November 2022 Secondary ELAOK Newsletter

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English Language Arts

November 2022

In this issue:

Teachers of the Year Finalists

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister revealed the 12 finalists for Oklahoma’s next Teacher of the Year last month.

“These finalists represent some of the top teaching talent in Oklahoma,” Hofmeister said. “They are exceptional individuals who have a tremendous heart for their students and an unwavering dedication to the teaching profession.”

Two of the twelve finalists are English language arts teachers: Traci Manuel, a 10th grade advanced English II teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa Public Schools, and Rexanne McCrary, an 11th-12th grade AP language and composition teacher and virtual English teacher at Union High School in Union Public Schools. Read on to learn more about Rexanne. Traci will be featured next month.

Rexanne McCrary

11th-12th grade AP language and composition teacher and virtual English teacher

Union High School, Union Public Schools


Years of teaching: 25 years

Years in current position: 9 years since 2013.

Favorite piece of literature you have ever read: Heaven is for Real because I had the author’s nephew in my class in Bartlesville and was able to hear about the process and the impact that book had on the family.

Favorite lesson: I started my career as a speech/drama/debate teacher with no books or curriculum.  Throughout the years I have developed lessons that provide me an opportunity to help students find their voice in writing. From those experiences I have had a student write a eulogy for her father’s funeral, students fill out job applications with confidence, apply for colleges with less anxiety, and write about their experiences as consumers. We live in a world that is more about conversational writing than formal/academic writing. I feel now more than ever it is important for students to comprehend and practice the difference, understanding the importance of both in their everyday lives.

Advice to ELA teachers: Allow students to take responsibility for their education and encourage learning through trial and growth. Seek opportunities to pour love into students, mentor young teachers, and advocate for yourself. Improving the teaching profession means improving yourself, so find those ways to improve your craft. I know that so many more responsibilities fall on the English department because everyone takes English (school pictures, enrollment, tech presentations, assemblies, technology, speakers), but in those extra responsibilities are more opportunities to get to know your students in a less formal atmosphere where trust can develop. We are a department that our districts can depend on, so embrace knowing that your admin knows they can rely on you just like your students know they can depend on your guidance to teach them skills that will last a lifetime.

Anything else you would like to share: Involvement is the key to my successful career. I’m involved in my students lives and that is evident the second you step into my room with the pictures on my walls of all the events I’ve attended over the years with my students. 

wall of photos

McCrary's classroom

I encourage my students to not let circumstances dictate their failure but rather motivate their success. Last year I taught this through my own actions by battling cancer and going through 6 rounds of chemo. I stuck with not only teaching but keeping up with my routine of grading, instructional team lead, professional development, and being a stakeholder in their education. 

To truly understand what it means to survive cancer, one really has to experience it because every person is different. To truly understand teaching, one has to experience it as well because each one of us are different. We teach different ages, different subjects, different students, in different districts. For cancer patients, we all have one goal, which is to beat cancer. With teaching we all have one goal, which is to survive and overcome ever-changing trends and standards, to make sure learning can happen for all students. Here is to the survivors who make that happen every day.


Thursday, January 26, 2023

Charles Page High School

Sand Springs, OK

Shakespeare Competition 10:00 -- 11:30 a.m.

Shakespeare Festival 11:30 a.m. -- 1:30 p.m.

For 34 years the Tulsa Branch of the English-Speaking Union has sponsored the National Shakespeare Competition. It is combined with a non-competitive Shakespeare Festival and welcomes students from across Oklahoma. Both drama/theatre and English teachers can participate.



Oklahoma ESU National Shakespeare Competition

High school students from across Oklahoma and Western Arkansas perform a 20-line monologue and a sonnet. The 1st place winner will receive an all-expense paid trip to New York City to perform at Lincoln Center. Cash prizes are awarded to the 2nd ($200) and 3rd place ($100) winners. There is no cost to participate.

Check in is from 9:30-9:45 a.m. The contest begins promptly at 10:00 a.m. and should be completed by 11:30 a.m.

Nationally, more than 250,000 young people have participated in the competition since its inception in 1983. Approximately 2,500 teachers and 20,000 students in nearly 45 English-Speaking Union branch communities participate each year.

Through the National Shakespeare Competition, students develop essential skills:

  • critical thinking
  • close reading and public speaking
  • increase self-confidence through reading, analysis and performance of Shakespeare
  • explore the beauty of Shakespeare's language and classic themes
  • bring the timeless works of Shakespeare to life and learn to express his words with understanding, feeling and clarity
  • meet local, state and national standards in English language arts and drama

Visit this webpage to register and to download the teacher and student handbooks.

Oklahoma Shakespeare Festival

Students from grades 6-12 will perform scenes, monologues, or other creative performances using Shakespeare’s language (maximum of 2 minutes x the number of actors with a limit of 6 minutes). They will also participate in a short performance-based activity. Collaborating with classmates to explore Shakespeare's language, and then sharing that experience with students from different schools and backgrounds, is of immense educational value.

This is not your typical drama festival. By design, this festival is also geared toward English classes and students who may have never acted before as well as drama students. For us, performance is a means to an end: making Shakespeare's language come alive.

My Favorite Book Contest

my favorite book

The 2022-2023 My Favorite Book Contest will is open! The deadline to enter is December 16 at 5:00 p.m.

The Oklahoma Center for the Book invites readers in Grades 4–12 to write a letter to the author of a favorite book, expressing how the book affected them personally.

Cash prizes will be awarded to first, second, and third place entries in three grade levels (4–6, 7–8, and 9–12). The winner of the first-place entries will select their school library or public library to receive a cash prize of $1,000.

In addition to the Oklahoma Center for the Book in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, sponsors include the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book and the Kirkpatrick Foundation.

The contest page has official rules, instructions for students and teachers on writing and submitting letters, an FAQ, and a link to the online entry forms. Plus, teachers and librarians will find downloadable materials to promote the contest.

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

prompt list

Inktober is an annual challenge for artists to draw a daily picture based on a one-word prompt. When I taught high school creative writing, one of my students, Sarah V., told me about Inktober. She suggested we modify the challenge for writing. Each day, we could take the assigned word and incorporate it into a short piece of writing. Alternatively, we could use each word as a title to a short poem.

Inktober is traditionally celebrated in October, but you could use this list for any other month this year.

Since this is meant to be only a 5-10 minute exercise, pick one word from this list, and write in response. For an added challenge, pick the word that shares the day you were born. For example, since I was born on September 6, I would write in response to 6 (Bouquet).

Reading Quote

Italo Calvino quote