Thomas College Students Attend National Education Conference in Missouri to Prepare for Future Teaching Careers Web Director | November 21, 2017

WATERVILLE, MAINE, November 2017 — Seven Thomas College students and their professor joined more than 40,000 educators across the nation in St. Louis, Missouri for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference last week.

Left to right: Karen Laney, MS Literacy Education; Nicole Duncan, MS Literacy Education; Sydni Collier, Early Childhood Education; Abbie Morgan, Elementary Education; Dr. Katie Rybakova, Assistant Professor of Education, Thomas College; Ashlea Gerbino, Elementary Education; Sammie Grimaldi, Elementary and Secondary English; Alexis Lane, Elementary Education.

Students attended professional development sessions during the three-day conference, collected more than 80 free books for their own classroom libraries, and were able to meet and greet with famous authors such as Laurie Halse Anderson, who wrote Speak, along with other famous titles, Angie Thomas, the author of recent bestseller The Hate U Give, and internationally known Louis Lowry (The Giver, Number the Stars).

But what the students took away most from the experience was the energy and passion of literacy educators across the nation.

“I discovered how much power can accompany a person’s words,” said Sydni Collier, a sophomore at Thomas studying Early Childhood Education. “I also realized how much power my peers and I could have if we chose to speak up about issues that matter.”

This year, in addition to five undergraduates, three of whom were seniors and two of whom were sophomores at Thomas College majoring in education, the group included two graduate students majoring in Literacy Education at Thomas College. Both Karen Laney and Nicole Duncan are teachers at Skowhegan Area Elementary School. Laney teaches second grade, and Duncan teaches fifth grade. These teachers were able to use what they learned at NCTE the next Monday morning that they saw their students.

“Nothing is more compelling than listening to an author read their text the way they intended you to share it. I am inspired to connect students with such rich language to help them build their own writing,” said Duncan.

The theme of the 2017 NCTE convention was “The First Chapter,” a nod to initiating (and continuing) important and relevant dialogue around teaching English in 2017. This was reflected in the large variety of sessions, from engaging students in advocacy and activism through young adult literature to using digital platforms to teach Shakespeare.

This trip showcased the commitment that Thomas College and the new School of Education has to students through authentic experiences.

“This conference is one that I look forward to attending each year,” said Thomas College Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Katie Rybakova. “To be able to bring a group of seven students of mine to this conference is an amazing experience not only for them but for myself as well. I see their faces light up when they talk excitedly about the day they had learning from difference spaces, places, and people. I see the passion with which they talk to each other about their current and future classrooms. I see the hope for our English classrooms in Maine, because these are the teachers who will lead our children to new heights.”

About Thomas College: Founded in 1894, Thomas College offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in programs ranging from business, entrepreneurship, and technology, to education, criminal justice, and psychology. Its Guaranteed Job Program, the first of its kind in the nation, is built on student’s academic, career, and leadership preparation. Thomas is also home to the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation and the Center for Innovation in Education. Money Magazine recently ranked Thomas 23rd in the Country for adding the most value to their degrees, and data reported by the New York Times ranks Thomas in the top 15 percent of all college and universities in the U.S. for upward mobility of its graduates. For more information, visit or contact MacKenzie Riley at [email protected] or 207-859-1313.