Willie Carver: Protecting ourselves, and our most vulnerable students, with words

Update: If you missed the session you can hear the recording here!

The National Writing Project’s Write Now Teacher Studio is hosting a talk by the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, published poet, and student advocate Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr. at 7 p.m. EDT on Thursday, March 30, where he will talk about his experiences advocating for Black, brown, and LGBTQ students in often hostile education environments. Carver will address the difficulties minoritized students and teachers are facing as well as some of the ways teachers and students can resist and attempt to protect their students in this atmosphere, drawing on his own experiences and those of other teachers. He will also share some works from his upcoming book of narrative poems about the experience of growing up queer and Appalachian, Gay Poems for Red States.

The National Writing Project’s Write Now Teacher Studio is an open online community hosted by the National Writing Project. Membership is required to participate but free and open to alleducators interested in writing, the teaching of writing, and joyous learning both in and out of schools.

The Morehead Writing Project’s Just Write Virtual Writing Group will host a separate Zoom session following Carver’s talk to write in response to Carver’s words and message to help us find our own words to process and move forward for ourselves and our students. The Just Write Virtual Writing Group welcome writers of all ages and walks of life and is an outreach project of the Morehead Writing Project. The Morehead Writing Project evangelizes for the power and magic of writing as an intrinsic good as well as a powerful force for life and learning. Contact site director Dr. Deanna Mascle to learn more about this work.

About Gay Poems for Red States

No one will protect you. Months after being named the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr. announced his decision to leave the public school system. His career as a high school English teacher had spanned more than a decade but ended abruptly—another casualty of the cruel and dangerous anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination that is creeping back into the halls of government and the homes of Americans. At the beginning of Carver’s career, an administrator warned him about discussing his otherwise openly gay identity at work: “No one will protect you, including me.” A new administration allowed for more freedom, but the initial warning eventually rang true. School officials failed repeatedly to address harassment of students and of Carver himself, until he could no longer endure such a purposeful deterioration of human rights. While Carver’s testimony before the House of Representatives brought much-needed attention to the need for protections for LGBTQ+ people in schools, the damage was done.

In Gay Poems for Red States, Carver counters the injustice of a persistent anti-LGBTQ+ movement by asserting that a life full of beauty and pride is possible for everyone. More than a collection of poetry, Carver’s earnest and heartfelt verses are for those wishing to discover and understand the vastness of Appalachia, and for the LGBTQ+ Appalachians who long for a future—for a home—in an often unwelcoming place.

About Willie Carver

Willie Carver is the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. He is a poet, author, speaker, and advocate. His book of narrative poems, Gay Poems for Red States, explores the damage we do LGBTQ children when the places and people they love reject them before knowing who they are. His writing has appeared in Good River Review, Council Chronicle, the Herald-Leader, AFT Voices, the Courier-Journal, Ed Post, and is forthcoming in On Board, 100 Days in Appalachia, Largehearted Boy Blog, and more. He has been featured in or on Courageous Conversations About Our Schools, CBS, ABC, Education Weekly, NPR, and Le Monde. Above all, he is a teacher who believes that ordinary students can change the world in extraordinary ways.