WATERVILLE — Seven Thomas College students and their professor recently attended the National Council of Teachers of English conference in St. Louis, Missouri, according to a news release from the college.

Students attended professional development sessions during the three-day conference, collected more than 80 free books for their own classroom libraries, and met with famous authors such as Laurie Halse Anderson, who wrote “Speak,” along with other famous titles, Angie Thomas, the author of “The Hate U Give,” and iLouis Lowry, who wrote “The Giver, Number the Stars.”

What the students took away 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 the college studying early childhood education, according to the release. “I also realized how much power my peers and I could have if we chose to speak up about issues that matter.”

In 2017, in addition to five undergraduates, the group included two graduate students majoring in literacy education at the 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 conference on the next school day.

“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, according to the release.

The theme of the conferencewas “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 the 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 Katie Rybakova, according to the release. “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 different 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.”

For more information, visit thomas.edu or contact MacKenzie Riley at [email protected] or 859-1313.