Growing Justice with NYSEC Keynote Speaker, Jacqueline Woodson

Vincent Fino, December 2023

After two and a half jam-packed days of “sowing seeds” with LaMar Timmons-Long and Lorena German, two of our 2023 NYSEC conference speakers, and all of our workshop presenters from around the state, attendees had the pleasure of listening to New York Times bestselling young adult author, Jacqueline Woodson. Woodson transported her listeners back to her childhood in Bushwick, which is also the location of her new young adult novel, Remember Us. Woodson recalled the intersection of her literacy with the 1970s Bushwick fires, which swept the neighborhood, destroying homes and businesses.

Throughout the conference, we returned to the theme of our identities – reader, writer, teacher, student, parent, friend – and the moments that have shaped us. For Woodson, the fires impacted her identity many years later when, after hearing stories from family members and neighbors, she began to realize how much the events shaped her childhood and the residents of the predominantly Black and Latinx community, and the ability of folks to come together in the face of uncertainty. Throughout Woodson’s hour-long talk, there was a common thread: a call for community in the wake of uncertainty and division. In the face of book bans and public education scrutiny, Woodson implored her listeners – teachers, administrators, policy-makers – to continue to support inclusive, diverse texts across K-12 classrooms, and to encourage their students to never stop telling their unique stories.

Vincent Fino serves as Assistant Principal at Carmel High School in Carmel, NY. Prior to taking a role in administration, Vincent was an 8th-Grade English Language Arts teacher at Valley Central Middle School in Montgomery, NY. He is also a Teacher Consultant with the Hudson Valley Writing Project. In his free time, Vincent enjoys reading, traveling, and running.

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