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2016 NCTE Outstanding Elementary Educator

Bess AltwergerBess Altwerger is the recipient of the 2016 NCTE Outstanding Elementary Educator in the English Language Arts Award. This award recognizes a distinguished national or international educator who has made major contributions to the field of language arts in elementary education.

Altwerger recently retired from her full-time position as professor of elementary education and graduate reading at Towson University. As an adjunct professor, she continues to teach advanced courses in literacy on a part-time basis, and her current activities are devoted to transforming repressive literacy policies, reprofessionalizing teaching, and returning joy to classrooms.

As a former elementary teacher, longtime teacher educator/researcher, and lifelong education activist, Altwerger has worked to develop critical literacy pedagogies that prepare students to build a more just, democratic, and sustainable future. Throughout her career, she has been devoted to exposing and opposing the inequities and injustices of US public education.  

Altwerger is a cofounder of Save Our Schools, a national education advocacy organization, and currently serves on the steering committee. She is an elected member of the Howard County, Maryland, Board of Education and serves on the Board of the Center for Expansion of Language and Thinking (CELT) as well as on the Editorial Review Board of Reading Research Quarterly. As a member of the Whole Language Umbrella (WLU), she has served on the Board and as coeditor of the WLU journal, Talking Points.

Altwerger has published numerous articles and books and presented on the negative impact of federal policies on schools and classrooms, particularly in the area of literacy. Her books include Literacy Policies and Practices in Conflict: Reclaiming Classrooms in Networked Times (2015) with Nancy Shelton, Rereading Fluency (2007), Reading for Profit (2005), and Whole Language: What's the Difference? (1991). She has received several awards for her professional contributions to the field, including the WLU Lifetime Membership and Service Awards.

Learn more about Bess:

Read "Education Activist Bess Altwerger, NCTE’s 2016 Outstanding Elementary Educator in the English Language Arts" by Richard J. Meyer, Language Arts, September 2016

Read “Teachers As Reflective Practitioners: Achieving Social Justice and Equity” from What’s Whole in Whole Language in the 21st Century? by Kenneth Goodman

Listen to the podcast and read the article “The Best of Times, the Worst of Times?” in which Bess and Kenneth and Yetta Goodman share their thoughts about the history of reading theory and instruction and how their views of the reading process have evolved.

NCTE Annual ConventionJoin us for the award celebration at the Elementary Get-Together on Thursday, November 17, during the NCTE Annual Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.




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NCTE - The National Council of Teachers Of English

A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts