Tag: Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Social Justice Summer Camp offers educators ideas to reach students in ‘a different way’

sjsc-5Long lines in the lunchroom. Climbing the gymnasium rope. Nagging parents. The quadratic formula.

Anxieties like these are the stuff of high school.

For LGBTQ teens, though, they take a backseat to the issues of sexual orientation.

Changing clothes not in a locker room but in a nurse’s office on the other side of the building, a welcome accommodation that also comes with isolation. Never knowing whom to trust with their feelings. Bullying not just from classmates but also from fathers who threaten disownment and siblings who heartlessly mock them and their friends.

Such overwhelming concerns can impede learning; require understanding and sensitivity from teachers, most of whom probably can’t relate. Students from diverse ethnic and racial populations, also confronted by generations of oppression, equally yearn for that kind of support. Again, it’s often in vain.

But K-12 teachers and other educators from DeKalb and Elgin who attended June’s inaugural Social Justice Summer Camp at the NIU College of Education will return to their classrooms and schools this fall with eyes wide open to students from diverse and historically marginalized backgrounds.

That progress starts with the recognition that educational disparities exist although they likely are invisible to those not impacted.

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Campers talk after a LGBTQ panel discussion.

Joseph Flynn, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and one of the camp’s organizers, said the participants had “a wonderful time, intellectually and socially.”

“People left on a high note, invigorated to get back to their schools and districts and to get to work. Some were talking about addressing the climate within their schools. Some were looking at specific policies as well as the practices and curriculum in general,” Flynn said.

“Overall, the comments we had from campers were largely positive,” he added. “That doesn’t mean that some folks didn’t struggle with some of the issues, and we anticipated that. Learning about issues of oppression in all forms can be challenging because it’s speaking against the status quo.”

NIU’s camp, organized by Flynn and colleagues James Cohen and Mike Manderino, the three-day camp featured keynote speakers, panel discussions, film screenings, experiential activities, reflective conversations and the development of social justice action plans for schools.

Themes of the days included “Building from the Beginning: Understanding Multicultural and Social Justice Education Historically and Currently,” “Pieces of a Whole: Recognizing the Relationships among Systems, the Collective and the Individual” and “Now What? Considerations on the Practice of Social Justice Education.”

Mike Manderino

Mike Manderino

History lessons of how various forms of oppression emerged, along with the thought-provoking content of the films, spawned many side discussions.

“The film series was especially powerful,” Flynn said. “We would finish a film, and an hour of conversation would go by – and we still weren’t done talking.”

During a June 13 panel discussion featuring three DeKalb High School students who are LGBTQ, however, the language was plain and the message clear.

“We’re just trying to make it through, like the rest of you,” one teenager said to the audience. “School should not be a place you fear or dislike.”

Members of the audience, meanwhile, were able to walk in someone else’s shoes.

The three students spoke of bullying in the hallways, observing that teachers often “won’t step in until it gets physical and someone gets hurt.” They talked of academic lessons illustrated only with “white, hetero families” and history curriculum that ignores the contributions of LGBTQ individuals. They discussed sexual education that covers sex and abstinence but not asexuality.

They expressed hurt over hearing the attendance called with their birth names and of being addressed by the wrong pronouns – situations that are not only uncomfortable but also potentially dangerous if the teachers inadvertently “out” students.

Yet they also smiled camaraderie available through school, especially when groups such DeKalb High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance are active. Meeting other LBGTQ students means “I’m not broken,” one said. “There is nothing wrong or strange about this, and I don’t have to be ashamed. This is something other people have experienced. I’m not alone.”

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James Cohen (left) was one of the camp’s organizers.

Educators in the room stood and applauded.

“I’m in awe of your courage,” one told the panel. “Thank you for being who you are.”

The teens also provided advice for the teachers who might have LGBTQ students – or parents – in their classrooms.

  • “Normalize your curriculum.”
  • “Give students someone to talk to. Let your students know you are available and open to them. If a student comes to you and tells you about their parents not accepting them, be there for them.”
  • “Respect every one for who they are – or who they want to be.”

Andria Mitchell, principal of DeKalb’s Tyler Elementary School, came to the Social Justice Summer Camp to reinforce the work of District 428’s diversity planning.

“This has been an amazing experience,” Mitchell said.

