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FanExpo Denver – Educators’ Day with Pop Culture Classroom

From June 30 to July 2, Denver hosted FanExpo, a 3-day-long comic con event. On-site, CBC’s Sommer Wissner attended Friday’s Educators’ Day event, at which CBC member Pop Culture Classroom hosts free panels and events for teachers and educators to gain various information on teaching pop culture in their classrooms.

What is FanExpo Denver and Educators’ Day?

FanExpo Denver is a Comic Con, featuring celebrity guests, panel discussions, cosplay contests, gaming competitions, shopping opportunities, and much more. It’s an occasion where fans can indulge in their passions, explore new interests, and interact with others who share their love for various forms of popular culture.

Educators’ Day is an essential component of FanExpo Denver, showcasing the event’s commitment to promoting the use of pop culture in education. It recognizes the transformative power of pop culture and its ability to captivate and engage students in learning. Educators, librarians, and school administrators are invited to attend this exclusive day for free and find resources, engage in discussions, and receive professional development opportunities tailored for educators.

Furthermore, Educators’ Day at Fan Expo Denver serves as a chance for educators to connect with one another. Teachers often work in isolation, but this event brings them together, fostering a sense of community and providing an opportunity for networking and collaboration. Educators can share their experiences, success stories, and challenges, forming valuable connections that can be nurtured long after the event concludes. One of the most significant advantages of Educators’ Day is the chance for educators to interact with creators and industry professionals.

Sommer’s Experience:

Educators’ Day started off FanExpo’s weekend-long event and since this was a comic con, many teachers came dressed to the nines in their cosplays. Imagine Coraline (from Coraline) speaking excitedly with Doug (from Doug) and Ms. Frizzle (The Magic School Bus) about teaching methods.

Upon registration, all attendees got a fun goodie bag filled with information about Pop Culture Classroom and how to support them in making their free educational graphic novels. We also were gifted their first printed graphic novel Colorful History: 2022 Collected Edition as well as either of the books that won the Excellence in Graphic Literature (EGL) Awards that they sponsor every year. I received Button Pusher by Tyler Page, which won the 2023 Book of the Year.

Matt Slayter, director of Pop Culture Classroom, kicked off the event, welcoming everyone by letting us know about the nonprofit organization and the agenda for the day. There even was a promised special midday surprise!

Each panel presented provided different perspectives of tried-and-true methods from educators all around.

Getting students to take an active role in their education and their classroom is the holy grail of teaching, and one panel made that a fun possibility through the student-organized and edited ‘zines – a mini self-made magazine. These periodicals focus on whatever motivates students by engaging student writers, developing the leadership of student editors, and expanding the stories of students through journalism.

Another of the panels, presented by author/educator Dave Burgess, focused on how to bring play and joy into the classroom by making books a more multisensory experience. In one example that attendees were invited to participate in, students are challenged to create concrete and abstract ideas by using Play-Doh. Interactive games and experiences promote engagement, enthusiasm, and passion in the classroom, and what better way to help students than building with LEGOs or getting some Play-Doh under their fingernails?

Most teachers wouldn’t consider a menu as something worthy of study in their classroom, but one panel proved how menus are a potent form of primary material for students to understand the most basic realities of a culture through their wording, prices, and, most importantly, their food. Educators themselves were given various Mexican restaurant menus and asked, “What can we learn?” Differences in culture, prices, and language between these menus and as the menus developed with the times.

And lastly, Pop Culture Classroom had a surprise in store that none of us were prepared for. A visit by the governor of Denver himself was already a high bar for surprise guests, but then they brought in Christopher Lloyd (actor of Doc Brown from Back to the Future) himself to top it off. Both of our esteemed guests arrived at the same time to shake hands, speak, and meet a few of us. 

With that, Educators’ Day continued but the space was opened to all attendees of FanExpo, and the panels opened up to a wider audience.

FanExpo, like so many conventions, is a place to find joy surrounded by people that enjoy the same things that you do. Pop Culture Classroom has taken that a step further by bringing teachers, some of the most passionate readers, together to create an event that will bring more children into the worlds and stories that lay waiting for them between the pages of our beloved books.

Read more about Pop Culture Classroom.

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