); Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland (Penguin); Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom (Tor); Mat Johnson, Pym (Spiegel & Grau). Additional readings from Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Willa Cather, and Kelly Link will be provided during the summer session. Reading widely in the Lovecraft volume is recommended, as is preparing the longer Brockden Brown novel. We will also be watching and discussing the 2015 film The Witch: A New England Folktale.

7736  The Arabian Nights—Storytelling, Orientalism, and Islamic Culture

S. Goldman/T, Th 2–4:45

In this course we will study the great medieval classic The Arabian Nights or The Thousand and One Nights Entertainment. Compiled in Egypt and Syria in the 14th century and translated into French and other European languages in the 17th and 18th centuries, this “ocean of story” has had a profound effect on the development of the literatures of both the Middle East and the West. The incorporation of “Arabian Nights” motifs in European art and orientalist discourse will be central in our inquiry.

Texts: Muhsin Mahdi and Husain Haddawy, Arabian Nights (Norton); Richard Burton, Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights (Modern Library); Robert Irwin, Arabian Nights: Companion (Tauris Parke); Malise Ruthven, Islam: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford); Alexander Lyon Macfie, Orientalism: A Reader(NYU); Shalom Goldman, The Wiles of Women/The Wiles of Men (SUNY).

Gregory Booth
Sheridan High School
Thornville, OH
Bickimer (POLI) Fellow

I learned a lot, as always, about pedagogy, about content, and about myself. Robert Stepto and my classmates opened up Invisible Man in ways I hardly thought possible. It was, like just about everything else in my life, an exercise in showing how little I know about how little I know. I could not have navigated the allusions without Professor Stepto or my classmates. This reaffirmed, like Bread Loaf always does, the power of conversation and community. Additionally, I was able to study the connections between Ellison and Orwell. I already teach 1984 and now (having found useful parallels between the texts) would like to incorporate Invisible Man into my curriculum as a companion piece. This class also reminded me how important literary criticism can be to help build depth of understanding for me and my students. Additionally, it showed me I could write a longer paper than I thought I could, and I could push my students to limits they might not have thought they could reach.

7601  Ralph Ellison in Context

R. Stepto/M–Th 9:35–10:50

This seminar pursues close readings of Ralph Ellison’s essays, short stories, and novel, Invisible Man. The “in context” component of the seminar involves working from Eric Sundquist’s Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and other resources including Avon Kirkland’s PBS film to discern a portrait of the Modernist America Ellison both investigated and imagined. After each student has chosen an issue to work on (e.g., Ellison and folklore, Ellison and music, etc.), student presentations will be planned. These presentations will drive the “in context” component, and will clarify how Ellison’s texts are in conversation with many aspects of American literature, history, music, and art. Put another way, the student presentations should provide cultural contexts for Ellison above and beyond what Sundquist provides just for Invisible Man. (Deepening what Sundquist offers on a given context is also an acceptable project.)

Texts: Ralph Ellison, Flying Home (Vintage), Collected Essays (Modern Library Classics), and Invisible Man(Vintage); James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son (Beacon); Alan Nadel, Invisible Criticism: Ralph Ellison and the American Canon (Iowa); Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, ed. Eric Sundquist (Bedford/St. Martin’s); A Historical Guide to Ralph Ellison, ed. Steven Tracy (Oxford); Richard Wright, Uncle Tom’s Children (Harper Perennial); Ann Petry, Miss Muriel and Other Stories (Beacon).

Derek Burtch
Olentangy Liberty High School
Powell, OH
Bickimer (POLI) Fellow

Fiction Writing with Susan Choi was an absolute pleasure every time we were in class. The reading selections matched with writing exercises in class taught us how to produce writing through reading like a writer. The conversations and thought produced in the class will definitely migrate into my classroom.

7005  Fiction Writing

S. Choi/T, Th 2–4:45

This workshop will focus on the craft of fiction through examination of student work, analysis of exemplary published works of fiction, and completion of exercises spotlighting characterization, plot, narrative voice, dialogue, and description. Students will be expected to share works in progress, provide constructive criticism to their fellow writers, generate new work in response to exercises and prompts, and complete reading assignments. Prior to coming to Bread Loaf, students should read the following short stories from the required text: “First Love and Other Sorrows” by Harold Brodkey, “Jon” by George Saunders, and “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro. Additional works of short fiction, both from the required text and from resources to be provided by the instructor, will be assigned throughout the session.

Texts:My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead, ed. Jeffrey Eugenides (Harper Perennial).

Geena Constantin
Robert Frost Sixth Grade Academy
Louisville, KY
C.E. and S. Fellow

Jeremy Bentham’s writings on animal cruelty were the initial texts that we read and discussed this summer in Professor Dennis Denisoff’s Genders, Sexualities, and the Animal course. My engagement with a snake in our dorm my first day in New Mexico was a great backdrop for the conversations we would have over the course of the summer. Do animals think and feel? Is their sentience equal to humans? Should we even be comparing them to humans in the first place? All of these questions inundated my mind as we read theorists like Descartes, Haraway, Wittig, and Wolfe. Our supplementary fictional texts begged us to think about, for example, what would happen if your cat suddenly started talking? Saki’s “Tobermory” (1911), the piece that involves said conversational cat, further pushed my thinking about the animal/human divide or its lack thereof.

7475  Genders, Sexualities, and the Animal

D. Denisoff/M, W 9–11:45

Gender, sexuality, and desire have commonly been read through an anthropocentric paradigm that assumes the centrality of humans. And yet, our species makes up a minority of the planet’s sentient population. Engaging British literature of the past 150 years, this course addresses gender and sexuality through the theoretical lens of the animal. Using animality, feminist, queer, and gender theory, the course exposes the reliance of humanism and modern ethics on contentious notions of species distinctions. It also develops our awareness of the diverse philosophical and cultural issues that arise when nonhuman organisms are recognized as active agents in and influences on the formation of genders, sexualities, and desires. Topics for study include relations between animality and sexual/gender politics, our animal desires, subjectivity vs. collectivity; trans-species affection; race; and anthropomorphism. Please read Woolf before classes begin. Additional readings will be provided before the session.

Texts: Virginia Woolf, Flush: A Biography (Mariner); Iain Banks, The Wasp Factory (Simon & Schuster); Michael Field, Sight and Song (; H. G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau (Dover).

Films: In advance of class, please view Peter Greenaway’s A Zed and Two Noughts (1985).

My other course for the summer was Annalyn Swan’s Life Lines: The Art and Craft of Biographical Writing. In this class we read classics like Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson and Ellmann’s Oscar Wilde. We looked at texts that tested the previously accepted structure of biographies like A.J.A. Symons’s The Quest for Corvo, which read like a detective story. Our focus on local tales and characters that inhabited New Mexico led us to read a part of Mabel Dodge Luhan’s memoir, Edge of Taos Desert: An Escape to Reality, and Hermoine Lee’s Willa Cather: Double Lives. We even ventured to the areas these women once called home, in addition to learning about art and life through a study of Georgie O’Keefe.

7017  Life Lines: The Art and Craft of Biographical Writing

A. Swan/M, W 2–4:45

Ever since Plutarch brought Alexander the Great blazingly to life in his seminal Lives (second century CE), people have loved to read—and write—biographies. This course will be an exploration of the genre at its best. What do great biographies and autobiographies have in common—and how do they differ? How are scenes set, facts organized, context provided? How novelistic can a biography be? And is there, finally, such a thing as “truth” in biography or autobiography? We’ll also explore the many ways a writer can tease out the “figure under the carpet”—as Leon Edel, the great biographer of Henry James, put it—by practicing the art ourselves, either by writing something autobiographical or by researching and writing a chapter of a biography. (This course may also be used to satisfy a Group 3 requirement.)