“It has been liberating and emotionally draining. It’s been an eye-opener with big moments of aha. I even had to catch myself a couple times, and say, ‘Oh! I have that bias,’ or, ‘I’ve never thought of it that way.’ ”

Mitchell believes teachers must respect diversity with the same level of importance they assign to knowledge and content.

“When you’re able to have this social justice lens, along with the latest knowledge, you reach your students in a different way,” she said, “and you reach all of your students.”

Jackie Jagielski, a sixth-grade gifted program teacher at Glenbrook Elementary School in U-46, wants to ensure that all children are provided with “opportunities to use their voices” and safe spaces.

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Campers came from the DeKalb and Elgin school districts.

NIU’s camp offered “concrete ways” to do just that, she said.

“I’ve always had an interest in social justice issues, particularly now in the political climate we find ourselves in. It’s harder for people to find common ground,” Jagielski said. “We need to celebrate and humanize all of our students, regardless of their backgrounds and in all the ways that they can be diverse.”

Roy Kim, a social worker in District 428, appreciated the camp’s “wealth of historical context” and “hearing the experiences of the other attendees.”

“Social justice is half of my job description,” he said. “Nothing could be more relevant for me in doing my job effectively.”

Ana Arroyo is principal of Elgin’s Parkwood Elementary School, a Title I school where 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Most are Hispanic.

She attended NIU’s camp to help her teachers advance their “understanding of where our children are coming from,” something already in progress. Parkwood, nominated for PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) “Gold” recognition, is one of the Top 5 safest schools in U-46.

“I’m planning to deliver professional development to my staff on teaching to our population. It’s about listening to students, and giving students a platform to speak, share and engage in their learning,” Arroyo said. “If we can impact change at such an early level, that’s going to continue through middle school and high school.”



Werderich, Wickens leading Curriculum and Instruction

Donna Werderich and Corrine Wickens

Donna Werderich and Corrine Wickens

Two familiar faces are leading the Department of Curriculum and Instruction during the search for a new chair.

Donna Werderich and Corrine Wickens began serving July 1 as acting chair and acting associate chair, respectively.

Werderich will oversee undergraduate programs and the Master of Arts in Teaching while serving as the coordinator of Elementary and Middle Level Education programs.

Wickens will oversee graduate programs, which include three different M.S.Ed. programs and the Ed.D., while maintaining her role as reading coordinator for the reading/language arts unit.

Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the NIU College of Education, calls Werderich and Wickens “a dynamic duo who will provide excellent leadership for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.”

“Donna and Corrine are both great teachers, researchers and colleagues, and they have a strong commitment to NIU, the College of Education and to Curriculum and Instruction,” Elish-Piper said.

“They have both served as program coordinators, chairs of committees and task forces, and in leadership roles in professional organizations,” she added. “They bring a perfect balance of history and vision for the future of the department.”

A member of the College of Education faculty since 2007, Werderich is grateful for the opportunity to lead the department and to facilitate and supportive, collaborative environment.

“I want to help support teamwork, encourage collaboration and the building of meaningful relationships so that we can continue to work together toward the common good of all,” Werderich said.

“We have a department filled with diverse skills, talents, knowledge and expertise. I hope to seek out ways to help members realize their potential as they are our greatest resource who will continue to strengthen and positively affect the future,” she added.

“More than 20 years ago, I entered in to the teaching profession with a love for teaching and strong desire to serve and make a positive difference in the lives of students and the broader field of education. I feel very fortunate to be able to continue on this path by serving alongside a cadre of dedicated and talented colleagues.”

Wickens, who joined NIU in 2008, is excited to help lead a department with “so many great opportunities and yet untapped potential.”

“We have a new doctoral cohort in U-46, a flourishing ESL/Bilingual unit, new opportunities in Elementary Education with new pathways in the program and articulations with local community colleges,” Wickens said.

“We also have a first group of candidates scheduled to graduate in spring 2018 from the new Middle Level Teaching and Learning program, a new online program in the MS Ed Literacy-Reading program, growth within the ALL postsecondary unit and the recent and successful Social Justice Summer Camp,” she added. “Donna and I hope to continue to support the innovative practice going on within these diverse areas within our department.”



NIU working with ECC to offer Elementary Ed degree in Elgin

Anne Gregory

Anne Gregory

Beginning in Fall 2018, students at Elgin Community College need not travel to DeKalb to earn bachelor’s degrees in Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University.

Administrators of the NIU College of Education and Elgin Community College are preparing a “2+2” agreement that aligns ECC coursework with 100- and 200-level general education courses at NIU.

Upon completion of their associate degrees, students then are welcome to transfer to NIU’s main campus in DeKalb – or, if it’s more convenient, to take upper-level NIU courses taught by NIU professors on the ECC campus.

Clinical and student-teaching experiences also will take place in Elgin or in nearby communities, further enhancing the benefits of staying local. Meanwhile, either option promotes four-year graduation by connecting the degree requirements between NIU and ECC.

“One of the things we know about some of our students who are interested in pursuing our B.S.Ed. in Elementary Education is that they’re place-bound,” said Anne Gregory, chair of the NIU Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

“What the 2+2 will do is allow us, with Elgin, to create seamless transitions,” Gregory added. “We’re also going to provide degree completion on their campus, bringing our program and our coursework to a place where people need to stay. It’s a win-win.”

Gregory identifies another “win-win” for NIU and the Kane County school districts in and around Elgin.

“This will create a greater impact in the local communities of learning by growing teachers to work in those communities,” she said. “ECC’s proximity to the U-46 and Huntley school districts really solidifies the relationships we already have with those two districts.”

Margee Myles

Margee Myles

Sean Jensen, director of Transfer Services for Elgin Community College, worked with Gregory and Margaret Myles, director of College of Education Student Services, to draft the agreement. Conversations began on news that NIU’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction will shift its Elementary Education program from “select” entry to “direct” entry.

“NIU is the top transfer destination for our students, and this update was of particular interest to us as it will allow students to complete the NIU bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education on the ECC campus,” Jensen said.

“It’s really beneficial for our students because we do have many who are place-bound. Many work in this area, or have other responsibilities,” he added. “For those students who want to follow the more traditional path to NIU in DeKalb, that still exists.”

Although the first group of students will officially begin NIU’s program in Fall 2018, Gregory said the College of Education will offer some “transitional” courses next spring in Elgin. Enrolling in these courses, such as children’s literature and foundations of education, will enable candidates to test the waters and determine if they are good fits for the NIU program.

Meanwhile, next spring will bring the first round of interviews for students who want to major in Elementary Education.

“During the second semester of their sophomore year, our native NIU students interview for entrance into the program. What we’re looking for in these interviews is what supports we can provide so they can be successful in reaching their goals,” Gregory said.

“Just as our native students do with our faculty members, the ECC students will apply and go through the interview process in the semester prior to coming to our main campus or in completing their degree at ECC,” she added.

ECC students interested in the NIU program will meet with their academic advisers to discuss their interest in the NIU degree and to register for the appropriate general education credits and prerequisite courses, Jensen said.

elem-studentsGraduates of NIU’s B.S.Ed. in Elementary Education program are prepared to work with children in first- through sixth-grades, typically offering instruction in all subject areas. Thanks to lessons grounded in theory, research and best practices, they are ready to teach in a wide variety of linguistic, socio-economic and cultural contexts.

Licensure candidates select from one of four pathways: They can minor in Elementary Mathematics Education, or select from either Bilingual/ESL, Reading Teacher or Special Education to earn an additional endorsement as part of their required coursework.

Passage of the edTPA, required to obtain teacher licensure in Illinois and several other states, is almost a given. One hundred percent of NIU Elementary Education undergrads who submitted edTPA materials this spring passed.

For more information, contact Jensen at (847) 214-7195 or sjensen@elgin.edu, or NIU College of Education Student Services at (815) 753–8352 or cedustudentservices@niu.edu.



K-12 teachers to explore equity at Social Justice Summer Camp

Joseph Flynn

Joseph Flynn

Question: Can K-12 teachers without a deep understanding of social justice concerns effectively engage and enlighten their students on those topics?

Joseph Flynn, James Cohen and Mike Manderino would say “no.”

But the three professors from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction are ready to start equipping teachers to tackle those tough conversations from a well-rounded perspective of the issues.

Nearly 60 teachers and other school professionals will arrive June 11 at NIU for the inaugural Social Justice Summer Camp for Educators, a four-day, three-night, candid and nonjudgmental exploration of multiculturalism, privilege, identity, oppression and more.

“Practicing K-12 teachers and administrators typically have the best of intentions, but it is important for them to also have experiences that can help further their understanding of various forms of oppression and social justice in general,” says Flynn, who first proposed the summer camp.

