#PeopleOfPeace: WPU Professor, Janelle Jennings-Alexander Wins Early Educator of Color Leadership Award

September 20, 2018
WPU Faculty member, Janelle Jennings-Alexander

Jennings-Alexander was profoundly honored to discover that she was one of only six educators nationwide to win the prestigious award for 2018. The purpose of the leadership award is to support early career teachers of color as they build accomplished teaching careers in literacy education. The award provides its recipient educators a national forum for professional collaboration and development.

“This award means that my professional interests and ideals, and the potential for change they create in the classroom, are shared by others, and that’s really important to me.”

The eligibility of the EC-EOC Leadership Award is open to those who are practicing pre-K to university level literacy educators of color who are in the first five years of a paid teaching career. People of color refers to African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Latinos, and Pacific Islanders, all who are historically underrepresented groups. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is focused on supporting these educators, who they believe will be future leaders in the organization.

Janelle Jennings-Alexander, winner of the 2018 National Council of Teacher EC-EOC Leadership Award

“This award means that my professional interests and ideals, and the potential for change they create in the classroom, are shared by others, and that’s really important to me,” Jennings-Alexander said. “I am grateful to continue to be molded and mentored by scholars who are shaping the future of inquiry at the intersections of writing, literature, and anti-racist teaching and learning. It’s really exciting stuff.”

As a scholar and educator, Jennings-Alexander’s teaching explores the intersections of race, rhetoric and composition in the literature classroom. While Janelle teaches English at WPU, she is also currently finishing her Ph.D. in literature at Florida State University. Her dissertation is titled “Reading Whiteness: Applying a Lens of Critical Whiteness to 21st Century Black Authored Texts.” Her research critically examines whiteness within African American literature and seeks to explore the role an anti-racist pedagogy might play in transforming modern race relations and in recruiting social justice allies.

“She is a naturally-gifted teacher who also works very hard to be a mentor to Peace students as well as a terrific colleague to the faculty, staff, and members of the community.”

Dr. Charles Duncan, Vice President of Academic Affairs at WPU

“We’re delighted but not at all surprised that Professor Jennings-Alexander has been honored with this prestigious award,” said Dr. Charles Duncan, Vice President for Academic Affairs at WPU. “She is a naturally-gifted teacher who also works very hard to be a mentor to Peace students as well as a terrific colleague to the faculty, staff, and members of the community.”

While Jennings-Alexander is honored to win the award, she is not one to rest on her laurels. Having already attended the NCTE summer retreat for the award, she has designed a project that she will be implementing in her classes at WPU this fall.  The project will span multiple semesters where students will create stories based on the bits and pieces of local African American history they have researched. Jennings-Alexander and her classes will be working with Friends of Oberlin Village to collect oral history narratives that will be written as children’s books. Students from Raleigh’s Powell Elementary School will then help to illustrate the children’s books, which will then be printed and published for the school and for the interview participants.

“I’m really fortunate to have the freedom to create projects like this at Peace,” Jennings-Alexander said. “I have a really diverse employment and education background, and I think projects like this allow me to explore all of my strengths and talents. Peace has been supportive of my desire to mix things up since I arrived here in 2015, and I am really grateful to be a part of all the innovation now and that which is yet to come.”

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