Texts: James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (Penguin); Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians (Penguin); Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde (Knopf); Hermione Lee, Willa Cather (Virago); A. J. A. Symons, The Quest for Corvo (New York Review Books); Nigel Nicolson, Portrait of a Marriage (University of Chicago); Mabel Dodge Luhan, Edge of Taos Desert: An Escape to Reality (University of New Mexico).

These two courses combined pushed me to think about my classroom pedagogy, particularly involving one of the primary texts in my sixth grade language arts classroom: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. It isn’t new news that middle school students love stories about animals. Cue any video of a fluffy creature, and they are hooked. However, I always felt like I wasn’t doing enough with this novel. The book is written as a memoir through the eyes of Ivan, a real-life silverback gorilla held in captivity in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade in Washington State. I use this story in my classroom as a complement to informational studies on animal captivity and animal rights. As my Bread Loaf summer went on and I continued to ponder different theories in both biography and studies of animality, I came to the conclusion that I never fully recognized and developed an important student connection while reading Ivan: If we are okay with treating animals poorly, what does this say about how we will treat people?

Bentham’s commentary in Of the Limits of the Penal Branch of Jurisprudence (1789) discusses public education as an “art.” His writing speaks to the community value of public knowledge and leads the reader to understand that an ideal educational system is one in which we teach students to be sympathetic to each other’s needs and learning processes to develop a better good. Of course, the human connection always comes up when we read about Ivan and his experience, but not enough that it becomes the forefront of our conversations. If I could synthesize Bentham’s arguments, supplementing his ideas with other theorists of the time like Descartes, what a conversation we could have! I could lead students to think about what animal cruelty says about us as humans, encouraging students to contemplate what it even means to be a person in society.

Kyle Dennan
Eleanor McCain Secondary School
New Orleans, LA
Audacity Fellow

The two courses I took this summer were Faulkner with Stephen Donadio and Vengeance with Patricia DeMarco. Both of these courses will directly influence what I teach this year. I will be teaching As I Lay Dying and the Iliad, which was a text central to Vengeance. I am also taking teaching techniques from both courses. I am particularly excited about using Dr. DeMarco’s guidelines to introduce an interdisciplinary project to my students that is similar to the one we did this summer. Beyond the simply practical, however, I have benefited from the excitement that taking these courses has engendered in me. I cannot wait to share these texts with my students, who will naturally benefit from the passion that Bread Loaf is helping me bring to my classroom.

7591  Faulkner

S. Donadio/M, W 2–4:45

An intensive reading of the major works, for those interested in securing a comprehensive grasp of this author’s artistic achievements during the most important phase of his career.

Texts: William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; Sanctuary; As I Lay Dying; Light inAugust; Absalom, Absalom!; The Wild Palms; Collected Stories. Except for the Collected Stories (Vintage paperback), these works are all included in the Library of America volumes devoted to William Faulkner: Novels 1926–1929; Novels 1930–1935; Novels 1936–1940. Throughout the session, all of our detailed discussions will refer to the first three Library of America volumes, which students are expected to purchase—new or used—in advance. These durable hardbound volumes are available at discount from numerous sources, and, in addition to containing extremely useful chronologies and notes, represent a significantly more economical investment than any paperback editions.

7714  Vengeance

P. DeMarco/M–Th 9:35–10:50

O what a brilliant day it is for vengeance!” —Aeschylus, ancient Greek playwright

The vengeance plot—or revenge as a theme—can be found in virtually every historical era of literature. In this course we will study a rich variety of treatments of vengeance beginning with ancient epic (Homer, The Iliad) and tragedy (Seneca, Thyestes and Agamemnon), turning to medieval epic (Dante, Inferno), and concluding with early modern drama (Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus). We’ll examine how ancient value systems centered on honor/shame shaped poetic ideals of the avenging hero, justice, and fate. As we turn to medieval literature, we’ll explore the ways in which emerging judicial institutions and Christian theologies of atonement posed challenges to ancient ideals of vengeance and reappropriated earlier ideas of honor, vengeance, and pity. To enrich our understanding of our own culture’s preoccupation with vengeance, we’ll study the representation of vengeance in the modern western (Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino, director) and in modern renditions of classical narratives (Medea, Lars Von Trier, director). We will also examine theologies of divine vengeance, legal articulations of vengeance as a way to restore the balance to the scales of justice (as in the eye-for-an-eye code of the lex talionis), and efforts to cast “revenge as a kind of wild justice” (Francis Bacon) outside the bounds of reason and civilized conduct. Finally, we’ll draw on contemporary scholarship on the psychology of anger to better understand the motives that drive individuals to revenge, the goals that the avenger seeks, the pleasures (and, perhaps surprisingly, the lack of satisfaction) that the pursuit of vengeance provides.

Texts: Homer, The Iliad, trans. Robert Fagles, intro. Bernard Knox (Penguin); Seneca: The Tragedies: The Complete Roman Drama in Translation, Vol. I, ed. and trans. David Slavitt (John Hopkins); Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Vol. I, Inferno, trans. Robert Durling (Oxford); William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, ed. Jonathan Bate (Arden Third Series). Please use the editions listed here since other editions differ quite markedly.

Paul Dragin
Briggs High School
Columbus, OH
Bickimer (POLI) Fellow

This summer I took Biography with Annalyn Swan and Multicultural Digital Storytelling with Cruz Medina. Being among such a focused and intense group of learners provided great academic stimulus, and I garnered several ideas to bring back to the classroom from peers and professors alike. In Biography, my personal exposure to a large volume of reading provided an ongoing challenge, as did the requirement to lead the class with a presentation of one of the biographies. All of the participants chose creative ways to present the material, giving me ideas about different ways to present in the future and to share this insight with my students. I also had the opportunity to write a memoir—or at least a brief snapshot of an experience in my life—and share it in memoir style. Professor Swan is someone who truly loves her craft, and that enthusiasm was contagious in her classroom.

Digital Storytelling introduced me to a whole new media that inspired an idea for a collaboration during the school year (see below). Digital Storytelling is particularly relevant for ESL students in that it provides an alternate and complementary mode to the traditional essay, allowing English Language Learners to express themselves in ways that are not possible with writing alone. Creating my own digital story seemed a bit daunting on that first day of class, but, as in all things, I learned by doing, and I feel confident enough in the process to share the concept with my students and colleagues. As a matter of fact, in the fall, I plan to give a presentation on the topic to the ESL teachers in my district.

7017  Life Lines: The Art and Craft of Biographical Writing

A. Swan/M, W 2–4:45

Ever since Plutarch brought Alexander the Great blazingly to life in his seminal Lives (second century CE), people have loved to read—and write—biographies. This course will be an exploration of the genre at its best. What do great biographies and autobiographies have in common—and how do they differ? How are scenes set, facts organized, context provided? How novelistic can a biography be? And is there, finally, such a thing as “truth” in biography or autobiography? We’ll also explore the many ways a writer can tease out the “figure under the carpet”—as Leon Edel, the great biographer of Henry James, put it—by practicing the art ourselves, either by writing something autobiographical or by researching and writing a chapter of a biography. (This course may also be used to satisfy a Group 3 requirement.)