“Regardless of what people might have to say, or whatever political stripe they may be, social justice issues are actually happening to people,” Flynn adds.

“And if we really believe in social justice and equity, it becomes imperative for students to actually engage in these issues. Offering students opportunities to explore problems helps them with critical thinking and helps them understand their world.”

James Cohen and Mike Manderino

James Cohen and Mike Manderino

Manderino and Cohen are excited to join in Flynn’s vision.

“Schools are a microcosm of society. They’re not this separate place where the world doesn’t exist anymore,” Manderino says. “And whether it’s racism, sexism, discrimination against one’s gender identity, sexual preference or religious background – these are systemic issues. Schools, and the school system itself, really have to confront the fact that these issues are present.”

“In an age of emboldened racism, and emboldened discrimination in our society, we have to be equally emboldened to fight back all of this racism, discrimination and injustice,” Cohen adds. “What better way to spread that message of social justice than to work with teachers?”

The camp, which will take place in New Residence Hall, will feature keynote speakers JQ Adams and Stacey Horn, panel discussions, film screenings and, most importantly, long and pointed conversations followed by opportunities for reflection.

Discussions will probe the historic development of multicultural and social justice education and key ideas; the nature of privilege across identities and how privilege impacts policy and practice in schools; and the ways in which school policies foster inequity and how to reform such policies.

“We have a whole range of issues that these schools can think about,” Manderino says. “Some schools might be struggling with equity gaps in suspension rates, or in who gets access to some classes. It could be writing more gender-inclusive policies, or providing safe spaces.”

sjsc-logoKey to those talks is coming up with a definition of oppression, Flynn adds.

“Oppression happens when prejudice against a group is backed by historical, social and institutional power. It’s much more than feeling mistreated,” he says.

“Affirmative action is not a form of oppression against white males, for example, as compared to the ways the LGBT+ community has been marginalized for decades, let alone centuries, in American culture,” he says. “When you have a series of laws that are consistently passed that have a negative impact on your community – even if that’s not intentional – then those are markers of oppression.”

Films on the summer camp’s evening schedule include the powerful documentaries “Color of Fear,” “Cracking the Codes” and “Precious Knowledge.”

Campers will set goals for their schools and, before they leave June 14, explain how they will begin making a difference for students in the fall.

cracking-the-codes“One of the six goals of multicultural education is to act on your knowledge,” Cohen says. “They will create action plans for how to advocate for linguistically and culturally marginalized students in their respective schools.”

Teachers who attend will learn to reduce their reticence toward taking on this challenge.

“I’ve met a lot of teachers who feel like, ‘Yeah, what the Black Lives Matter movement is saying against police brutality is really important, but I don’t know enough to say anything about it,’ ” Flynn says.

“We can help them become more comfortable with, one, approaching the subjects in general; two, how to engage their students in discussions; and, three, and perhaps most importantly, in admitting that they don’t know everything, and that’s OK,” he adds. “It’s OK to say, ‘You know, I don’t know. Why don’t we figure that out together?’ ”

Flynn’s journey of turning social justice issues into teaching tools began in 2000, the year he began teaching in higher education.

His first course covered human diversity, power and opportunity in social institutions, a focus that prompted him to become more conscious and thoughtful of how various groups are positioned in society.

“I do believe that the United States, if it really believes what it professes in our founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence, that it’s incumbent on us when we can to help people understand how various forms of oppression work,” Flynn says.

“I believe that doing everything we can to make life better for all people is incumbent on us as citizens. We as a society cannot just keep saying that it’s terrible that these things happen if we’re not going to further educate ourselves and create spaces for kids to talk about these things.”

JQ Adams and Stacey Horn

JQ Adams and Stacey Horn

The professors are eager to welcome the campers, lead and participate in their conversations and, ultimately, see positive results begin to blossom.

Campers should regard the event not as “come and learn everything in a few days” but as the catalysts for expanding their mindsets, they say.

“Public education, and education in general, has the promise and potential to provide opportunities for people to pursue their passions and their interests. It gives people choice and agency over their lives, and it has the potential to broaden the perspectives of students much earlier in their lives,” Manderino says.

“But as participants in a societal institution, we as educators must become mindful of these issues. Then I think we can start to grow people’s participation in our democracy because it becomes more inclusive.”

For Cohen, the answer lies in rising above the notion that “there’s no such thing as white rule.”

