ASFA-CW’s “Iris Rinke-Hammer pushes her students to find their voice.”


Click here to read Erin Edgemon’s excellent feature profile of award-winning master teacher, Iris Rinke-Hammer! The best news of all? “Though, she is in her 60s now,” Edgemon writes, “Rinke-Hammer isn’t thinking of retiring anytime soon. ‘I love it too much,’ she said, of teaching. ‘This is brain food and heart food for me. It is very fulfilling.'” As the article clearly indicates, Iris is one big reason why ASFA-CW is the place to be for Alabama’s best young writers!

ASFA-CW’s Iris Rinke-Hammer Named One of Ten Recipients of Prestigious National Teaching Award!

IrisRinkeHammerThe Kennedy Center recently announced that ASFA-CW’s Iris Rinke-Hammer has been named one of just ten national recipients of the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award. The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards solicit nominations from the general public and notable public figures. Nominators submit stories about teachers and professors who made a significant difference in their lives. Rinke-Hammer was nominated by ASFA alumna Adriane Tharp, who wrote this essay in support of Iris’s nomination. Congratulations to Iris, who is truly a master teacher!

Creativity is the New Coding


In my own poetry, I’m drawn to both repetition and pop culture (so-called low-brow entertainments, especially), so when I read a short article quoting NBA owner and Shark Tank co-star Mark Cuban predicting the imminent “automation of automation,” I was all ears. Cuban was touting the need, in a changing economy, for young people to develop their creativity and critical thinking skills over tech savvy. Then, synchronicity of synchronicities (see, I told you I like repetition), Dr. Michael Meeks, ASFA’s Executive Director, shared this article in a recent meeting: “We Don’t Need to Teach Our Kids to Code, We Need to Teach Them How to Dream” by tech-journalist Tom Goodwin.

It’s not that digital technology is bad. It’s just that it isn’t a panacea for all that ails us, and it just as often creates new challenges and voids where it addresses and fills more familiar ones. With that in mind, schools (and parents) are uniquely positioned to (re)emphasize the uniquely intangible things that help humans truly thrive.

A few pull quotes from the Goodwin article:

  • Think of people’s mental faculties as a set of concentric circles. At the core is the very essence of who we are: our values, how we think, what’s important to us, our personality and our behaviors. Over this layer, our skills are formed. Are we adaptable? Can we build relationships? Are we fast learning, good at music, great at languages, can we see things from different points of view? Around this we form technical abilities: the gathering of facts, vocabulary, and the processes of life…
  • Current schooling seems outward-in. We prioritize knowledge above all else. It is tested in exams. The best in school are those who can most easily recall information. Which was pretty helpful until like now, where information is immediate, everywhere and abundant. In a world of Fake news, being able to form opinions, criticize, evaluate, and see both sides of the story are far more vital than merely knowing things, absorbing stuff and parlaying it back robotically…
  • We don’t need to change everything now, but we do need to start forgetting the assumptions that we have made. The future is more uncertain than ever, but we need to make our kids as balanced, agile, and as self-reliant as ever in order to thrive in it.

The idea is that, in a world where cars drive themselves and there’s software to build software, we really are going to have to reimagine what human work is — and probably sooner rather than later. Yes, that’s maybe a little bit scary. But it’s also a potential boon to anyone who hasn’t forgotten how to imagine something in the first place. “Every child is an artist,” Picasso supposedly said. “The problem is how to remain an artist once [she] grows up.” This, it seems, is nothing less than the clarion call of 21st C. education. (#Aspire!)