Texts: James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (Penguin); Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians (Penguin); Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde (Knopf); Hermione Lee, Willa Cather (Virago); A. J. A. Symons, The Quest for Corvo (New York Review Books); Nigel Nicolson, Portrait of a Marriage (University of Chicago); Mabel Dodge Luhan, Edge of Taos Desert: An Escape to Reality (University of New Mexico).

7091  Multicultural Digital Storytelling

C. Medina/T, Th 9–11:45

This course looks at how stories and storytelling serve to connect writers with their communities and cultures. The class will discuss academic and nonacademic writing on storytelling and keep an online archive of storytelling examples. In addition, members of the class will present course readings and create activities that will ask their fellow students to write with special considerations of genre, audience, theme, and/or technology. An outcome is the production of a digital storytelling text that will demonstrate rhetorical understanding.

Texts:The Subject is Story, ed. Wendy Bishop and Hans Ostrom (Heinemann); Joe Lambert, Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community, 4th rev. ed. (Routledge); Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects, ed. Kristin Arola, Jennifer Sheppard, and Cheryl Ball (Bedford/St. Martin’s).

Amelia Gordon
South High School
Columbus, OH
Bickimer (POLI) Fellow

I was fortunate enough to take Literary Criticism and Theory with Jennifer Wicke and Literacy Education and American Film with Eric Pritchard this summer at the Vermont campus. Initially, I did not expect there to be much crossover between the two classes—a clear indication of my misguided belief that pedagogy and theory are not often intertwined. I took Jennifer’s course to fill in a knowledge gap from my undergraduate education, hoping that I might be able to simplify some theory to give to my students. I did not expect that I would eventually apply theory to deconstruct my practice as a teacher. Critics and theorists referenced in Jennifer’s class appeared in my readings for Dr. Pritchard. As I was planning my short paper for Criticism and Theory, Jennifer suggested that I read Henry Giroux; the next day, Dr. Pritchard brought Giroux up in class. I could not have asked for a better pairing of classes.

My final project in Criticism and Theory was a theoretical deconstruction of three important moments in my BLTN exchange that prompted introspection for me as a teacher. My final project in American Film was a unit plan on interrogating masculinity that I am specifically planning for a class of students (mostly males) who are repeating ninth grade. I feel extremely lucky that both professors allowed me to use my time at Bread Loaf to think deeply about the ways in which I could translate my learning to my Columbus classroom.

7755  Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism

J. Wicke/M–Th 11–12:15

This introduction to literary theory and criticism asks the key questions that energize literary and social discussions today: What is the basis of cultural value, how do ideology and power emerge in society, and what gives meaning to cultural objects, subjects, and identities? Who decides what has worth and significance? We’ll cover the major theories of the 20th and 21st centuries—formalist, feminist, postcolonial, aesthetic, queer, critical race—that have changed the understanding of language and literature, self and Other, representation and misrepresentation. Since theories of literature are tied to what it means to be human, gender and sexuality are a focal point, with a wide spectrum of criticism. Literary theory untangles the issues of who counts and which voices matter, in literature and everyday life.

Texts: Global Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. Richard Lane (Routledge); Chris Kraus, I Love Dick(Semiotexte/MIT); Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (Graywolf); Claudia Rankine, Citizen (Graywolf).

7148  Literacy Education and American Film

E. Pritchard/M, W 2–4:45

This course centers on the question: How can cinematic narratives of literacy education help us to transform as teachers and individuals inside and outside of the classroom? We will explore some of the meanings of literacy by scholars who define it through historical, political, and cultural contexts, alongside films that depict literacy education in relationship to identity and difference. Students will write weekly short critical responses that will be the basis on which we begin critical discussions of issues raised by course readings and films, and discuss implications for our teaching and learning experiences in relationship to contemporary debates regarding critical literacies, social justice education, and critical race, feminist, and LGBTQ pedagogies in reading and writing instruction. The course will deepen the students’ knowledge base, teaching philosophies, and classroom practices by employing film to explore the infinite complexities, contradictions, contestations, possibilities, and rewards of literacy education in our lives. (This course may also be used to satisfy a Group 4 requirement.)

Texts: bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress (Routledge). A course packet of select articles and reviews will be available through the Middlebury College Bookstore.

John Hall
Fern Creek Traditional High School
Louisville, KY
Lit for Life Scholar

My first summer at Bread Loaf was full of reading, writing, and thinking. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be around so many people dedicated to improving their pedagogical practices and continuing education. I enjoyed both Cli-fi: Fictions of Climate Change and Teaching/Writing: The Art and Act of Writing about Teaching. Each class allowed me to reflect on my teaching practices, teaching as a profession, and the larger contexts of race, class, gender, ability, and environment that intersect in the American classroom. Teaching/Writing: The Art and Act of Writing about Teaching allowed me to reflect on my experience last year as a teacher. I have come to a more thorough understanding of American narratives of education and what it means to write about teaching—that writing about teaching is never just one person’s story. Writing about teaching includes the community where you teach, and what you write represents that community. This course will inform how I write about teaching for years to come.

7797  Cli-Fi: Fictions of Climate Change

J. Wicke/M, W 2–4:45

Literature has always explored the nature of the world. With awareness that cataclysmic climate change of human causation threatens the environment worldwide, once apocalyptic visions of a drowned, blazing, denatured world are now becoming reality. Cli-Fi describes an important genre of fiction, film, and media that gives images and narratives to global climate change, as well as a way of reading, thinking, and acting in the world. Drawing on literature and film, with interdisciplinary materials from science, policy, poetry, indigenous movements, and activism, the course enters the environmental humanities conversation. We’ll see how Cli-Fi bears witness to the ecological emergency affecting the planet and our lives, and how it offers solutions for survival, healing, and even for a more just and resilient future. In the context of climate change, fiction tells us the truth.

Texts: Mark Maslin, Climate Change:A Very Short Introduction (Oxford); I’m With the Bears: Short Stories for a Damaged Planet, ed. Mark Martin, intro. Bill McKibben (Verso); H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (Oxford); Ursula K. LeGuin, The Word for World Is Forest (Tor); Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (Grand Central); Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam (Anchor); Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior (Harper Perennial); Lydia Millet, Mermaids in Paradise (Norton); Paolo Bacigalupi, The Water Knife (Vintage); Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (Vintage); Monique Roffey, Archipelago: A Novel (Penguin); Claire Vaye Watkins, Gold Fame Citrus(Riverhead).

7151  Teaching/Writing: The Art and Act of Writing about Teaching

B. Brueggemann/M–Th 11–12:15

Teaching about writing and writing about teaching: these have strong crossings (and of course, much meaning in the life of BLSE teachers). In this course we will explore this chiasmus (crossing) between teaching and writing through a journey into many genres: fiction, nonfiction (memoir and essay), lesson plans, interviews, poetry, and even guides for writing a teaching statement/philosophy. Our course activities will include building an annotated bibliography together, collaborating on a class blog, discussion leadership (in small groups) of our texts, and writing a teaching statement/philosophy (remixed in at least two versions/forms/genres). While most of our reading will be from more contemporary texts, we will also begin with a historical understanding of writing about teaching from Roman educator Quintilian’s classical 12-volume text, The Institutes of Oratory (Institutio Oratorio) (AD 50).

Texts: Mike Rose, Lives on the Boundary (Penguin); Frank McCourt, Teacher Man (Scribner); Nicholson Baker, Substitute: Going to School with a Thousand Kids (Penguin); Julie Schumacher, Dear Committee Members (Anchor); The Teacher’s Body: Embodiment, Authority, and Identity in the Academy, ed. Diane Freedman and Martha Stoddard Holmes (SUNY). Additional readings will be provided during the session.

