Recently, I had a wonderful opportunity to go to Chicago to attend the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference and the post-workshop for the Assembly of Literature for Adolescents (ALAN).   I was excited to attend a conference where I would be surrounded by professionals who were excited about teaching reading, and writing, and also were passionate readers.  I shared with friends before I left that I was going to a conference that would be Book Geek Heaven.

During my time at the conference, I was affirmed as an educator.  Listening to the opening Keynote given by Linda Darling-Hammond set the tone for a week of learning.  I engaged in dozens of passionate conversations over the six days with various teachers, authors, and other professionals about teaching, and students, and learning.  I loved knowing that it didn't matter who I sat with at a meal or during a session but I could learn something new from each person and presenter.

I was also thankful for Twitter for helping to make this one of the best conferences I have attended.  Yep, twitter allowed me to create an on-line Professional Learning Committee (PLC) that has become an invaluable resource for me.  So many of my wonderful twitter PLC folks were there at the conference and I got to meet and hang-out with many of them at both NCTE11 and ALAN11.

Here are some of my highlights:

- NCTE 11 - 

* arriving in Chicago and taking the train to Naperville to meet with friends (Jen, Colby, Kelly) for deep-dish pizza and attending the Tom Angleberger/Jack Ferraiolo/Michael Buckley signing at Anderson's Bookstore.  Thank you Donna (@akgal68) for seeing my tweets and picking Cathy (@cathy_blackler) and I up at the train station.

Tom Angleberger signs a book for a fan.
Jack Ferraiolo with Jen (@mentortexts)
* Listening to Kirby Larson, Deborah Hopkinson, and Jack Murphy talk about how the research they do for their non-fiction books can be used as writing prompts

* Hearing authors - Kate Messner, Linda Urban, Eric Luper, and Matthew Kirby talk about writing and editing/revising their work.  I wish I had thought to capture the whole presentation on video.  There were so many brilliant comments.  This was the first time I had also met Kate Messner in person and she is sooooo nice.  Oh, and I got a wonderful hug and greeting from Linda Urban.

* I attended a workshop about graphic novels with my twitter buddy, Colby, and we both got to meet Jennifer Holm.  Jenni actually signed Colby's Babymouse T-shirt.

* Dinner Friday night was a blast as I got to meet and hang out with more tweeps -Donalyn (@donalynbooks), Kellee (@kelleemoye), Jen (@mentortexts), Colby (@colbysharp), John (@mrschureads) just to mention a few.

* Saturday morning we attended the ALAN breakfast where Sharon Draper received an award and the keynote was given by Jacqueline Woodson.

* I also connected up with author & teacher Melissa Thompson and as we walked around the exhibit hall we found Jen, Colby, and John.  On our way to additional workshops, we stopped for lunch and shared about books and kids. 

* Saturday afternoon sessions were filled with learning about Mentor Texts, as well as, Websites and Technology that could be used to support student learning and writing.  At a session led by Donalyn Miller, Teri Lesesne, Franki Sibberson, and Sara Kajder participants were reminded that "we shouldn't schoolify technology". (Have I said how amazing these women are?)

* Saturday evening, I had a chance to go out to dinner with a large group of Twitter buddies (@leakelley, @mindi_r, @cbethm @heisereads @yaloveblog @cathy_blackler @childofthe80s @jenniesmith @kimmccollum @katsok).  Thanks Mindi for finding such a great restaurant for us.  And thanks everyone for such great dinner conversation.

* At the Children's Literature Assembly Breakfast, I had a chance to hear award winning author/poet Joyce Sidman speak.

* On Sunday, I attended several amazing sessions as well.  I expected the session on Inquiry Circles to be empty since so many people were leaving, but it turned out to be Standing Room Only and one of the best sessions that I attended.  As I watched the school team talk about what they have been doing with Inquiry Circles, I even texted folks in my District telling them how much I was loving what I was learning.  I have ordered Comprehension & Collaboration by Harvey Daniels & Stephanie Harvey for my teachers.

* At the final NCTE session, I had an opportunity to meet some wonderful authors including some favorites like Sharon Draper, and Rita Williams Garcia. 

- ALAN 11 - 

* ALAN kicked off with a reception where Alethea (@frootjoos) and I did some open author-stalking. First, we got to say "hi" to our SoCal author buddies - Andrew Smith, Katie Alender, and Kazu Kibuishi.  Over the evening, I got to fangirl Sharon Draper and let her know about my love for OUT OF MY MIND and Neal Shusterman who writes amazing books.

* The two days of ALAN were filled with amazing author panels, book talks, book signings, and lots of books. 

In looking at my pictures, I realized that I spent too much time talking and not enough time taking good pictures.  For some great quotes from the various workshops, and lots more pictures (including one of a group of us at dinner on Saturday), click here to check out my twitter buddy, Kellee's blogpost. 

Thank you to all of my Twitter PLC (including my roommates @cathy_blackler, @frootjoos, @thebrainlair) for making my first time to NCTE/ALAN such an amazing experience.  Hope to see everyone again in Las Vegas for NCTE/ALAN 2012.