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Last modified: Monday, August 31, 2009

National Council for Teachers of English honors School of Education professor

Prestigious award recognizes book about different way of building 21st century curriculum

Aug. 31, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has named a member of the Indiana University School of Education faculty as the recipient of a distinguished award.

Gerald Campano

Gerald Campano

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Gerald Campano, associate professor in the Department of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education of the IU School of Education, has been named the 2009 recipient of the David H Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English -- one of the most distinguished awards in English language education. The organization selected Campano for his 2007 book Immigrant Students and Literacy: Reading, Writing, and Remembering (Teachers College Press). The work chronicles his experience building a culturally responsive curriculum while teaching fifth grade in an urban California school where students came from homes speaking more than 14 different languages.

"Campano's book is an exceptionally well executed and well presented example of practitioner research," the NCTE wrote in a release about his selection. The release states that Campano's work is likely to influence practice in the field while noting his deft handling of a multi-layered subject.

"In Immigrant Students and Literacy, Campano has written about important and contentious topics such as accountability, language and literacy curriculum highly attuned to refugee experiences, the problematic nature of 'best practices' and 'research-based,' and teaching as ethical practice. Campano's writing on these weighty topics has benefited from a light -- better, a poetic -- hand, producing a graceful, accessible and moving text."

"Gerald Campano's work is engaging and inspiring to teachers and researchers alike," said Mary Beth Hines, chair of the Literacy, Culture and Language Education Department in the IU School of Education. "He has a gift for showcasing the experiential, intellectual and cultural resources of children historically marginalized in schools as he passionately challenges his readers to become their advocates. His book is a testimonial to the importance of practitioner inquiry, dramatizing the power and possibility available when teachers are recognized as producers of educational knowledge, not simply consumers."

Campano said he was surprised about the award and delighted to be in the company of prestigious past winners, which include IU professor emeritus Jerome Harste. Campano notes that the book was partly motivated by his own family's background -- his grandfather emigrated from the Philippines in the 1920s. The book is designed to demonstrate how a classroom teacher can conduct research in his or her own classroom in the service of more equitable education.

"I think normally there's this idea that research is just manufactured in universities and kind of transmitted or shipped to teachers," Campano said. "This work is an argument for the idea that those who are enmeshed in the thick of things and in the complexity of education might have something to say about it in terms of research and knowledge."

Campano underscores that it is necessary to value not just the experience of teachers but also that of their students. "We should honor the rich identities, histories and legacies of youth in robustly-diverse 21st century classrooms. They are our greatest intellectual resource," he said.

The key to supporting teachers is providing opportunities for practitioner inquiry, according to Campano."I think a lot of responsibility falls on universities and administrators to create those professional development spaces, because teaching is so difficult and you dedicate so much time," Campano said. "To cope successfully with the complexities of teaching, it's important to have teacher research communities develop where teachers can learn from one another and engage issues of social justice. And we need to have really high standards for our kids and value their experiences, their knowledge and their insights as well."

The David H Russell Award recognizes published research in language, literature, rhetoric, teaching procedures or cognitive processes that may sharpen the teaching or the content of English at any level. NCTE formed in 1911 as an organization devoted to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education.