Matthew Haughton
West Jessamine County High School
Nicholasville, KY
C.E. and S. Fellow

In Holding Place: Long-form Writing about Landscape, we focused on the curation of research and how it shapes perspective/creative originality. Sullivan’s practical, real-world approach to writing was deeply inspiring. This class provided the rare opportunity to apprentice under a true working writer. Sullivan was bold and demanding—inspiring new ways of approaching the study of text and of composition. I was deeply inspired by his devotion to the agency of writing and how it can be used to constructively contribute to society. Sullivan is also a master of running an unorthodox classroom. His kinetic activities will be an inspiration in my classroom. I look forward to showing my students how the writing lab can also be a place for physical/intellectual projects. I have no doubt that this will strengthen and expand the student writers I attract at my school. In this course I was able to explore how songwriting, poetry, and performance enhance writing and research. I can not think of a more valuable pedagogy-based class for a Kentucky teacher who is passionate about writing and seeing kids actively engaged in the classroom.

7040b Holding Place: Long-form Writing about Landscape

R. Sullivan/M–Th 8:10–9:25

How do writers inhabit a place, and how does a place inhabit their books? In this course, students will examine various literary tools as well as the tools of the geographer in order to construct their own place-based works or site histories. In working toward that goal, we will look for inspiration in the way selected books and long-form journalism describe particular places, towns, cities, or regions, and we will consider the ways in which ongoing conversations about that place (political, social, environmental) figure into the landscape. (This course may also be used to satisfy a Group 4 requirement.)

Texts: Tove Jansson,The Summer Book (NYRB); John McPhee, The Pine Barrens (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Encounters with the Archdruid (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Root Shock (New Village); Lorraine Anderson, Sisters of the Earth: Women’s Prose and Poetry About Nature (Vintage).

In the Arabian Nights, Professor Goldman articulated a complex but deeply satisfying perspective of Islamic culture and how it informs the western reading of the Arabian Nights. For my final project I created series of creative prose vignettes in the style of the Arabian Nights. This allowed me to focus on structure and relevant cultural themes and how they can be used to enhance the reading experience. I look forward to using these strategies and texts to engage my students in a regional literature that is completely vacant from their current studies. Beyond the structural/thematic value of the study, I have no doubt that the cultural capital learned through studying a Middle Eastern text will be of exceptional value to the community I serve.

Rajwinder Kaur
Ramsey Middle School
Louisville, KY
C.E. and S. Fellow

I took Professor Denisoff’s Genders, Sexualities, and the Animal and Professor Medina’s Multicultural Digital Storytelling. In the former class, we focused on feminist and animal rights theories and learned how these two concepts really went hand in hand. Furthermore, we questioned what it meant to be human and animal. We came to the conclusion that the lines between these two entities were blurred, and we challenged what it meant to be human at each class meeting. In addition to theoretical readings, we read fiction texts that could be adapted into the classroom and were also interesting to us as adult readers.

With this class, I was able to grow as a reader and a critical thinker. Professor Denisoff, through rigorous questioning, asked us to think critically about the construction of identity politics. I have a newfound interest in texts that focus on other sentient beings and a new way of looking at identity politics. I intend to bring this new interest into the classroom by exposing my students to new texts and ways of thinking. I intend to do a novel study on The One and Only Ivan, a story about a gorilla in captivity. This will be linked to a larger unit on animal rights and environmentalism. I intend to collaborate with my students on animal rights social justice work within Louisville.

In Professor Medina’s class, we focused on pedagogical texts and building a classroom that allowed students to share their voices using technology. We designed units, and a group of us who taught the same grade levels shared our work with each other. I intend to conduct the unit I designed this year. I designed a unit called “Say My Name” in which students read texts, both fiction and non-fiction, about names and how names can impact identity. The culminating project will be a video in which students explore their own name, what their name means to them, and how their name has impacted them thus far. Professor Medina worked closely with us to understand the technology that is available to us and to problem solve access and buy-in issues we might face at our schools. The readings allowed us to truly understand the value of using technology as we work with students of color and of varying backgrounds. We also discussed the importance of students as creators of media. We discussed using new media as a way to explore student identity and strengthen writing, collaborating, editing, and revising skills.

Yulissa Nunez
Lawrence High School
Lawrence, MA
Macrorie Fellow

This summer I enjoyed taking Black British Literature with Lyndon Dominique and Arabian Nights with Shalom Goldman. I will be teaching Othello to my sophomores this year, so I was thrilled by the opportunity to see the show in the Little Theater this summer along with studying it in class. In my course I hope to focus the students’ attention to Iago’s source of power and Othello’s change in Acts II and III. Thanks to the class with Professor Dominique, I am also able to bring into my classroom the idea that Othello is a representative of Venetian characteristics more than the actual Venetians in the play. While we were in the class, one of the actors joined us in reading Othello’s last speech. I thoroughly enjoyed this reading because it was done in two parts; the first was of a defeated Othello, and the last was of a triumphant Othello. With my students, I hope to bring both readings so we can have a conversation about whether or not Othello was triumphant or defeated in his last moments. In terms of my teaching practices, I hope to lead my classes in more engaging discussions like the ones I was a part of in my courses this summer.

7470 Black British Literature

L. Dominique/M–Th 11–12:15

After World War II, Britain began receiving large influxes of immigrants from its African, Asian, and Caribbean colonies. This new colonial presence produced a large-scale clash of culture: blackness conflicted with Britishness. But this cultural conflict was not new. In actuality, there has been a sustained, conflicted black presence in Britain and British literature for at least 400 years. This course explores not only the changes in black British representations from the 17th to the 21st centuries, but also the heavy extent to which the contemporary black British cultural identity has its roots in literary representations of the past. Beginning with an examination of the black presence in early modern British literature, we will traverse four centuries of novels, poetry, and drama written by the black British writers who are responsible for constructing a black British cultural identity that was, at one time, supple enough to incorporate disparate groups of people as a united political force.

Texts: William Shakespeare, Othello (Folger); William Shakespeare, Dark Lady Sonnets 127 & 130 (1609);Aphra Behn, Oroonoko (Norton); Aphra Behn, The Adventure of the Black Lady (1697); Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (Broadview); Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (Penguin); Samuel Selvon, The Lonely Londoners (Longman); Michael Abbensetts, Sweet Talk (Methuen); Selections of Dub Poetry by Benjamin Zephaniah, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Jean Binta Breeze; Victor Headley, Yardie (Atlantic Monthly); Hanif Kureishi, The Black Album (Scribner); Courttia Newland, Selections from Music for the Off-Key (Peepal Tree); Joan Anim-Addo, Imoinda: or, She Who Will Lose Her Name (Mango); Bernadine Evaristo, Mr. Loverman (Akashic).

In Arabian Nights, I learned a lot about storytelling, orientalism, and Islamic civilization. Thanks to this course, I have become more knowledgeable in the basics of the Muslim religion and can share this knowledge in my “War, Religion and Protest” section of the class I teach. In this course, I learned about the Muslim culture in relation to the Arabian Nights. When it comes to the religion part in the section of the class I teach, I will be much more comfortable in discussing with students the differences between Islam and Muslim and Islamist and Arab/Arabist cultures and influences. While the first part of Arabian Nights was focused on discussing the stories and the religious connections, the second part was focused on screenings of films that had to do with stories or the Muslim culture. In my classroom, I hope to introduce more media so that students have more sources to access the material.

