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CEL Kent Williamson Exemplary Leader Award

Penny Kittle, 2015 Exemplary Leader

Of this year's recipient, the CEL awards committee wrote: "Penny Kittle's innumerable contributions at the local, regional, national, and international levels stand as a testament to her commitment to literacy leadership and its role in providing excellence in instruction to students at all levels. Amongst the numerous acknowledgements of her accomplishments, nominators also noted Ms. Kittle's willingness to present at professional conferences, her prolific contributions to professional materials in the field, and, most importantly, her generous support of teachers and leaders. She does all this work while also teaching at both the university and high school levels. In addition, her interest in collaboration has led CEL leaders to describe her as one who epitomizes the heart of CEL – collaborating with others and sharing knowledge on a regular basis. For this reason and so many more, CEL is honored to recognize Penny Kittle by awarding her with the CEL’s 2015 Kent Williamson Exemplary Leader Award."

Penny will be presented with the CEL Kent Williamson Exemplary Leader Award during the NCTE Annual Convention in Minneapolis, MN on Sunday, November 22, 2015, at the CEL Sunday Luncheon.

About Penny Kittle

Penny Kittle teaches high school English and is the director of new teacher mentoring at Kennett High School in North Conway, NH. She teaches in the alternative night school for adult students and in the Summer Literacy Institutes at the University of New Hampshire.

She travels across the U.S. and Canada (and once in awhile even farther) speaking to teachers about empowering students through independence in literacy. She believes in curiosity, engagement, and deep thinking in schools for both students and their teachers. Penny stands on the shoulders of her mentors, the Dons (Murray & Graves), and the Toms (Newkirk & Romano), in her belief that intentional teaching in a reading and writing workshop brings the greatest student investment and learning in a classroom.

She is the author of five books, including Book Love and Write Beside Them, which won the James N. Britton Award from NCTE in 2009. She edited a collection of Donald Graves’ work with Tom Newkirk called Children Want to Write: Donald Graves and the Revolution in Children’s Writing. Her long friendship with Don led to co-authoring Inside Writing and My Quick Writes in 2005. She is also the author of two books of memoir, The Greatest Catch: A Life in Teaching and Public Teaching: One Kid at a Time. Penny was a columnist for Voices from the Middle for six years. 

In 2012 Penny and her husband founded The Book Love Foundation to award classroom libraries to teachers who aim instruction towards increasing joy in reading in middle and high school students. This year they will give away their 25th library.

Award Criteria

The CEL Kent Williamson Exemplary Leader Award is given annually to an NCTE member who is an outstanding English language arts educator and leader. NCTE and CEL members nominate an exceptional leader who has had an impact on the profession through ONE or MORE of the following: 

  • work that has focused on exceptional teaching and/or leadership practices (e.g., building effective department, grade level, or building teams; developing curriculum or processes for practicing ELA educators; or mentoring)
  • contributions to the profession through involvement at both the local and national levels
  • presentations, workshops, and publications that have had an impact upon school leaders

Nomination letters and curriculum vitae should be sent to the CEL representative by FEBRUARY 1 for consideration within the calendar year. Candidates not selected for the year in which they are nominated will receive consideration for the next two years. 

Nominations will open following the 2015 Annual Convention. To submit a nomination, please send the nomination form along with two professional letters of recommendation and the nominee's curriculum vitae to  or

Dr. Rebecca Sipe
Eastern Michigan University
English Dept-612 J Pray Harrold
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

CEL Kent Williamson Exemplary Leader Award

The award includes a plaque, recognition on the CEL website and at the Sunday CEL Luncheon, a CEL Luncheon ticket, and CEL Convention registration. It may also include an invitation to be the luncheon speaker in a later year or to speak at the CEL Convention.

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