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UMFK professor attends conference at Yale

March 17, 2006


University of Maine at Fort Kent professor of English Geraldine Cannon Becker recently attended the 3rd Annual Women Expanding Literacy Education Action Resource Network (WE LEARN) conference at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut on March 10-11.

The theme of the two day conference was "Moving to Power and Participation".

The conference started with a performance by storyteller, Valerie Tutson, who told a story about Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston used to tell stories to people who would pass by her house, going "a piece of the way" walking alongside of the car with them, as they slowly rode down her street.

Cannon Becker says, "At the conference, advocates for literacy went 'a piece of the way' together, with all of us knowing there's a good deal of the way to go yet and that there are many roads."

This presentation helped set the stage for a theme of networking for greater literacy by focusing on the importance of giving voice to stories, and helping others learn to communicate.

"Communication is essential," Cannon Becker says. "For any improvement to take place there must first be awareness of problem(s). Then ways and means of overcoming obstacles can be discussed."

Cannon Becker plans to stay in touch with several people she met, and hopes to participate in future conferences.

"Participation was a key aspect of this conference. We can't move to power without participation from all interested parties and everyone should be interested in greater literacy, because it can affect everyone."

The next morning at the conference, there was an informative panel of four women discussing the topic of "Moving to Power & Participation."

Right after this part of the conference, Cannon Becker directed a workshop on writing for literacy advocates: "You Can do Magic--A Workshop on Bringing Words to Life."

During the workshop, a group of new writers wrote the following collaborative poem entitled, "Moving to Power". It takes participation and dedication from each and every one of us to find emancipation to make collaboration thus to fly together.

Cannon Becker says, "Everything was connected. This was an informational and uplifting conference. Participants put forth so much effort, and now that the conference is over, the work must continue."

If you want to know more about WE LEARN, visit online: or email

Cannon Becker has been an active member of WE LEARN for two years. Once considered an "at risk" student, and the only member of a large family, mainly non-readers, to graduate from high school, she has experienced the effects of illiteracy first hand.

Currently, Cannon Becker is leading a "New Books, New Readers" reading circle for the Maine Humanities Council.

She is also planning a fall storytelling symposium with several colleagues from varied disciplines at UMFK and with SAGES (the Student Association for Greater English Studies).

With the help of students at UMFK, Cannon Becker is currently putting together an online journal, the Aroostook Review. Cannon Becker plans to have the online journal available by March 24th. If you interested in accessing the site, log on to

"We received a lot of great material and we are almost finished evaluating it. We will put up a new theme for our second issue's call for submissions with the first issue," according to Cannon Becker.

Cannon Becker earned a bachelor of arts in English and education (teaching certification) from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina (1991) and a master of fine arts in creative writing and poetry from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas (1998).

She has been the recipient of the John Ciardi Award, the Kenneth Patchen Award, and the Raymond L. Barnes Award for excellence in poetry at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Cannon Becker's work has appeared in journals such as Nebo, Riverwind, and the Pedestal Magazine online. Selected poems appear in an electronic publication produced by Expanding Human Consciousness, available on, and

She has presented her work at various conferences across the United States.

Cannon Becker is scheduled to present her work during the Association for Research on Mothering (ARM) in Toronto, Canada in May. She will also participate in the 10th Annual Cape Breton Storytelling Symposium in Nova Scotia and at the Nature and Environmental Writers-College and for University Educators (NEW-CUE) nature and Environmental Writers in Boothbay Harbor, Maine in June.