Kurt Ostrow
BMC Durfee High School
Providence, RI
Macrorie Fellow

This summer in Vermont, I took Dr. Eric Pritchard’s Queer Pedagogies in Writing Studies and Dr. Doug Jones’ Race and American Literature in the New Millennium: Identity, Inquiry, and Instability. I loved both courses as well as their productive cross-pollination. Together, they have troubled, or queered, my thinking about identity, and I plan to bring this more nuanced, dynamic understanding with me back to my classroom in many ways.

In Queer Pedagogies, we started the summer with a narrative self-reflection, which opened space for me to interrogate my own praxis as a young educator. At the end of the course, we had to design two units steeped in the queer literacy practices we had studied, particularly by way of Harriet Malinowitz’s foundational Textual Orientations. One unit asks students to write intentionally incoherent identity narratives in the form of “snapshots of becoming.” The other has students explore their acquisition of literacy and identify literary ancestors that call to them across time and place.

7124  Queer Pedagogies in Writing Studies

E. Pritchard/M–Th 8:10–9:25

This course examines studies at the intersections of writing pedagogy and LGBTQ studies to enter into, engage, complicate, and contribute to the scholarly conversation called “queer pedagogies.” We will begin with a historiography of how writing instruction and LGBTQ studies began to engage one another, turn to studies focused specifically on teacher and student identity in writing classrooms, and then move to examine works that have addressed productive tensions in queer pedagogies scholarship, with special attention to texts that help us to interrogate the ways race, class, citizenship, gender, disability, and other identities corroborate and complicate queer pedagogies. Students will be responsible for regular readings, participation in critical class discussions, a short essay, and a final project designing a course unit with a writing assignment wherein they would employ queer pedagogies in their teaching.

Texts: Harriet Malinowitz, Textual Orientations: Lesbian and Gay Students and the Making of Discourse Communities (Heinemann); Mollie Blackburn, Interrupting Hate: Homophobia in Schools and What Literacy Can Do About It (Teachers College). A course packet of select articles and book chapters will be available through the Middlebury College Bookstore.

In Race and American Lit, I had the opportunity to flex my analytical muscles in relation to a syllabus of incandescent literature. From provocative class discussions to papers grounded in literary theory, I am returning to my classroom fired up to challenge my students to think critically, feel deeply, and act bravely.

7649  Race and American Literature in the New Millennium: Identity, Inquiry, and Instability

D. Jones/M–Th 9:35–10:50

This course studies literature and cultural productions that narrativize race in the contemporary U.S. Using a wide array of representational forms—including the novel, poetry, film (documentary and fictive), memoir, conceptual art, and drama—we will consider how artists, writers, and critics create new paradigms with which to ponder and experience the complexities and confusions of racial difference in the new millennium. Throughout the course, we will think about how we might impart the critical, formal, and generic vocabularies we develop to classrooms of all levels.

Texts: Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer: A Novel (Grove); Paul Beatty, The Sellout: A Novel (Picador); Ocean Vuong, Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon); Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (Knopf); D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis (Harper); Ayad Akhtar, Disgraced (Back Bay); Justin Torres, We the Animals (Mariner); Young Jean Lee, Straight White Men (TCG); Eduardo C. Corral, Slow Lightening (Yale). All other texts will be available on our course site.

Identity formation, I was reminded in both classes, is a complicated, messy business. I can’t wait to revel in that messiness with students this coming year.

Katie Parrott
Ketchikan Indian Community
Ketchikan, AK
Ahawayet Fellow

Democracy and its Documents with Professor Doug Jones was enlightening and inspiring. Our responsibility as citizens was discussed at length in terms of the ideals of democratic individualism as well as ideas about interrelations of a citizenry. The ethical framework that came forward was a dual ethic of self-assertion and responsibility to each other and to the larger collective. In the class, we had the opportunity to demonstrate the kind of discourse that is necessary for democratic flourishing and challenge each other’s thinking and interpretations as a practice of the ethics of self-assertion and responsibility. Professor Jones challenged us to engage the material in a way that helped us form our own sense of responsibility and democratic ethic. When I was struggling with reconciling competing ideas, he simply told me, “You’re looking for an objective truth in the material, but at some point you just have to choose.” That realization will stick with me far past this summer. Sometimes we just have to make a choice and step into that choice as part of self-assertion and responsibility. This was easily one of the best classes I’ve ever taken.

7602  Democracy and its Documents: Some American Elaborations

D. Jones/M–Th 11–12:15

This course studies democratic life and culture. We will pair conventional formulations of democracy (e.g., constitutions, philosophical tracts, and political theory) with literature (novels and poetry) to explore: 1) whether modern democratic assumptions and praxes constitute the best framework for the realization of what philosophers call “the good life,” and 2) how and why distinctive elaborations, genres, and modalities of democracy have emerged in literature and other cultural-symbolic formations. Together, these explorations will allow us to consider the affective registers, embodied practices, representational mechanisms, and temporalities of a democratic politics—a politics that its defenders argue is “the best way of honoring . . . the equal dignity of every individual” (Kateb). Political theorists we might read include Locke, Kant, Rousseau, Madison, Weber, Du Bois, Arendt, George Kateb, Bonnie Honig, Sheldon Wolin, and Danielle Allen. Some literary writers might include Emerson, Whitman, Upton Sinclair, Ralph Ellison, Eudora Welty, Adrienne Rich, and Philip Roth, among others.

Texts: Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (Dover); Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (Vintage); Eudora Welty, The Optimist’s Daughter (Vintage); Phillp Roth, The Human Stain (Vintage). All other texts will be available on our course site.

Brent Peters
Fern Creek Traditional High School
Louisville, KY
Kentucky BLTN Fellow

One thing I keep telling people who ask me about Bob’s Long-form Writing about Landscape class is that when you take a class with Bob, you will find out how you learn. You will meet yourself, and you will meet how you care about what you know. If you meet dissatisfaction from what you find out (which I did), you will be on a new search to find a new relationship with how you approach study, research, the telling of stories, the finding of stories to tell, and the attitude that everything is interesting. The path will lead somewhere, maybe where you did not originally intend, but it will lead somewhere meaningful because you are the one directing the work.  

When we met with Jackie Jones Royster with the NextGen Youth Leadership Network this summer, she talked to us about how she values process over product, how “process is product” for her. I know that Bob’s class is a celebration of process as product. There are no wrong turns, nothing that isn’t interesting, even “failure.”  In that view there is a freedom that manifests itself best as letting yourself roam in a productive way and falling into learning as exploration with a mindset that there are as many different ways to tell nonfiction stories as there are entry ways that you will allow yourself to see as ways in to stories.  

Bob was a tour guide to us all—a tour guide to place, to how to learn about place, and to the ownership of story and identity that comes from taking ourselves and our search seriously. What you get with Bob . . . is Bob! You get time with a writer thinking like a writer—prodding and handling confusion like a writer. You get humor, you get vulnerability and honesty, and you get surprise and the unexpected—sometimes all in one class. On top of all this, and, in a very Dixie Goswamian way, you feel for a few moments what can happen when someone sees you and turns the dial up on your idea in a way that allows you to see something in yourself that you suspected but never saw and believed in until someone mentioned it in a serious way, until someone says to you, “There’s good here” (hand gesture), and then there’s your idea (way beyond) that, of course, you should do this. Then you do, and then you surprise yourself and aren’t the same reader, writer, or learner. I know Bob made so many of us feel this way. Imagine what we bring back to our kids just by bringing that recognition, respect, and humanity back to our schools with us. I will be bringing all this back with me thanks to Doug (Jones) and Bob this summer.  