“When teachers understand how white privilege plays a role in their teaching, how misogyny plays a role in their teaching, how linguistic privilege plays a role in their teaching – if they can gain that awareness, they will be teaching students multiple historical perspectives,” he says.

“Students will be much more aware of the realities of people who don’t think and look and act like them,” he adds, “and that’s what this really comes down to.”



Lone Star stars: Educate U.S. ‘teas’ up for May trip to Texas

Jennifer Johnson, director of teacher preparation and development, talks about Educate U.S.

Jennifer Johnson, director of teacher preparation and development, talks about Educate U.S.

NIU College of Education students selected for the May 2017 edition of Educate U.S. gathered last week in a Graham Hall classroom to learn more about their pending trip to the Houston Independent School District.

Jennifer Johnson, the college’s director of teacher preparation and development, and Portia Downey, professional development coordinator, covered basics such as transportation times, liability forms, ground rules and more.

But the orientation session was mostly fun and festive.

The room was adorned with numerous Texas flags, many taped to the door and walls with others in the forms of paper plates and napkins at the buffet table, which dished up walking tacos, Downey’s homemade Texas Cowboy Cookies, Texas Sweet Tea and drinking glasses in the shape of cowboy boots.

Students also had their choice of Educate U.S. T-shirts and official College of Education red polo shirts.

David Walker, associate dean of the NIU College of Education, congratulated the group for pursuing the “phenomenal program” that sends outstanding pre-service teachers to Texas for donor-funded, all-expenses-paid experiences in a large, urban school district.

Elementary Education majors Marcus Lewis and Abby Spankroy listen during the Educate U.S. orientation.

Elementary Education majors Marcus Lewis and Abby Spankroy listen during the Educate U.S. orientation.

“You made it. You’re the best of the best. We’re really excited for you to be a part of this,” said Walker, who also promoted this summer’s Educate Global program in Taiwan. “When I was a student many years ago, I wish I would have had these opportunities.”

Educate U.S. participants work side-by-side with mentor teachers, observing in classrooms, preparing lessons, and engaging in co-teaching strategies. They also participate with students, host families and community members in a variety of extracurricular and community events, further enriching their experience.

Marcus Lewis, a junior elementary education major, applied for Educate U.S. to glimpse how school is taught outside the borders of Illinois.

“I’d like to experience a different area of the United States, and see how they take on education and pedagogy,” said Lewis, who also is participating in Educate Global this summer. “I value education as a tool for change, and I believe it’s one of the most important aspects of society.”

Lewis, who’s heard “nothing but great things” about Educate U.S., hopes to teach fourth-grade. “It’s a great transition time,” he said. “They’re moving into adolescence. They’re not babies anymore. They’re starting to rationalize.”

Sarah Younglove, a special education major, expects that her week in Houston will provide a view completely unlike her “predominantly white” hometown of Oregon, Ill.

Sarah Younglove (right) and Emma Foelske

Sarah Younglove (right) and Emma Foelske

“I’m from a really small town with less than 4,000 people,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to go to a school district that’s got more than 215,000 students, and to experience different cultures.”

Younglove is equally excited for her future career. “I just feel very passionate about seeing students reach their full potential,” she said, “and I think the world needs as many passionate teachers as it can get.”

Lorena Flores, a transfer student in Middle Level Teaching and Learning, is eager to explore Houston’s bilingual classrooms.

“I’ve never seen that applied at the middle level,” she said. “I want to see how they do it.”

Flores, a veteran of the U.S. Navy who developed a love of teaching as a drill instructor, also looks forward to observing and living “the everyday life of a teacher” who must balance school and home.

Her goal as a science teacher is to emulate one of her former instructors. “In high school, I had a certain math teacher who ended up being my math teacher for three years in a row,” she said. “I hated math – but he made it fun and interesting, and he treated us as people, not just a name or a number.”

texas-tacosEarly Childhood Studies majors traveling in May are Nycol Durham, Malika Lee, Ashley Kivikoski, Wendy Castillo-Guzman, Katelynn Horton, Ashley Hodges, Caroline Stephens and Catherina Rousonelos.

Elementary Education majors are Nicole VanGarsse, Abby Spankroy, Erin Kostos, Sarah Raila, Jennifer Lucchsi and Marcus Lewis.

Middle Level Teaching and Learning majors are Emma Foelske, Samantha Oakley and Lorena Flores. Special Education majors are Bailey Fisch, Rachel Streight and Sarah Younglove.

