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‘The Time is Now’ – Two alumni present keynotes at African American Children and Families Conference

Black man in mask carrying masked child on shoulders

The organizers of the 10th Annual African American Children and Families Conference say the relevance of the event has never been greater. Hosted by the College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa, the virtual conference, held in February in conjunction with the 15th Annual UNI African American Read-In, was aptly titled, “The Time Is Now: Restructuring Our Mind and Spirit.”

Children and teacher in classroom
Brianna Burnette (second from left standing) in a pre-COVID-19 classroom. Photo credit: Erikah Haavie.

Two Furman Department of Education alumni gave keynotes addresses – Brianna Burnette ’18 and Daniel Christian Hoilett ’15, M ’20. Both are winners of the 2019 Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

The two joined six other keynote speakers for the conference.

Burnette, a fourth-grade teacher at Mary H. Wright Elementary in Spartanburg, South Carolina, spoke about how to integrate student-centered projects with social justice issues, expanding literacy practices outside the classroom, and other topics. Her talk, “Project Our Comm(Unity),” highlighted projects that her students self-selected that were centered on issues such as immigration, gun violence and  social and emotional support, among others.

Burnette minored in African American studies and African diaspora cultures.

Black teacher with children
Daniel Hoilett helps children with reading in a pre-COVID-19 classroom. Photo credit: Jeremy Fleming.

Hoilett spoke about how to collaborate and engage with students in meaningful ways to strengthen their voices as lifelong readers and writers. He said his love of reading has always been strong, but it reached new heights while he served in the Freedom School Partners, an initiative supported by the National Children’s Defense Fund, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

After receiving his bachelor’s in elementary education and a minor in Latin American studies, Hoilett completed his master’s degree in literacy education at Furman.

Originally from Charlotte, Hoilett is in his sixth year of teaching in Greenville County School District where he serves second grade students in the district’s Virtual Program.

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