Bob Uhl
Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School
S. Burlington, VT
Vermont BLTN Fellow

As this summer wrapped up, one thing I found resonating with me was a theme we kept coming back to in Faulkner: the idea that the conclusions we come to about people will seldom be accurate unless we know those people well, and that we cannot know people well unless we know their history. A sound lesson for our times, in which judgments and accusations seem to fly from all sides on hair triggers. Or maybe I’ve had too much of Facebook. Definitely not this summer. There was no time for it.

And that, no doubt, was for me part of the appeal of these last six weeks. Being immersed in literature discouraged me from my usual immersion in the news cycle (although I’m aware it’s perfectly possible to immerse oneself in both simultaneously), and I regret that not at all. I spent this summer in a kind of psychic refuge: among the musket and cannon fire of Napoleon’s army, the drawing rooms of eighteenth-century Petersburg, the courthouse of a small Russian town, the wisteria and fireflies of Yoknapatawpha, Mississippi. And now the time has come for what Walker Percy calls “re-entry.” I must pull away from the creative, discursive bliss of Bread Loaf and stick myself back into the real world. Fortunately, I’m planning to take some of that bliss with me.

Peter Vertacnik
Scott County High School
Georgetown, KY
C.E. and S. Fellow

In Teaching/Writing: The Art and Act of Writing About Teaching, I learned many things about myself as a teacher and as a potential writer, who can write about his pedagogy. I especially appreciated the guidance I received concerning the writing of a personal teaching philosophy, and the way that philosophy can be reimagined in unexpectedly creative ways. This class was a perfect balance of the critical and the creative, and Professor Brueggemann always encouraged us to blend the two in both our future teaching and our writing. Before this class, I had always kept my critical writings (essays, reviews, reports, etc.) separate from my creative writing, but now I have a model—many models really—for how a teaching writer can combine both when writing about his pedagogical practices and his experiences as a teacher inside and outside the classroom. In at least one of my classes this year, I’ll be experimenting with the keeping of a commonplace book similar to the one we kept in this class. The low-stakes informality of this journal makes it an ideal place for students to record their thoughts and ideas in a less self-conscious way and can also act as a repository for ideas that can be developed later in a more systematic way. I also enjoyed the many small techniques—too numerous to name here—that Professor Brueggemann employed in class discussions and small group activities, many of which will find their way into my classrooms this fall.

Ashlynn Wittchow
Hand Middle School
Columbia, SC
Otway Fellow

In Dr. Eric Pritchard’s Literacy Education and American Film class, we focused simultaneously on new literacy studies and bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress, using both as a lens with which to analyze literacy narratives in American film. As a final project, we were asked to reflect on our own teaching philosophy as we designed units synthesizing concepts addressed across the course. I saw this assignment as the opportunity to begin unit planning for the new course that I’ll be teaching this year. The new, revitalized unit incorporates film and media to invite multiple perspectives from diverse voices, engendering connections between the anchor text and contemporary issues.

Laura Young
Urban Promise Academy
Oakland, CA
Audacity Fellow

What Octavia Butler (one of the authors we read in CliFi: Fictions of Climate Change) says about science fiction’s ability to challenge the taken for granted assumptions of the dominant culture can also apply to both climate fiction and the picaresque narrative: “It gets reader and writer off the beaten track, off the narrow, narrow footpath of what ‘everyone’ is saying, doing thinking—whoever ‘everyone’ happens to be this year.” This has also been true of my Bread Loaf experience, which has allowed me to get off the beaten path of the language of academic vocabulary and argumentation to thinking about more ways to incorporate creativity in both the form and content of my classroom.

Specifically, I am thinking about the incorporation of actors in both of my classes and in the creative projects of my classmates in my Cli-Fi course. The interactive staging of scenes from Station Eleven, a performance of the opening of The Adventures of Augie March, and my participation in a student-written play were some of my most memorable Bread Loaf moments. They have expanded my understanding of ways of using theater and have inspired me to think about ways of incorporating actors and interactive drama in my classroom. Both classes drew connections between disparate works of fiction, and my Climate Fiction class, in particular, helped expand my understanding of the different modes of expression that can be used to address a global issue. My students are all English Language Learners, and while I still think it is important to give them the tools and language to develop logical and effective academic arguments, I also feel a renewed sense of purpose to give them the same opportunities for creative expression to which their private school peers have access. 


Fallon Abel
The first way in which I’ll be bringing Bread Loaf into my classroom this upcoming year will be through two curriculum-centered exchanges. I teach social studies in a rural middle school in Vermont. One of the greatest challenges for me as a teacher in this small (33-student), racially-homogenous community is to find meaningful ways of incorporating diverse perspectives and cultural literacy into our curriculum. It’s precisely for this reason that I’m excited to collaborate with BLTN partners in Kentucky, and, hopefully, Pakistan. The Kentucky exchange will focus on issues of food literacy. One of the units I will teach this year is Hunger and Food Justice, during which students research and write a newsletter about food-related issues impacting their community. Through BLTN, I connected with Brent Peters, who also teaches a Food Literacy course at Fern Creek High School in Kentucky. Our goal is to have our students share personal reflections, photo artifacts, and their final projects via a blog. This will allow students to have an authentic audience for their work and be able to learn from one another. I think this exchange will be especially valuable for our students, as it will allow my rural Vermont students and Brent’s urban Kentucky youth to understand the similarities and differences in the food issues experienced by their respective communities. Ideally, this exchange will also involve our students using their research as a springboard for a community action/service project, which they will plan and reflect on with their exchange partners.

Read more of Fallon Abel’s collaboration plans.

Kendra Bauer
This year I am going to work with the Lowell Bread Loaf Teacher Network to develop our after-school writing program and to bring more programming to our school community as well as our larger community. I will run regular meetings with students after school each week, and I will take students to poetry workshops both in Lawrence and Boston.

Students will plan and help run the after-school writing club. I am also going to use students as writing leaders, who will lead a community writing night. We would like to invite families of our students to come to the high school this spring for a night of writing. During the community night, participants are encouraged to write in any language and to share their stories with each other. We would like to provide notebooks, pizza, drinks, and dessert for the participants.

By winter, we will have established weekly meetings, which are jointly run by teachers and students. We will have a clear map for the coming spring and the events we would like to attend or host. Student writing leaders will be identified, and we will continue to cultivate their leadership within the club but also in potentially creating professional development for teachers. I am very interested in students from Lawrence and Lowell coming together to facilitate a writing workshop.

Laura Benton
This year I have plans for three BLTN projects. Matthew Haughton and I will continue our WestWood collaborative project. WestWood is a digital literary magazine that our kids work on together. They decide on themes and sections and curate one another’s writing as well as media and art. We are hoping to open the website up to all students within the state of Kentucky this year. We also plan to continue our focus on digital media as a mode of literacy, specifically art, music, and drama. This project has been an absolute blessing in previous years, and we look forward to continuing the tradition.

I also plan to have students read Annihilation by James Vandermeer and write a series of collaborative American Weird Tales, which will then be collected and published. This elective is a project-based class with a history of publication. The idea is to use science fiction and horror genres as a way to engage students and focus on real world problems. I am hoping that this publication will contain a myriad of monsters, both literally and metaphorically. Long live Cthulhu!

Additionally, I plan to teach a unit of study that focuses on Arabian Nights and Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The culminating part of this unit asks students to be in groups and write a collective Arabian Nights. It is my hope to put these stories together as one text and publish it as a book. Like the American Weird book, we will produce both digital and physical copies.

Gregory Booth
Pierre Carmona and I will be co-teaching a class called Between America and Me. Here is our course description:

Much has been made of the divide between coastal elites and Rust Belt mentalities. This collaborative course brings University High School students together with students from Sheridan High School in rural Ohio. Two thousand four hundred eighty-seven miles come between San Francisco, California, and Thornville, Ohio. What can we find between those miles? We will explore notions of identity—of race and culture and class—through the use of contemporary (and geographically specific) literature to better define our American experiences. We will investigate what is unique about our experiences on the coast and in the heartland while also looking for overlap in an effort to enrich our notion of America as a space and as an idea.

Possible texts include the following:

Appalachia: J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Brian Alexander’s Glass House, Breece D’J Pancake’s The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake, Ron Rash’s Burning Bright: Stories, Robert Putnam’s Our Kids

The Bay Area: Vanessa Hua’s Deception and Other Possibilities, Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, Gary Kamiya’s Cool Gray City of Love, Viet Than Nyugen’s The Refugees

Derek Burtch
Amelia (Gordon) and I plan to continue our exchange project this year with a few additions and minor tweaks. See Amelia and Derek’s online dialogue about the history and future of this exchange project. We will start earlier (around October) to give the students more time to deliberate on the project. We also plan to relfect a bit this year with our students who began the exchange with us last year. Our hope is that they want to stay involved with the exchange either as mentors to the current students in the exchange or as participants to engage in a possible second tier to the project similar to Vermont’s What’s the Story? and explore other research options in the same type of setting as they did last year. Our hopes are high for this work as we plan to continue this each year with the goal of spreading this program to other schools in Columbus to create a common experience for 14 and 15-year-olds in Columbus, so they can start to build common ground and regenerate the discourse that our city needs as it continues to grow.

Geena Constantin
In The One and Only Ivan, Ivan says, “Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot.” This year, I challenge myself and my colleagues not to waste words. We must seize opportunities to make education “art” and push our students to recognize the value of non-human animals, people, and, in turn, themselves. If we know that students connect with animals, we should foster this interest to break down constructs like gender, race, and class. By inviting students to think about empathy through the foundations of how we treat animals, we can bridge the gap that seems to exist between discussing social justice and sympathetic learning and truly practicing these calls to action in our classrooms. Through my collaborative project with Raja Kaur of Louisville, Kentucky, and Paul Dragin of Columbus, Ohio, we will help students to understand and analyze their own stories and perspectives through digital media projects. They will be able to create stories that speak to their own lived experiences, centered around various themes like belonging and home. We will first introduce them to Google Classroom and other electronic interfaces, helping them collaborate with other students to create and edit their work. Because our classrooms have similar demographics, we know that the variety of storytelling will be outstanding. Further, we will hopefully be able to share stories across our classrooms and build connections between schools and groups of students. As learners ourselves, Paul, Raja, and I will also make videos alongside our students. I am eternally grateful to Bread Loaf Santa Fe, my professors, colleagues, and courses this summer for breaking me out of my own, often humanistic, comfort zone, so that I can see how a greater appreciation and understanding of all living beings (yes, even snakes) can help us all be better educators.

Kyle Dennan
My students will also benefit through the collaborative project that I am doing with another Bread Loaf student, Katherine Nixon. We will be connecting students from New Orleans to those in Ohio, expanding the impact of Bread Loaf beyond our individual classrooms to link disparate communities through literature. Though we are still finalizing the specifics of this collaboration, I am excited about the possibility of working with another teacher to develop a collaborative project.

Paul Dragin
Rajwinder Kaur and Geena Constantin, both from Louisville, and I are planning to develop a collaboration between our respective students, using both writing and digital exchanges. For several consecutive years, I’ve used pen pals with my students to get them writing to audiences outside of the classroom. The exchange we are planning builds on this concept and adds several layers of complexity that I feel has the potential to create greater learning outcomes and foster more creativity. With the ubiquity of digital technology at the fingertips of all or most of my students, the opportunity to create and share digital stories is ripe.

Our initial plan involves 20 students from each respective school, beginning with introductory letters and quick video introductions. Throughout the exchange, we will build from this, and students will share their writing or something digitally that will eventually grow into their own digital story. Once the digital stories are complete, partners will share their own stories and give some analytical feedback, noting differences, similarities, etc. in their individual stories and how they chose to compose them. We are also planning to include some topics or a thematic framework to help focus our students’ writing exchanges.

Amelia Gordon
Derek (Burtch) and I plan to repeat our exchange this year with a few changes. We will start in October and run until May, allowing us more time to process our written exchanges and place more emphasis on prior planning of the group projects. I will be using some of my theoretical work from this summer to help navigate the difficult conversations that will, inevitably, arise again throughout the exchange. When the students meet in person, we would like to invite community stakeholders into the audience for student presentations. We think this will give more weight to the presentation aspect of the project and further communicate to students that their work is incredibly important. Finally, we are brainstorming ways to include our students’ parents in our project. I am conflicted as to whether they should be part of the in-person meeting day, or if they should have their own exchange evening where they engage in similar work to our students.

We are also thinking about how to engage our most enthusiastic students from last year’s cohort. Following in the footsteps of What’s the Story? we are envisioning a fall, winter, and spring retreat where students gather to tackle relevant social issues. Instead of videos, however, we are thinking about using podcasts to capture student voices on the topics that matter to them. The fall would involve community building and choosing a topic. At the winter retreat, students would learn how to podcast and conduct research on their topic. At the last retreat, students would interview an expert on their topic, record their podcast, and edit/publish.

John Hall
Laura Young, a fellow BLTN member, teaches English Language Development to 6th through 8th graders at Urban Promise Academy in Fruitville, Oakland.  We met in the Cli-Fi class, and we are both interested in teaching climate change. She primarily teaches ESL students, some of whom have experience with growing food in their home countries. I teach a class that revolves around our school garden, called AgriPublishing. I will have a 4-H Garden Club, and Laura is working on an after-school club that will focus on collaboration with my students. Our hope is to open the conversation about growing food, climate change, and culture. Our students will work over Google Docs on common prompts.

Laura’s students will create an urban garden at her school under the guidance of my students. I will work with my students to provide a guide to urban gardening and help troubleshoot issues that come up throughout the creation process. See John Hall’s full plan here

Matthew Haughton
This year I have two plans for BLTN projects. Laura Benton and I will continue our WestWood collaborative project. WestWood is a digital literary magazine that our kids work on together. They decide on themes and sections and curate one another’s writing as well as media and art. We are hoping to open the website up to all students within the state of Kentucky this year. We also plan to continue our focus on digital media as a mode of literacy, specifically art, music, and drama. This project has been an absolute blessing in previous years, and we look forward to continuing the work.

Secondly, I plan to approach Jeff Hawkins of Southern Kentucky Valley Educational Coop to see how I can work with the teachers he represents on a collaborative project for the new school year. It has become clear that the socioeconomic circumstances of poverty in Kentucky have become a critical crisis. I am seeking a teacher in southern Kentucky who can work with me to have our students brainstorm, compose, and collaborate on narratives that address the geographical divide in this state. I will use the Westwood website to publish the student work.

Additionally, I plan to teach a unit of study in my creative writing elective course (as well as in my AP literature class) that focuses on Arabian Nights. I am very interested in bringing non-Western texts to these classes. Excerpts of the Arabian Nights are a safe and potentially fruitful place to start with this initiative.