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COE department celebrates new name, faculty members

helloAn NIU College of Education department is beginning the new semester with a new name.

Meet the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Formerly known as Literacy and Elementary Education, the department changed its moniker to better reflect the diverse teaching, learning and faculty that make it up.

“With the Program Prioritization process, we had two new faculty members join us from the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations. It seemed really important then to think about who we are and the programming that we offer,” Chair Anne Gregory said.

“What we found is that there were very few people who thought that our name actually represented us and our expertise. We’ve also had questions from potential students saying, ‘I can’t find you,’ ” Gregory added. “With that said, we considered other alternatives.”



Melanie Koss enjoys opportunity to honor Congressman Lewis

NIU’s Melanie Koss and Congressman John Lewis

NIU’s Melanie Koss and Congressman John Lewis

Melanie Koss knows a great book – or a great graphic novel – when she reads one.

And, Koss says, Congressman John Lewis“March: Book Three” is a triumph.

Its sweep of the American Library Association awards for 2017 includes the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award, which recognizes excellence in young adult literature.

Written by Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, “March: Book Three” also won the Coretta Scott King Book Award, the National Book Award for young people’s literature and the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature (Young Adult category).

But for Koss, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction with expertise in children’s literature, young adult literature and multicultural children’s literature, it’s the Printz that means the most. She chairs the nine-member Printz committee this year.

“The book starts with the bombing in Birmingham and ends with the march on Selma, with intermittent jumps to Past-President Obama’s inauguration and Lewis’ interactions with Obama as a congressman in present day,” Koss says.

“Not only is this graphic novel telling the story of a very important time in American history, it’s the way it’s telling it. It’s from Congressman Lewis’ point of view, and the artwork perfectly enhances the text,” she adds.

“It’s all black and white, and it’s almost cinematic, like a movie. There are close-ups, and you can almost feel what it’s like to be John Lewis, to have his head cracked open, to be wounded by the police. It’s just a powerful story.”

march-book-threeFollowing a weekend of closed-door deliberations in Atlanta from Friday, Jan. 20, through Sunday, Jan. 22, Koss and her Printz committee colleagues enjoyed the opportunity to inform Lewis about the award and to congratulate him in person.

Her phone call to Leigh Walton, the congressman’s publicist, made it happen.

While en route to a conference book signing, and a day after leading Saturday’s Women’s March in Atlanta, Lewis stopped at the hotel where the various ALA awards committees were encamped.

“We were all standing there and, as chair, I was able to tell him that he had won, and just how thrilled and honored we were that he had written such a powerful book,” Koss says.

“We judged the book on its literary quality; however, it just happens to be completely relevant, especially in light of what is happening in our country today,” she adds. “At the end, there’s a simple photo of a cell phone ringing, which we interpret as a call to action for our country moving forward.”

Lewis was “surprised, honored and gracious,” Koss says.

“He told us how much he appreciates the support his book is getting from the library and education communities, and how important – especially now – learning from history, and moving forward, is for your nation’s youth,” she says.

“It was overwhelming to be in the presence of this man who is larger than life, and to see how passionate he still is,” she adds. “Yet he’s also very humble. It’s almost like he doesn’t realize how important he is, but he’s appreciative of the attention the ‘March’ series is getting to bring his story to a younger generation.”

Lewis will visit Chicago this summer for the annual ALA conference, where the awards are officially presented.

Until that time, Koss expects that momentum will continue to grow for all three installments in the “March” trilogy.

Melanie Koss

Melanie Koss

“Graphic novels are often not considered literary enough for the classroom, but graphic novels – as a medium – are something young adults really like. We live in a visual society, and text with images resonate with our nation’s youth,” Koss says.

“Another reason this book is so powerful is the topic. It’s so authentic and honest. It doesn’t sugarcoat,” she adds.

“We often hear about civil rights from the white perspective. We hear it from a distance. We learn about Rosa Parks. But ‘March’ is in the middle of the action, from the African-American lens. John Lewis is a civil rights icon. He was there, marching with Martin Luther King. He was on the front lines. This is his story.”

Four Printz Honor Books also were named: “Asking for It,” by Louise O’Neill; “The Passion of Dolssa,” by Julie Berry; “Scythe,” by Neal Shusterman; and “The Sun Is Also a Star,” by Nicola Yoon.