This past holiday season brought even more to celebrate this year for Chippewa River Writing Project team member Debbi Meister.
Meister, a teacher at Fellowship Baptist Academy in Carson City and alum of the CRWP 2009 Summer Institute, recently completed her master’s degree program at Central Michigan University. CRWP team members joined Meister in the celebration during their annual holiday party on December 14th.
For Meister, the conclusion of her master’s work is both exhilarating and edifying. “It’s a great sense of relief, and a great sense of accomplishment as well,” she confesses with a smile.
However, while the holidays offered her a little time to relax, Meister isn’t about to take a break. She is currently planning how to integrate her experiences as a graduate student into her own secondary-level classroom. “I really appreciate that I was able to construct a program that I could use in my teaching because I really wanted practical classes that I could use in high school,” Meister observes. “I was able to get a really wide variety of classes at Central. I got a combination of composition, reading, and literature.”
Meister’s culminating paper reflects this integration of ideas. Under the supervision of literature professor Kristen McDermott, she explored the representation of social attitudes in Jane Austen’s novels as reflected in character response to landscape design.
Motivated by her daughter’s experience with the Red Cedar Writing Project’s Summer Institute, Meister felt certain that the CRWP Summer Institute would offer her a valuable support system as she pursued her graduate work. This ultimately led to her decision to join CRWP’s Summer Institute in 2009.
“The SI was great for me in terms of encouragement and motivation,” notes Meister. “Both in light of my role as a writer and in helping me complete my master’s.”
Since her participation in the 2009 summer institute, Meister has stayed actively involved in CRWP work including her trip to the NWP Annual Meeting in Orlando last fall and her continuing participation in continuity and professional development events such as “Be a Teacher and a Published Writer” and the Clare-Gladwin workshops.
All of us at CRWP congratulate Debbi on her dedication and hard work!
Liz Brockman, Penny Lew, Beth Nelson, and Erin Busch-Grabmeyer combined past experience and expertise to offer conference participants a wide range of opportunities for using technology in the classroom. Teacher participants representing schools across the state experimented with digital storytelling in Brockman, Lew, and Nelson’s session, “Personal Stories, Poetry, and PSAs: Crafting Digital Videos,” while Busch-Grabmeyer offered insight on forging cooperative writing opportunities through Google docs and wikis in the session “Collaborative Writing with Wikis and Google Docs.”
The conference not only served as an introductory course to new technologies but explored the possibilities in using digital media to build bridges both inside the classroom and between schools. Lew notes the potential in offering students a digital-ready learning environment. “Technology is vital to classrooms today,” she observes. “Not only does it keep our kids engaged while we teach them our subject-matter material, but technology is also an important end itself. We have a responsibility to our kids to do all we can to ready them for the world we live in.”
Teachers participating in the event echo Lew’s enthusiasm. “It rocked,” notes one participant, reflecting upon the conference experience. “It’s exactly where we need to start heading.”
This conference conference highlights the ways in which CRWP teacher consultants are mentored into professional leadership, as well as a particular strength of the Chippewa River Writing Project’s work — a technologically-rich and pedagogically-sound approach to teaching writing with technology.
Held in conjunction yearly with the National Council of Teachers of English’s Annual Convention, the event offers a tremendous opportunity for teacher participants to reinvigorate their love for teaching and writing, as they return to their classrooms with new ideas and innovations gleaned from intense seminars, discussion sessions, and fellowship opportunities with colleagues to use throughout the year. Moreover, these teacher leaders return to CRWP with ideas for site development opportunities related to the summer institute, professional development, continuity, and youth programs.
St. Louis High School teacher and CRWP team member Erin Busch-Grabmeyer captures the feelings of all participants as she notes: “Orlando was a wonderful experience; not only to learn new ideas to incorporate into our own SI, but to re-energize myself as a writer and a teacher of writing! I enjoyed seeing other like-minded individuals collaborate and learn from each other to improve writing programs in schools across America. Overall, it was a very positive and motivating experience.”
Highlights of the Annual Meeting included a welcoming address delivered by NWP President Sharon Washington, as well as a general session led by renowned elementary school educator, NWP teacher, and author Donalyn Miller, whose recent work The Book Whisperer has helped many teachers find new ways to help their students foster a love of reading.
