Essential Literacy Learning:
The Code, the Concepts, the Conversations
February 14-16 | Springfield, Mass.
Keynote & Guest Presenters
The 2012 Winter Conference features award-winning poet, memoirist, and novelist Jimmy Santiago Baca, author and educator ReLeah Cossett Lent, and Sonia Nieto, a leading aurthority on educational equity and social justice and Professor Emerita of Language, Literacy, and Culture, School of Education, University of Massachusetts.
Jimmy Santiago Baca
Keynote Speaker & Guest Presenter
Born in New Mexico of Indio-Mexican descent, Jimmy Santiago Baca was raised first by his grandmother and later sent to an orphanage. A runaway at age 13, it was after Baca was sentenced to five years in a maximum security prison that he began to turn his life around: he learned to read and write and unearthed a voracious passion for poetry. During a fateful conflict with another inmate, Jimmy was shaken by the voices of Neruda and Lorca, and made a choice that would alter his destiny. Instead of becoming a hardened criminal, he emerged from prison a writer. Baca sent three of his poems to Denise Levertov, the poetry editor of Mother Jones. The poems were published and became part of Immigrants in Our Own Land, published in 1979, the year he was released from prison. He earned his GED later that same year and now has several honorary doctorates. He is the winner of the Pushcart Prize, the American Book Award, the International Hispanic Heritage Award and for his memoir A Place to Stand the prestigious International Award. In 2006 he won the Cornelius P. Turner Award.
Baca has devoted his post-prison life to writing and teaching others who are overcoming hardship. His themes include American Southwest barrios, addiction, injustice, education, community, love and beyond. He has conducted hundreds of writing workshops in prisons, community centers, libraries, and universities throughout the country. He is also working with students and teachers in school districts internationally.
In 2005 he created Cedar Tree Inc., a nonprofit foundation that works to give people of all walks of life the opportunity to become educated and improve their lives. Cedar Tree provides free instruction, books, writing material and scholarships. Cedar Tree has an ongoing writing workshop in the Albuquerque Women’s Prison and at the South Valley Community Center. Cedar Tree also has an Internship program that provides live-in writing scholarships at Wind River Ranch, and in the south valley of Albuquerque. The program allows students, writers and poets the opportunity to write, attend poetry readings, conduct writing workshops, and work on documentary film production.
Baca’s latest works include a documentary, a book of short stories, a novel, several volumes of poetry and a project for at-risk youth co-authored with ReLeah Cossett Lent titled Adolescents on the Edge.
ReLeah Cossett Lent
ReLeah Cossett Lent was a teacher for more than twenty years before becoming a founding member of a statewide literacy project at the University of Central Florida. She is now a consultant, writing and speaking about adolescent literacy issues. Her three most recent books include Literacy for Real: Reading, Thinking and Learning in the Content Areas (Teachers College Press), Engaging Adolescent Learners: A Guide for Content-Area Teachers (Heinemann) and Literacy Learning Communities: A Guide for Creating Sustainable Change in Secondary Schools (Heinemann). ReLeah’s first two books, co-authored with Gloria Pipkin and published by Heinemann, At the Schoolhouse Gate: Lessons in Intellectual Freedom and Silent No More: Stories of Courage in American Schools, won the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Award and the NCTE/Slate Intellectual Freedom Award. ReLeah was also the recipient of the PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award in 1999. Her latest project with Jimmy Santiago Baca is a new teaching resource for reaching at-risk adolescents, which includes a book and DVD titled Adolescents on the Edge, Stories and Lessons to Transform Learning.
Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita of Language, Literacy, and Culture, School of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has taught students from elementary school through doctoral studies. Her research focuses on multicultural education, teacher education, and the education of Latinos, immigrants, and other students of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. She has written many journal articles and book chapters and several books on these topics, including Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education (6th ed, 2012, with Patty Bode), The Light in Their Eyes: Creating Multicultural Learning Communities (2nd edition, 2010), and Language, Culture, and Teaching: Critical Perspectives (2nd ed, 2010). She serves on several regional and national advisory boards that focus on educational equity and social justice, and she has received many academic and community awards for her scholarship, teaching, and advocacy, including four honorary doctorates. In 2011, she was selected as a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association and as a Laureate for Kappa Delta Pi.