Interview with Khadeidra Billingsley, Winner of the National Council of Teachers of English Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award

PhD student, Khadeidra Billingsley, is on a roll (Tide!). In 2019, she placed second for the Carolyn P. Handa Teaching Award for Excellence in Teaching Composition and won the “People’s Choice” award at the Graduate School’s 3 Minute Thesis Competition. In 2020, Billingsley was awarded National Council of Teachers of English Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award and presented “High School English Teachers’ Perceptions of Academic Writing” at NCTE’s annual convention. “Though I don’t need the recognition because teaching is my life purpose,” Billingsley states of her EC-EOC Award, “it’s humbling to receive the reward because my efforts are being recognized in the classroom.”

With Billingsley’s win came the opportunity to attend the NCTE’s 2020 Summer Institute with other fellow teachers of English language and literature, which was held virtually in July. During this four-day period of “intellectual stimulation and community building,” Billingsley worked on her project for the 2021 NCTE Convention with fellow award winners and mentors. While the opportunity to collaborate on her upcoming presentation was valuable, Billingsley cites the connections and friendships she made as a result of winning the EC-EOC award as “the most beneficial and cherished” part of her time at the Institute.

Billingsley continues to prepare for her upcoming presentation at the 2021 NCTE convention, which “will focus on community-building among secondary and post-secondary educators through the facilitation of an online learning community.” In the meantime, she continues to engage her students in the classroom by bridging the gap between “academic” literacies and the literacies her students experience in their everyday lives. She often uses music as a medium. Students have written response essays using their favorite song lyrics and remixed nursery rhymes. Recently, Billingsley’s students also held mock trials for characters in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Billingsley centered one of her classes around the theme of love using C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves as the text: “It is so captivating to see the transition in [students’] reactions from the beginning to end of the semester,” she says, “from eye rolls at the mention of ‘love’ to intense debates between football players about the rhetoric of love that is perpetuated in rap music.” Creatively engaging reticent and enthusiastic students through flexible, innovative pedagogy is a natural application of Billingsley’s research interests. Her dedication to her students and her scholarship-building community among teachers of English make Billingsley a shining star for our department.




                                                                                                                        —Amanda Snyder