Monday, February 7, 2011

Faculty and Student Accomplishments for December and January

Here is a little of what we've been up to in EFLJ:

Jeanie Crain was involved in two AQIP/Reaffirmation reviews/recommendations.

Stacia Bensyl presented her paper “Marking Time: Commemorative Literary Magazines in Japanese American Internment Camps” at the 17th annual Japan Studies Association conference in San Francisco. This paper is part of ongoing research into literary magazines in the Japanese American internment camps.

Three students from Bob Bergland's spring 2010 International Journalism Research had their research published in The Convergence Newsletter, which is sent to 1,000 journalists and academics specializing in multimedia journalism.

Austin Jacobs researched multimedia, interactive and distribution features of Mexican newspaper websites, while Todd Fuller conducted similar research with US weeklies and Emily Gummelt worked with the top 100 circulation U.S. magazines. All 11 students from that course had their work presented at national or international conferences.

As part of their study of 17th-century French theater, students in Susan Hennessy’s FRE 422 (Intro to French Civilization and Literature) performed scenes from Molière's "The Doctor in Spite of Himself" for French students at Central High School.

The Mu Iota chapter of Alpha Mu Gamma held an initiation ceremony in December. Alpha Mu Gamma is a national honor society for students in foreign languages. The society sponsors National Foreign Language Week in March and promotes understanding of and interaction with speakers of foreign languages.

The Spanish section has sent its inaugural exchange student to study for the spring semester at the Universidad de Sevilla in Spain. The direct exchange agreement between MWSU and U. Sevilla enables students from each university to study for a semester or a year at the host institution.

Forty area educators--including Western English instructors Jane Frick, Thomas Pankiewicz, Meredith Katchen, Patricia Donaher, Meg Thompson, Steve Frogge, and Patricia Brost scored 2011 Scholastic Writing Contest entries online. The teachers successfully scored over 3500 At-Large and 521 Missouri Region personal essays, poems, senior portfolios, science fiction, short stories, short-short stories, dramatic scripts, journalism, and humor pieces. Sixteen teachers and authors scored Missouri’s top entries again at the University of Missouri – Columbia on January 29, selecting 122 students from throughout the state as Gold Medal, Silver Medal, or Honorable Mention winners. The students and their teachers will be honored at this year’s Write to Learn Conference to be held at Tan-Tar-A in early March. The winning entries will be published in Missouri Youth Write next June—including works by students from St. Joseph Central, Platte County, Maryville, Mid-Buchanan R-V, West Platte R-II, and Parkhill High School. Jane Frick is the Missouri Scholastic Writing Awards Regional Coordinator; Rachel Stancliff, a graduate student in Western’s MAA in Written Communications: Technical Writing Option program, serves as the Missouri Region Contest Submissions Coordinator and Web Developer.

Western’s SNCTE (Student National Council of Teachers of English) Club sponsored a successful “Teacher Job Search” panel at Western. Administrators from Lathrop, Platte County, North Kansas City, and St. Joseph in charge of hiring their district’s new teachers described their hiring protocols and offered how-to-get-a-job-teaching advice. Over 100 Western students attended the two-hour event. Jessica Wilkinson, SNCTE president and senior BSE English major, chaired the panel.

Prairie Lands Writing Project and Western’s SNCTE CLUB sponsored a “Yes you CAN use Copyrighted Materials!” workshop for educators. Participants learned about the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education and why media coordinators and teachers should embrace students’ use of mass media, popular culture and digital media as they re-mix and/or create their own texts. Valorie Stokes, Platte County High School Media Coordinator and National Writing Project Web Presence Retreat Coordinator, facilitated the workshop.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Graduate Student helps Pattee House Win Grant

The announcement came yesterday that The Patee House in St. Joseph was awarded a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Completed in 1858, this huge structure was the eastern terminus of the Pony Express and one of the best-known hotels west of the Mississippi in the mid-19th century. The SAT award of $162,500 will help pay to scrape, re-glaze, and paint all 228 windows and exterior wood trims, as well as install 118 new maple windows.

We congratulate graduate student Ahmad Safi for his role in writing this successful grant. The grant was written as part of his work in EPR 620: Proposal and Grant Writing taught by Dr. Michael Charlton, Assistant Professor of English.

Book Fairies Land in St. Joseph

Dr. Kay Siebler, Associate Professor of English, says, "I’m a Fairie and I’m Proud."

Kay explains what drove her to start a book-buying program for children in St. Joseph:

A disproportionate number of children in St. Joseph live in poverty, about 50 percent. The connection between poverty and lack of success in school is well-documented. And new research has shown that early literacy skills (age 0-5) are a strong indicator of life-long literacy and school success.

All of that is just statistics. Here is the personal story. I live in a “transitional” (read: run down) area of St. Joseph. Ergo, my child entered the public school system at Humboldt Elementary where 90 percent of the children are on free- or reduced-lunch and the school did not met Annual Yearly Progress in test scores last year. Humboldt is the poorest Title I school in the district (Title I schools are the government designation for a school with at least 40 percent of the student population in poverty).

In Kindergarten, Zephaniah [Kay's son] – introduced to Scholastic Books in preschool – waited with jittery excitement for the book forms. August passed. No book forms. September passed. No book forms. I decided to order through his previous preschool teacher. When I told her about my surprise that the public school teachers weren’t sending home Scholastic book forms, she said, “Well, a lot of the Title I schools don’t send them home. Few in the class can afford to buy books and the teachers often feel, when a few do order books, the others who don’t get books feel left out.”


These children, hovering around the poverty line or decidedly under it, are the very population that most needs to have books, to have books in the home, to have literacy encouraged in the family.

I approached Zephaniah’s kindergarten teacher and suggested that if she would send home the Scholastic book forms to the class, I would commit to buying a book for every child in the class each month. That way, literacy is encouraged (each child gets a book to take home as their own), the parents of these children have the book forms in the event that they can occasionally buy a book, and – at the end of the academic year – each child will have a small library at home, a way to read to siblings, a way for parents or siblings to read to them, a way to increase literacy among a struggling population overwhelmed by poverty.

I called myself “The Book Fairie” – I preferred being an anonymous donor to the children and their families. I decided I would pitch the idea to my colleagues –and faculty in other departments – and The book Fairy Program took off.

Currently, there are several other Book Fairies who are providing books to two St. Joseph Title I schools. Book Fairies have a personal relationship with the teachers. Some volunteer (without tipping their hat that they are the Book Fairie) in the classrooms they sponsor. Others write a check every month and appreciate the updates the teacher emails about the classroom. The teachers are grateful; the children love the books; children have books at home to read and re-read. One teacher said, “You mean the Book Fairie sends money out of their own pocket each month so we can get books for the students? That is amazing!”

It takes so little: $25 a month from Sept-May. It can mean so much to a student and their family who are struggling with poverty and educational success. It would be wonderful to have Book Fairies for classrooms in all of St. Joseph’s Title I schools. Wings, tutu, and wand are optional. Be a Book Fairie!

To contact Kay in order to collect your wings, write to her at