Personal Note

As I move towards my last year as a Bread Loaf student, I have become very aware of how this program has allowed me to redefine myself as both a student and teacher of literature. In the last four years, I have presented my work at NCTE and have been able to use my enhanced knowledge of pedagogy and content to help reshape my current school’s curriculum and culture. Last year I served as department chair and successfully developed elective courses inspired by Bread Loaf offerings. I was able to coach my colleagues in new and engaging ways to approach these classes. As a result, we are seeing a legitimate surge of student writers and readers at West. I am deeply grateful for the fellowship and opportunity to bring home the inspiration I find at Bread Loaf. There is no doubt in my mind that the work I have done would have taken years to accomplish (if at all) without the confidence that my studies have instilled in my teaching style.

Rajwinder Raul
During this school year I will be working collaboratively with both Paul Dragin and Geena Constantin. We serve very similar populations of students and feel that it would be exciting and insightful for our students to work together and grow with one another. More specifically, Paul and I were in Professor Medina’s Multicultural Digital Storytelling class and had many organic conversations about what we could bring back to our classrooms. We both readily agreed that we were drawn to the way digital storytelling gives students a sense of identity and counters dominant narratives.

The three of us will partner our students with students in each other’s schools based on interests and ability. Students will exchange introductory letters to get to know each other and create a safe, collaborative space. We intend to utilize email exchanges for this. Students will continue to exchange correspondences throughout the year. However, as the year progresses, we will focus these correspondences. Students will be writing and working on digital stories surrounding particular themes such as, but not limited to, identity, politics, gender, family, goals, coming of age, etc. Students will work together and share their seed ideas with their partners as well as scripts and the first draft of each video. Finally, at the end of each unit, partners will have the opportunity to see each other’s digital stories. We intend to use Google Classroom to make these exchanges possible.


Yulissa Nunez
With the help of Mery Lizardo, another English teacher at Lawrence High School, I hope to start a mentoring program specifically for sophomores and juniors. In this mentoring opportunity, students will be able to share what they are doing in class and give each other suggestions. Because our high school is split into a lower school (9th and 10th grades) and an upper school (11th and 12th grades), these students would have no other way of interacting academically with each other. We will ideally have students meet with each other twice a week after school so that they can keep in touch. We are thinking sometime after students take their midterms, we will have them meet each other and implement the program.

Kurt Ostrow
I’m  interested in the way Kendra Bauer has adopted Andover Bread Loaf in Lowell. I think my seniors would relish the opportunity to facilitate liberatory writing workshops for 7th and 8th graders from a local middle school. I am intrigued, too, by What’s the Story? in Vermont, so maybe we will go the route of team projects and documentary-making about issues relevant to my students and their communities. I am still unsure, however, because, as I mentioned, I want to follow my students’ lead and make sure that they have ownership.

Katie Parrott
I am interested in developing a summer series style training and experiential workshop series for educators on the topic of Childhood/Youth Trauma and the various ways trauma manifests in behaviors, how it impacts learning and attention, and its physiological and psychological impacts, as well as helping equip teachers with strategies for dealing with students who have or are experiencing trauma. I am particularly interested in providing multimedia experiences for teachers to better understand these students and how to engage them in the effort to make classrooms and schools places where all youth can thrive. This series could then be made available to all BLTN participants and could even be introduced at Bread Loaf (with permission, of course). I’m really interested in hearing from teachers who are working with youth populations with toxic stress environments or complex trauma histories.

Brent Peters
What makes Fern Creek Traditional High School unique inside of the BLTN NextGen Leadership Network is that what we are doing is happening during the school day and that the primary focus of what we do has to be on being the best teachers that we possibly can for our kids, which depends on being able to have time and energy to fuel creativity and experiences. I really want to work to keep a balance this year—to take on the right things so that we can show our administration how BLTN and NextGen initiatives benefit our kids through new possibilities and opportunities. I want to keep the balance related to BLTN and NextGen by writing about our Food Lit class and on the two things that will come from the class this year: (1) our NCTE presentation in St. Louis this Fall related to Tigers Feeding Chickens and (2) our first HUB Day experience for teachers in JCPS at FCHS this spring.  

Bob Uhl
I would be remiss if I failed to mention what was for me one of the most inspiring events of the summer: Nancie Atwell’s talk. Her discussion of reading and ways to help kids develop good habits around reading lit a fire under me that continues to burn hot. When I went back that night to the rustic barn I’d been renting down the road, I read Atwell’s The Reading Zone and knew it was time to do what I’d been putting off for the last half of the previous school year: expand and upgrade my classroom library. With some exceptions, the books currently sitting on its three flimsy shelves are neglected, torn-up donations whose titles are unfamiliar to me and to my students alike. I plan to have installed at least one heavy-duty bookshelf and to fill it with robust literature, both classic and contemporary, books I select as well as those recommended by students, parents, and colleagues.

Additionally, my big focus this year will be What’s the Story? I’m energized to begin a third year as a mentor collaborating with the adults and young people who help make this course the transformative experience that it is. After witnessing the work our learners did last time, I can only imagine what’s around the next bend.

Peter Vertacnik
My tentative plans for collaboration include a teacher-to-teacher exchange with fellow BLSE student Laura Etsy, who teaches in a public high school outside of Portland, Maine. The idea for this exchange first arose when I learned that both Laura and I would be teaching AP Lit and Lang for the first time this school year. Why not, I thought, create an online space for us to be able to communicate our experiences as first year AP teachers with each other, while also being able to reflect on and share best practices? So, to that end, I’m creating a Google Docs folder for Laura and me to exchange information at least twice a month throughout this school year. Taking some ideas from Professor Brueggemann’s class, this endeavor will be half epistolary exchange, and half commonplace book for questions, ideas, ruminations, and experiences about our shared first year as AP teachers. I’m hoping, too, that this exchange will open up other possibilities for our students to be able to collaborate with each other in the near future, perhaps even later this school year.

Ashlynn Wittchow
While there are no other Bread Loaf teachers in the immediate vicinity of Columbia, South Carolina, I plan to strengthen connections within the school and the community using my own strengths. With this in mind, for this coming school year I plan to extend what I currently do with middle school mock trial and legal literacy. I have already started to forge a strong connection between the school and the community. Students on last year’s team benefited from attorney coaches, speakers from the South Carolina Bar Young Lawyers’ Association, programming from the South Carolina Bar’s Color of Justice Association, field trips to the University of South Carolina’s law school, and practice in county courtrooms. Now, I want them to push towards legal advocacy, sharing this knowledge outside of our extracurricular team. Inspired by Doug Jones’ Democracy Week on Bread Loaf’s campus, I want to push my students further by helping them explore law as an offshoot of the democratic process. Once the competition season is over, as a spring project, the Hand Mock Trial Team will host its own democracy week school-wide, finally presenting to the Hand community at the spring family literacy night. While I would love to see this expand further in coming years, I think my first step is connecting the kids’ learning back to their community.

Laura Young
This year, I would like to take advantage of my Bread Loaf coursework and the Bread Loaf Teacher Network to expand my students’ world and empower them to make changes in our school community that can both have an impact on the greater Fruitvale community and can make them a part of the larger collective response to the climate crisis, so that even though they may not be U.S. citizens, they can see themselves as global ones, an urgent transformation in self-conception that is a necessary part of the fight against climate change. My students will work in collaboration with the students at Fern Creek High School in Kentucky to create an urban garden at our school. The project will take advantage of the founts of knowledge of the Fern Creek High School, where an urban farm is already thriving, and my students, many of whom have experience working on their families’ farms or on larger coffee plantations. It will give my students the opportunity to collaborate with students across the country and develop a deeper understanding of both climate change and the empowering effects of different collective responses to it.

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