- Associated Press - Sunday, April 22, 2018

SPRING MILLS, W.Va. (AP) - In addition to teaching at Spring Mills High School, Salfia is a writer and activist. She has been a public educator for more than 15 years. Salfia received an Arch Coal Teaching Award in 2015, was named the 2016 Berkeley County Teacher of the Year and in 2015 she began the work of rebuilding the West Virginia Council of Teachers of English, a state of affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English.

She can now add the Stephen L. Fisher Award in Teaching Excellence from the Appalachian Studies Association, which she received this April.

The Stephen L. Fisher Award for Excellence in Teaching honors individuals dedicated to intellectual rigor in delivering inclusive knowledge about Appalachia and its people.

Salfia said that she was honored to receive the award during the annual Appalachian conference held in Cincinnati, Ohio this year.

“It’s always nice to be rewarded for the hard work of teaching,” Salfia said. “As we all know, teaching is a very hard job and it often goes underappreciated. So anytime someone recognizes you for the work that you are doing in your classroom, it’s always special and important.”

Her writing has appeared in the Charleston-Gazette Mail, West Virginia Living Magazine, the WVCTE Best Practices Blog and the Anthology of Appalachian Writers volumes III, V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX. She was also the winner of 2016 West Virginia Fiction Competition, selected by Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier.

Salfia currently teaches advanced placement language and composition and creative writing, advises the diversity club and the literary and art magazine and is a member of the SMHS curriculum and instruction leadership team, among others.

Salfia said that during her AP language class, she taught her students the importance of finding their own voice and forming their own opinions about where they live.

“The first thing students have to do to be great writers is to figure out who they are as a speaker,” Salfia said. “What do they bring to a piece of writing or to a rhetorical situation? I know in high school that can be difficult because they are still trying to figure out who they are.

“But in this class, the students are doing two things: they are getting the baseline for understanding rhetoric, but they are also being introduced to their region-the place where many of them are from-in a way that many of them never have before. They are debunking this idea of a single story of West Virginia and the Appalachian region.”

Salfia said during the course she introduced her students to many topics.

“We studied some regional Appalachian writers and listened to Ted Talks about stereotypes, and how single stories about Appalachia can be dangerous. Not because they are untrue, but because they are incomplete,” Salfia said. “We also looked at the rhetorical context of being a teenager or a teacher in West Virginia and how their Appalachian experience is different from someone in say southern West Virginia. Many people, when you tell them you are from West Virginia, they have a very single story of that place-that you are poor or white or a redneck. When in fact there is a lot of diversity in the region. There are a lot of extraordinary things that happen here. There is a narrative that has been crafted by historians and by media that this place is one thing, when it is many things.”

According to Salfia, students also had the chance to participate in this year’s conference. She said that while she is honored to win, she also wants to thank her students for a job well done.

“I took 24 students with me to the conference where I received my award, and they, along with several other student organizations, presented a panel and organized a key note session,” Salfia said.

Spring Mills students presented a session titled, “Teaching Beyond the Borders of ‘Traditional’ Curriculum: Using Appalachian Literature and Studies in a High a School ELA Classroom.” During the conference they also urged the crowd to tweet them questions with the hashtag #IfYouAskUs, beginning a conversation on how they plan to address issues central to Appalachia.

“They answered right there on twitter,” Salfia said. “The students also delivered speeches, poetry and a song they wrote that night about why people in the region need to be including youth in the conversation. It was extremely powerful. There was not a dry eye in the house, because you have all these teenagers getting up in front of everyone saying just listen to us. It was just a really great experience for everyone.”


Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide