The Art of Encounter in Teaching and Learning

deadline for submissions: 
February 23, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
The Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning of the National Council of Teachers of English
contact email: 

The Art of Encounter in Teaching and Learning


The 26th annual summer conference of The Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning

of the National Council of Teachers of English;

June 25-28, 2020, YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, CO


All real living [and thus all real education] is meeting.  –Martin Buber, I and Thou


Only connect. –E.M. Forster, Howard’s End


I see humanity as a family that has hardly met….  The art of encounter is in its infancy.

--Theodore Zeldin, An Intimate History of Humanity


On the surface our times exhibit an epidemic of disconnection. Yet for many of us who teach, the art of connection has become the heart of our practice. And it has opened new realms of deeper learning to our students.

AEPL’s 26th Annual Summer conference seeks to connect, affirm, and unite those for whom deep encounter—with others, with the world, and with ourselves—lies at the heart of learning.

We will share stories, practices, and ideas. We will come together in joyful and thoughtful community. And we will consider how together we might help make the I-Thou relationship—that AEPL founder James Moffett, in 1968, found to lie at the center of the universe of human discourse—become the warmly beating heart of the whole of human life.


Featured Speakers: Mary Rose O’Reilley, Jacquelyn Jones Royster, Gesa Kirsch

Preconference Workshop Leaders: Nan Phifer (“Encountering Oneself”) and Geri DeLuca (“Helping Students Encounter Their Freedom through Contemplative Encounters with Their Personal Voices, Their Cultural Identities, and the Worlds of Literature and Rhetoric”)

(all bios below)


To Propose: Send a title and a program-ready abstract of up to 250 words for a) a 75-minute interactive workshop (our customary format), making sure to include descriptions of the activities in which you plan to involve your participants; or b) a 20-30 minute interactive talk, a short teaching demo, or a short story of a meaningful educational encounter or misencounter (see the “Connections” section of JAEPL for models (past issues are available online)). Send to by February 15th for regular consideration. Proposals sent after that date will also be considered, but program space may be limited.


Some suggested realms of encounter for concurrent session proposals (feel free to imagine others):

Student(s) and teacher(s); student(s) and student(s); students and their own and others’ personal, cultural, class, and gender identities; students and their development of personal callings and aspirations; students and authors; students and literary or other texts (including social media and nonverbal media); students and the natural world; students and the human destruction of the natural world; students and the historical world; students and cultural worlds; students and the political world; students and the spiritual world; students and the human and natural future; students and social and emotional learning; classroom and out-of-classroom community; students and/or teachers and classroom, administrative, and governmental authority and power.


Do note that since we will seeing “encounter” as an art form, we are inviting proposals in a new, aesthetic presentational format: the reading of a short story of a meaningful educational encounter, or misencounter, followed by a round of appreciative and constructive comments and questions from other participants, perhaps grouped with other stories with a shared theme.


To Register: Prices: $245 until April 15th; $295 after April 15.


Featured Speaker Bios


Mary Rose O’Reilley is Emerita Professor of English at the University of St. Thomas, MN. Two of her many books are educational classics newly relevant to our times: The Peaceable Kingdom (“How can we teach English so people stop killing?”) and Radical Presence (“You can listen someone into existence.”) She has been an ACLS Contemplative Studies Fellow and consultant with the Society for Contemplative Mind in Society in its exploration of meditative disciplines in education, and works as a spiritual director, trained in both Christian and Buddhist traditions. Currently humbled that her debut novel, Bright Morning Stars, just won the 2019 Brighthorse Prize for Fiction, she is also the author of five essay collections, most recently The Love of Impermanent Things: a Thresh-old Ecology and The Barn at the End of the World: The Appren-ticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd. Her first book of poetry, Half Wild won the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, judged by Mary Oliver. These days, she is active as a musician, potter and permaculture homesteader on a rural island in Puget Sound.


Jacqueline Jones Royster is Professor of English in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She was Dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech for nine years. Publication highlights include:  Feminist Rhetorical Practices:  New Horizons in Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies (co-authored, 2012), Calling Cards: Theory and Practice in the Study of Race, Gender, and Culture (co-edited, 2005); a college textbook for writing courses, Critical Inquiries:  Readings on Culture and Community (2003); and two secondary textbook series—Writer’s Choice (consulting writer) for grades 6 – 8 and Reader’s Choice (co-editor) a literature series for grades 9 – 12, both published by McGraw-Hill.  Her leadership roles and awards include:  Chair of CCCC and of the executive committee of the MLA Writing Division; the CCCC Braddock and Exemplar Awards; the state of Ohio’s Pioneer in Education Award; the MLA Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize and Andrew March Award; and Fellow of the Rhetoric Society of America. 


