Almost five years after the orientation day for our first summer institute in 2009, fifteen Chippewa River Writing Project teacher leaders met for a celebratory dinner at Buck’s Run in Mount Pleasant. It was an evening to reflect on the accomplishments of many teacher leaders who have been part of our summer institutes, professional development programs, and youth camps. Also, it was an opportunity for CRWP teacher consultant Jeremy Hyler and CRWP director Troy Hicks to share their new book — Create, Compose, Connect! Reading, Writing and Learning with Digital Tools — amongst a group that inspired many of the ideas within it.
For Debbi Meister, a high school teacher at Fellowship Baptist Academy, the night was delightful. “Mingling with other English teachers in a lovely setting, enjoying good food and stimulating conversation was a balm to my hectic life.”
In the past five years, CRWP has accomplished a number of goals, despite the changes in federal funding allocated to the National Writing Project. With continued support from Central Michigan University, CRWP has been able to:
- Offer four, multi-week intensive summer institutes (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013) for K-12 teachers, providing them with both professional development opportunities and a stipend or tuition waiver to honor their commitment during the summer months.
- Partner with a number of local schools and intermediate school districts to offer thousands of contact hours of professional development for elementary, middle, and high school teachers in central and northern Michigan.
- Support CRWP teacher consultants in trips to state and national conferences such as the National Council of Teachers of English Convention, the National Writing Project’s Spring and Annual Meetings, and the Michigan Reading Association’s Annual Conference.
- Offer a variety of youth camp experiences both on campus and in local communities that invite students to engage in their “writerly lives” and use digital writing and critical and creative ways.
In reflecting on her involvement with the Chippewa River Writing Project, Heather Jensen, a teacher at Harrison Schools, noted, “I feel more empowered as a person when I write and share out that writing. My PLN (personal learning network) has grown even bigger. I am a better teacher and person because of my time with the CRWP.”
Additionally, CRWP teachers were treated to a Google hangout with fellow NWP teacher and educational thought leader, Meenoo Rami. Rami, author of the new book Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching, joined in for a 30 minute conversation via Google Hangout about her book as CRWP teachers prepare to read it as part of an online book club. She answered a variety of questions about teaching, writing, and leadership.
After hearing Rami speak, CRWP leadership team member, Kathy Kurtze, from Carson City-Crystal, said, “Meeno Rami, a published author, reminds us that sharing our writing is humbling. If that’s how a nationally-known author feels, imagine how our students feel!”
In reflecting on the first five years of the Chippewa River Writing Project, co-director Liz Brockman summed up the evening, and our accomplishments. “Tonight was perfect–the culmination of individual and collective CRWP achievements over the past five years and all for the purpose of improving writing pedagogy in the K-12 arena. I’m already looking forward to our 10th anniversary.”
We appreciate the continued support of the National Writing Project, Central Michigan University, the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the College of Education and Human Services and look forward to our next five years of growth.
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Troy Hicks (@hickstro) is a former middle grades teacher, now associate professor of English at Central Michigan University where he focuses his work on the teaching of writing, literacy and technology.