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Alyssa Kelly, the inaugural fellow at the Conference on Poetry & Teaching, is a high school English teacher, poet, and singer-songwriter. She has ten years of overall teaching experience in grades 7-12, as well as the college level. As an educator, her passion lies in poetry instruction, particularly with regard to students who struggle to find success in a traditional Language Arts classroom. She has developed a year-long poetry curriculum aimed at engaging vocational high school students in the study and composition of verse. Her own poetry was recently published in Uncommon Core (Red Beard Press), a collection of contemporary poems meant for classroom use. A three-time attendee of The Conference on Poetry and Teaching, she considers it to be “an ideal professional development community for teachers seeking practical resources, refreshing inspiration, and genuine support for the relevant integration of poetry in the classroom.” Alyssa teaches at Franklin County Technical School in Turners Falls, MA.
Teaching Statement: I teach poetry because it is an ideal tool for critical thinking, language acquisition, and personal reflection. I teach poetry because it is one of the best ways to engage students in an understanding of mindful expression, revision, attentiveness, and the complexities of the writing process. I teach poetry because, as an educator who seeks to engage even the most reluctant reader, poetry offers rich, sophisticated text in manageable, microscopic chunks. Poetry insists that one slow down – as a reader, speaker, listener, and writer – to notice subtleties often overlooked in other genres. I teach poetry because it covers a multitude of Language Arts skills. I teach poetry because it is the underdog in the English classroom, deserving of our attention; it is built of simple truths that, if overlooked, can spend a lifetime catching up with us. I teach poetry because, as an English teacher in a vocational high school where hands-on learning and the revision process are tangible in a way traditional models lack, poetry affirms my students’ natural inclination to reflect upon a job-well-done. I teach poetry because it authentically invites originality and student voice into the classroom. Simply put, I teach poetry because it works.
The Frost Place acknowledges that teaching is a sacred practice, and the Conference on Poetry & Teaching has inspired me, time and time again, to return to my classroom with confidence in the legitimacy of my poetic endeavors. Because of the CPT’s influence, I begin each class I teach by reading a poem aloud (without expectation or agenda of analysis) – a habit that has shaped every day of my work with students over the last eight years. Because of the CPT’s influence, I was inspired to develop and implement an innovative, year-long poetry curriculum that I continue to build upon and refine. Because of the CPT’s influence, I know I am not alone in my efforts to preserve relevant poetry instruction. The conference truly validates, equips, and builds a learning community for instructors of all disciplines. The CPT holds me accountable, as both a passionate educator and practiced poet, to cultivate the habits of life-long learning I hope to instill in my students. I am a better, more grounded, teacher and writer because of it.