Gesa E. Kirsch is Professor of English at Bentley University and the Thomas R. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Louisville (Fall 2019).  Her research focuses on feminist rhetorical studies; contemplative pedagogy; ethics, gender, and diversity; and innovation and creativity studies.  She teaches and consults globally (with Andy Aylesworth), offering creativity and innovation seminars for international MBA students and corporate clients, bringing her interest in contemplation and mindfulness to this teaching. She has authored, co-authored, edited and co-edited nine books and numerous articles, including Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition and Literacy Studies, co-authored with Jacqueline Jones Royster, and winner of the Winifred Bruce Horner Outstanding Book Award, and Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Experience, co-edited with Liz Rohan. Two of her articles are particularly pertinent to AEPL and this conference: “From Introspection to Action: Connecting Spirituality and Civic Engagement,” CCC, and Creating Spaces for Listening, Learning, and Sustaining the Inner Lives of Students” (JAEPL).  She has twice won the Bentley Innovation in Teaching Award and the Mee Family Prize for a life-time of distinguished research, Bentley’s highest distinction.


Preconference Workshop Leader Bios


Nan Phifer, (“Encountering Oneself”) Resident Scholar of the Oregon Writing Project, and closely affiliated with AEPL for over two decades, is the author of the award-winning Memoirs of the Soul: A Writing Guide. She travels internationally to lead workshops such as “Writing to Find Purpose & Meaning,” “Wilderness Without and Within,” “Writing to Make Whole,” “Multi-Faith & Spiritual Writing,” “Writing to Reconcile and Transcend,” and (most fun) “Write to Fictionalize Your Life.” From the National Writing Project, she gleaned a process that makes vividly reminiscent writing almost completely spontaneous. Her most gratifying moments occur when a participant scrawling a quick first draft stops writing and gazes upward, astonished by a revelation that suddenly emerged.  Workshop participants and users of her book not only gain unexpected insights, they create legacies for their families and friends. Teachers may request complimentary copies of her book at



Geraldine DeLuca (“Helping Students Encounter Their Freedom through Contemplative Encounters with Their Personal Voices, Their Cultural Identities, and the Worlds of Literature and Rhetoric”), recently retired from Brooklyn College, is a writer and painter who lives in North Hartland, VT and Philadelphia, PA.  She has been practicing meditation for many years and recently published Teaching Toward Freedom: Supporting Voices and Silence in the English Classroom, Routledge, 2018.  A prominent recent tribute to the kinds of teaching Geri will share in her workshop comes from her former student Ocean Vuong, who thanked her in the Acknowledgements of his stunning debut novel On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous “for always seeing (and keeping) the road true.” The book started as an article that she published in JAEPL in 2006 about how listening to her yoga teachers changed the way she taught.  The journal and the organization AEPL have been “courage teachers” for her, supporting her as she advocated for diverse students’ “right to their own language,” and as she and her colleague David Forbes established a program in contemplative teaching at Brooklyn College with funding from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Northampton, MA. Her website is


Preconference workshops: At this point, we are only allowing registration for one or the other of the two June 25th preconference workshops: “Encountering Oneself” by Nan Phifer and “Helping Students Encounter Their Freedom through Contemplative Encounters with Their Personal Voices, Their Cultural Identities, and the Worlds of Literature and Rhetoric” by Geri DeLuca. If you are interested in attending both workshops, please send a note to We may also run morning sessions of one or both workshops, if registrations warrant. The afternoon sessions will be from 1:30-4:30, allowing same day travel for most. The morning sessions, if they run, will be from 9-12, and will require an extra night’s stay for those outside the Denver area. Cost: $40 until January 31st; $60 February 1st-April 15th; $80 after April 15th (if you attend a second workshop, the charge will be whatever you paid for the first one). Register at



About AEPL: The Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning (AEPL) is an official assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)—as well as being an official standing group of the Conference on College Composition and Communications (CCCC)—is open to all interested in expanding the boundaries of teaching and learning beyond traditional disciplines and methodologies. Areas of interest include but are not limited to: aesthetic, emotional, and moral intelligence; archetypes; body wisdom; care in education; community writing; creativity; deep reading; felt sense theory; healing; holistic learning; imaging; intuition; kinesthetic knowledge; listening and noticing; meditation and mindfulness; narration as knowledge; reflective teaching; silence; spirituality; visualization; the awakening of hope; and the wisdom tradition.


About our conference site: Stunningly situated, the YMCA of the Rockies is a premiere conference venue. It provides comfortable modern lodging and access to a range of activities, including hiking, biking, and horseback riding through Rocky Mountain National Park. allowing accompanying friends and family to have a wonderful time in spectacular surroundings while you enjoy the conference and/or for you to enjoy a little vacation of your own before or after. Prices, starting at $63/person/night, include all meals. Attendees are responsible for reserving lodging separately from conference registration. To reserve, call 888-613-9622 and mention booking number 64148, or use the link at the AEPL website: . Write if you would like us to try to arrange a bed for you in a shared room (3-5), to make new friends while you save money! We highly recommend you stay onsite to get the most of your AEPL experience!