For many participants, however, the most valuable experiences were gained from the sessions themselves, which offered a wide range of topics targeted at a variety of interest levels– from technology, to administration; youth programs to partnership building, the conference offered something for everyone. “The level of commitment and professionalism was refreshing and amazing,” observes Greenville High School teacher and CRWP team member Beth Nelson. “I especially enjoyed the accessibility of the presenters.”
Meridian Junior High School teacher and CRWP team member Amanda Smoker echoes Nelson’s enthusiasm when she recalls a particularly favorite session: “I’m not exaggerating when I say that I found all of the sessions I attended to be valuable. The session that I was probably most inspired by was the session on Content Area Reading and Writing. I’m glad I put myself on the waiting-list for this session! For years, I have been a huge supporter of reading and writing across the curriculum and this session gave me some great ideas to bring back about how to get other content area teachers as involved in and excited about it as I am.”
The range of sessions offered during the Annual Meeting even lent two CRWP members the chance to share the expertise they have gained in developing the Summer Institute program since CRWP’s inception in 2009. CRWP Director Troy Hicks and K-12 Co-Director Kathy Kurtze were joined by Iowa Writing Project’s Ann Berger and University of Colorado Denver’s Rich VanDeWeghe in delivering “Reading in the Invitational Summer Institute,” an exploration of the role reading plays in the Summer Institute classroom in connection with writing and teacher demonstrations.
All in all, the experiences gained from Orlando will remain with each of the eleven participants as they look towards CRWP’s future and begin to plan for a new year. “The conference was so invigorating for me!” notes Smoker. “I love attending conferences in general, but the Annual Meeting is different; it’s a hands-on extension of the Summer Institute. I spent the entire three days being reminded why I love being a part of the Chippewa River Writing Project.”
Nine years after completing her undergraduate degree in the English Education program in 2001, high school teacher Erin Busch-Grabmeyer still keeps Central Michigan University close to her heart. In her eighth year at St. Louis High School, just south of Mt. Pleasant, Busch-Grabmeyer continues to renew her passion for teaching. Her recent work as a participant in the Chippewa River Writing Project’s 2010 Invitational Summer Institute was not only an opportunity to get in touch with current technologies and best practices, but a valuable reminder that a good teacher never stops learning.
“It really helped to think I could go outside the traditional teaching method and revisit the idea that teachers can be writers, too,” explains Busch-Grabmeyer. “It was a reminder for me to take the time to write with my kids and not get busy grading and doing all of those other kinds of things.”
For four weeks this past summer, Busch-Grabmeyer collaborated intensely with fifteen other participants selected from across the state to hone their skills as both teachers and writers through the CRWP Summer Institute. The group showed represented teacher participants ranging from all levels of K-12 education, as well as composition instructors from CMU and SVSU. This marks the second annual summer institute for the CRWP, which was founded as a joint partnership between CMU and the National Writing Project in 2009 and is currently directed by the English Department’s Troy Hicks.
For Busch-Grabmeyer, the Summer Institute has served as another step in her commitment towards continuous growth as an educator and a valuable tool in helping her meet the unique needs of her students in a technologically advancing society.
“As kids change, teaching practices change,” notes Busch-Grabmeyer. “It’s important to renew my teaching after being out of undergrad for nearly a decade.”
Busch-Grabmeyer’s commitment to innovative approaches in the classroom has paid off. She was recently interviewed for her work in bringing non-profit and privately funded technologies to her high school classroom, and has also successfully developed an online writer’s workshop with her students, using Google docs as a peer editing tool.
“My next step is to create a classroom wiki page,” explains Busch-Grabmeyer. “I’m going to be researching more with digital literacy and what it means to be a teacher and a student in 21st century writing. How should our teaching methods shift in our teaching styles today?”
Knowing her passion for both teaching and learning, Busch-Grabmeyer will be one of the nation’s teacher leaders who continue to figure out the answers to questions such as these, and continue to engage her students.
To learn more about the Chippewa River Writing Project at CMU, contact Troy Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://chippewariverwp.org