University holds annual Bill Martin Jr. Symposium

Commerce – Current and future teachers, along with many other guests, packed the Sam Rayburn Student Center on Friday for the Sixth Annual Bill Martin Jr. Memorial Symposium. Participants enjoyed literature and language workshops, a luncheon and tours of the Bill Martin Jr. Memorial Library and the A&M-Commerce Planetarium.

"The symposium is a special event," said Dr. Dan Jones, A&M-Commerce president. "The university is honored to have so many people wanting to invest in self improvement and teacher preparation."

Following early workshops, keynote speaker and children's author Jerry Pallotta entertained guests by showcasing several of his books, including "Who Will Guide My Sleigh Tonight," "The Ocean Alphabet Book," and some from his "Who Would Win?" series. He has written more than 20 alphabet book and visits more than 150 schools per year, talking to children about his books and encouraging them to become readers and writers.

"The information and content in Jerry Pallotta's picture books, particularly about ocean life and other existence in the natural world, are amazing," said Dr. Martha Foote, A&M-Commerce curriculum and instruction department head. "Providing this first-hand encounter for our participants to see how a great author's work and ideas can be expanded to support their teaching is what it's all about."

The university also presented awards and scholarships to deserving recipients. Janie Humphries received the first Spirit of Martin Award, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated an outstanding level of service, commitment, volunteerism, and spirit leading to the improvement of education and life for children. Humphries is currently the president of the Southern Early Childhood Association.

A&M-Commerce undergraduate students Michele Gonzales, Katelynn Presley, Ashley Seelke, and Kimberly Wood were each named winners of the Bill Martin Jr. Scholarship. Students must be enrolled full-time, hold a GPA of at least 2.5, must attend the Bill Martin Jr. Memorial Symposium, and be willing to use good literature in their classroom while teaching to promote the love of learning to read.

The day is celebrated in honor of Bill Martin Jr., the deceased author of more than 300 children's books and curriculum material, who left his collection and private papers to A&M-Commerce.

"It is gratifying when symposium attendees return year after year," Foote said. "It is not only a tribute to Bill Martin Jr., but to the importance of literacy to children, and it honors teachers and teaching as well. For our students, it provides an opportunity to have a professional conference experience without traveling a great distance or having great expense."