CA Curious

Where PomPoms Meet Professional Development

November 17, 2022

I certainly didn’t expect organizers waving pompoms enthusiastically in welcome or debating the merits of jellybeans versus chocolate with a complete stranger (shout out to Houston Kraft for this icebreaker) when Kevin Rokuskie first described the Association of Middle Level Educators Conference (AMLE).

As it turns out, there may have been nothing that could have prepared me for the sheer explosive energy of thousands of middle school teachers and faculty combined into one convention room, ready to connect and share their passion for educating the world’s preteens.

Held November 3 to November 5 at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, AMLE featured a weekend jam-packed with moving keynote speakers, rotating “speed session” workshops, and illuminating presentations on everything from social emotional learning to community engagement to the very tools helping to keep our classrooms running.

Prior to our arrival Kevin and I had spent weeks preparing our presentation on last year’s brand-new virtual reality in Egypt activity, “History Made Real: Learning Ancient Civilizations and World Religions in Virtual Reality.” For 15 minutes at a time, we would explain to other educators and administrators how the collaboration between a sixth-grade Language Arts and World Cultures teacher and an Education and Technology Support Specialist resulted in a week of some of the highest student engagement all year using a combination of Z-Space, VR headsets, and MERGE Cube technology. To our delight, our table ended up becoming one of the most popular attractions during the speed sessions, resulting in meeting a university professor who was excited to learn from us how to implement VR into her post-secondary curriculum.

Our strategy for the rest of the conference was to divide and conquer, so while Kevin engaged in meaningful conversations with various vendors as well as attended sessions on advisory and social emotional learning, I found myself learning about social studies frameworks, how to better support our gender expansive students, techniques for total classroom participation, self-paced learning, how to support children with ADHD challenges (from a teacher who had been successfully navigating his own ADHD for decades), empowering youth with restorative justice practices, and many sessions on community partnerships.

Every day it continued to amaze me to see the degree of knowledge, care, and expertise with which these presenters talked about their curriculum and student support, and I left the conference filled to the brim with a desire to challenge myself in my teaching to new professional heights. Kevin describes professional development as a “vital tool at Cary Academy” that “only makes the community better.” I know that I speak for both of us when I say that I cannot wait to find ways to share my new knowledge with my colleagues and look forward to returning, maybe with my own pompoms this time!

Written by Lauren Bullock, Language Arts and World Cultures Teacher, Sixth Grade

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Students make their voices heard during CA’s first-ever Poetry Slam

May 13, 2021

After a four-week study of spoken word, poetry, and rap with artists-in-residence Josh “Rowdy” Rowsey ’09 and Lauren Bullock, seventh-grade students shared their voices at Cary Academy’s first annual Middle School Poetry Slam! Student performances on identity and current social justice issues took place on May 12 in the Cary Academy Fitness Center. Students shared poetry and rap that touched on racial injustice, climate change, recent violence towards Asians, female empowerment, gender identity, and much more! Students blew their audience away with their ability to take risks, lean into discomfort, and voice their most deeply held beliefs, feelings, and passions! After a challenging year of disconnection and isolation, it felt so good to have such a bonding and communal experience! 

This community-building and advocacy-focused event was the culmination of a month-long study of spoken word, poetry, and rap under the tutelage of Rowsey and Bullock. These two guest experts have been working with 7th graders in the Language Arts classroom, coaching them up on the history of spoken word and hip-hop, poetic form and devices, and performance techniques involving voice, body language, and gesture. Based on this guidance, students have been busy writing, revising, and practicing their delivery for weeks! As Josh and Lauren say, “Peace, love, and family!” 

Kevin Joshua Rowsey is a National Recording Artist, Writer, Actor, and Educator based in the North Carolina Triangle Area. “Rowdy” has been featured on BET, NPR, PBS Kids, and has given a TEDX talk on the importance of Hip Hop Culture. Rowsey is a U.S. Hip Hop Ambassador through the U.S. Department of State and the Next Level Hip Hop Program. On stage Rowsey is part of the national collective No9to5 Music and plays with a live Jazz Band (J) Rowdy & The Night Shift which was nominated for a 2017 Carolina Music Award. They’ve been able to share the stage with the likes of Rakim, Busta Rhymes, Ari Lennox, Childish Major, Snow Tha Product, Murs, 2 Chainz, Juicy J, and a plethora of other national recording acts. Currently Rowdy is the founder of two triangle area cyphers – The UNC Cypher (UNC-CH) and the Med City Cypher (Downtown Durham). He also holds the position of Program Director at the Downtown Durham – Afrofuturist Teen Center Blackspace. Through UNC Greensboro’s Masters of Arts in Teaching Program Rowsey continues his mission to spread southern hip hop at a national and international level through performance, writing and educational workshops inspiring the culture through the craft. 

Lauren Bullock is a queer multiracial writer, performer, teaching artist, events organizer, and model. Her work appears on AFROPUNK.com, Button Poetry, The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, and more. Lauren earned acclaim for her pop culture commentary through editorials on Black Nerd Problems as well as serving as poetry editor for FreezeRay Poetry. To date, she has organized 7 international and regional arts conferences or festivals, and 5 monthly series. Lauren’s modeling work has also been featured by publications such as Gmaro Magazine and Out-and-Out Magazine. When not creating she enjoys fighting crime as a costumed vigilante of many aliases.

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

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Eighth-grade language arts teachers present at NCTE

December 6, 2018

During the November professional development week, eighth-grade Language Arts teachers Laura Price and Meredith Stewart presented at the National Council of English Teachers Convention in Houston, Texas. Price and Stewart’s presentation focused on the new end of year Language Arts project, the American Vision Film Narrative, which they created with eighth-grade history teacher David Snively.

This project is a culmination of a year-long focus of the essential question, “What is America?,” and involves connections to Language Arts and History, interviews with extended community members, and creation of a metaphor to explain each student’s personal vision of and for America. Price and Stewart shared examples of student films—such as that created by ninth-grader Folu Ogundipe whose work is shared below—that celebrated the diversity of the country and the ways in which the country has not fully achieved students’ visions for it. 


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