Keynote Speaker

The 24th annual Diversity Conference will feature keynote speaker Jim Charles, a member of the USC Upstate School of Education faculty and Spartanburg resident since 1986. Jim received his BA, MAT, and PhD degrees in English Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He is a Professor of English Education and Associate Dean of the School of Education. His primary teaching responsibilities at USC Upstate are in the Secondary and Middle Level English Education programs. He also teaches American Indian Literature and Adolescent Literature, and has taught Composition in the English department. Prior to moving to Spartanburg, Jim lived in Chapel Hill, NC from 1974-1986 where he attended the University of North Carolina and taught ninth-grade English at Guy B. Phillips School in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. He also served as the school’s basketball coach, tennis coach and athletics director. 

Jim’s writing, publication and research interests focus on the teaching of English, American Indian literatures/cultures, the writing of N. Scott Momaday, young adult literature, teacher effectiveness assessment, textbook critique, middle level education, and curriculum theory. He has published numerous articles on English Education, Education, and American Indian Studies topics in such scholarly journals as English Journal, ALAN Review, Studies in American Indian Literatures, Children’s Literature in Education, Journal of American Indian Education, Wicazo Sa Review, The High School Journal, The Journal of Ethnic Studies, Journal of American Culture, Teaching K-8, Carolina English Teacher, and New Mexico English Journal. 

In 2007, Jim published a book titled READING, LEARNING, TEACHING N. SCOTT MOMADAY (Peter Lang Publishers), a study of the works (and how to teach them) of Pulitzer Prize winning American Indian author and painter N. Scott Momaday.  

Jim and his wife Anne (a pre-school teacher) have three children--Anthony (a lawyer), Maria (a former Spanish teacher and current stay-at-home parent) and Michael (a middle grades social studies teacher) and two grandchildren: Charles,3, and Carmen, 1.5 years old.  

When not teaching, Jim pursues his lifelong involvement in American Indian communities by attending powwows and participating in other American Indian cultural celebrations and ceremonies. In his spare time, Jim studies the lives of his heroes (Roberto Clemente and Muhammad Ali), exercises, reads, listens to music (60's Soul, R&B, John Mellencamp, Joss Stone, and traditional American Indian music from the Ponca and Omaha tribes); he researches his Italian and Welsh heritages, cooks Italian food, follows USC Upstate and UNC-Chapel Hill athletics and all Pittsburgh professional sports teams, especially the Pirates.

Jim's ethnic, cultural and family roots are in Pittsburgh, PA by way of Glamorganshire, Wales (on his father's side) and Abruzzi, Italy (on his mother's side). He has two sisters (one an English teacher [now retired] and one a social worker) and a brother (a former biology researcher and college instructor who is now an organic farmer, supplying several of Asheville, NC's award-winning farm-to-table restaurants with organic produce). Jim's father, a career Army officer and decorated combat veteran, served in the 11th, 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, and attained the rank of Colonel before retiring after 35 years of service. Jim's mother, principled, particular, and fastidious, was a superlative Italian-American homemaker. 

Related to the topic of Jim’s talk, he is proud of his participation in 1972 in the desegregation of Fayetteville, North Carolina's public high schools as a member of the first group of white students to attend E. E. Smith Senior High School. He served on the school’s first Human Relations Team from 1972-1974, and was awarded the school’s African American Studies Award in 1973, the first non-African American awardee.  After several years as a “cultural apprentice” living and working among members of the Ponca American Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, Jim participated in 1976 as a member of the Oklahoma City Ponca Dance Group in winning the Team Dance Competition at the World American Indian Dance Championships in Mescalero, New Mexico.  He is the only non-American Indian to have won this competition. His willful participation in events such as these changed the course of his life for the better.