We are thrilled to once again recognize a group of individuals who are making positive impacts on readers in their communities. We are pleased to offer these talented educators and librarians full scholarships to our annual Seminar. We hope and believe that participation in our vibrant literary community inspires fresh engagement with literature in schools and libraries around the country.
Thank you to all who applied, and congratulations to this year’s outstanding teacher & librarian scholarship recipients!
Kristie Camp is a National Board Certified instructor in her twenty-fifth year of teaching English language arts at Gaffney High School in South Carolina. She is pursuing a doctorate degree in language and literacy, and she hopes to continue investigating the intersectionality between outdoor experiences and literacy in her classroom. Her professional mission centers on helping students craft their unique voices for self-expression and social advocacy.
Christopher Cussat is an adjunct professor of English and literature at American Public University/American Military University, an online higher degree program accommodating adult learners, full-time military personnel, veterans, and others. Cussat’s goal is to instill a love of reading, grow an appreciation of literature, develop critical and analytical skills, and increase confidence in writing and communication in his students.
Gina Elia teaches Mandarin Chinese and English as a second language at North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, Florida. She integrates her love for literature-based inquiry into her teaching, so language learning becomes not simply an exercise in grammar drills and vocab memorization, but rather a rich locus of discussion. This gets her students talking and using the language right away, while connecting it to ideas that are relevant to their lives.
Karen Hillgrove teaches eighth grade language arts at Horace O’Bryant School in Key West, Florida. She builds learning environments where students are encouraged to think, collaborate, and create. She fosters effective, differentiated learning for all students. Originally from Pittsburgh, Hillgrove loves the richly diverse school and island community she now calls home.
Crystal Hurd is a teacher, academic collaborator, and artful conspirator from Bristol, Virginia. She teaches at her alma mater, Virginia High School, where she instructs English, dual-enrollment British literature, and creative writing courses, as well as serving as a teacher consultant for the Appalachian Writing Project. Her goal is to help students find significance in art and use that creative energy to enrich and uplift their communities.
Alissa Landram is a senior library manager in Savannah, Georgia. Her professional passions include musical storytelling, community partnership opportunities, and emphasis on the importance of public libraries as community fixtures. She holds an undergraduate degree from Armstrong State University and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of South Carolina.
Kaitlin Malixi worked in public libraries for more than ten years before she began teaching high school English. She holds master’s degrees in education and library and information science. Literacy and spreading the joy of reading to others is her biggest passion.
Sarah McCartt-Jackson is an elementary school teacher and poet. She works primarily with emergent readers, connecting urban students to the world through community-based poetry experiences. She credits her poetry career to supportive teachers, and she aims to enrich student learning and lives through the power of words to inspire the next generation of writers.
Candace McDuffie is an educator and cultural critic whose first book, 50 Rappers Who Changed the World: A Celebration of Rap Legends, was published in 2020. Her classes—primarily nonfiction and memoir—focus on the power of vulnerability and elevating the voices and experiences of marginalized groups. McDuffie’s work has been featured in Rolling Stone, Newsweek, and Glamour, and on MTV.
Jamie Odeneal is a reader, writer, and National Board Certified teacher who works with adult English learners at Arlington Community High School in Virginia. Her students come from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and she is always looking for fresh, inspiring literature that will connect them as a learning community. She is passionate about helping her students find their voices in English so they can shape and share their own stories, as well.
Jacqueline Patterson is proudly serving her twenty-second year at Plantation Key School in Tavernier, Florida. She has taught middle school and special education for most of her career and is currently serving as a literacy coach. She especially enjoys cultivating students’ interests in reading and writing, advocating for vulnerable students, and going above curriculum to make connections with students and staff. She enjoys photography and writing poetry in her free time.
Reisa Plyler is a thirty-three-year veteran English teacher from Miami. She was the founding advisor for the Dave Barry Chapter of the National English Honor Society at Coral Reef High School, through which she fostered school-wide interest in reading, literary trivia, poetry, and writing. She recently retired from the public school system and currently teaches Advanced Placement English literature and composition at Westminster Christian School.
Emily Andrea Sendin is a professor of English, literature, and creative writing in her twenty-second year at Miami Dade College. She is an Endowed Teaching Chair and a Fulbright Scholar. She teaches global sustainability and earth literacy studies, service learning, and honors college courses. She is the founding advisor of the award-winning Urbana Literary & Arts magazine. Her life’s passions are traveling, teaching, books, and service.
Jennifer Tianen is a veteran English teacher and founder of the award-winning West Bloomfield High School Literary Garden, which showcases plants from American authors’ homes and provides a multisensory setting for student learning. She is secretary of the Michigan Hemingway Society and has made presentations around the country on the environment, education, and literature. She is currently working on a book about literary gardens.
Betsy Fogelman Tighe taught English language arts (eighth grade through college) for many years before becoming a high school librarian. She is now entering her twelfth and final year in that position, where she has hosted many author events that made progress in arousing student interest in poetry. Her greatest honor was achieving immortality as “the American girl” in one of James Wright’s last published poems, “Leaving the Temple in Nimes.”
Kristin Veiga has taught middle school language arts at a small private school for the past six years. Her teaching style differs from traditional methods as she tends to break into dance mid-lesson, rap throughout the school day, and create fun and engaging projects to make lessons come to life. Her greatest goal as a teacher is to raise lifelong learners, so her classroom is set up to recreate a living room feel to help students feel loved, comfortable, and encouraged to learn.
Raysa Villalona is an ESL teacher at an elementary school in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She has done extensive work with dual language and has conducted parent workshops for families of second language learners. She’s an avid reader and has been journaling since before she knew how to write. She currently writes creative nonfiction, often about her girlhood in Washington Heights, and is working on a collection of essays.
Evan Morgan Williams teaches language arts at a middle school in an area of Portland, Oregon, known locally as “The Numbers.” He has published three short story collections and more than fifty short stories. His first collection, Thorn, won the 2013 G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction from BkMk Press. Williams earned an MFA degree in 1991. His students look at the fine vellum certificate on the classroom wall and say, “Huh?” Sometimes he does, too.
Martha Williams oversees programs and adult education at her library in Ketchum, Idaho. She is passionate about creating inclusive spaces where stories are shared and connections across experiences and generations are made. Her greatest enjoyment is in connecting young or aspiring writers with one another and with those who guide them on their journeys.
Catherine Wright teaches in the English department at the University of Charleston in West Virginia, which is one of the most diverse schools in the state, composed of students from more than forty countries. Her work there revolves around understanding a sense of community, living through service, and challenging the struggles so many of her students experience finding their place in the world.