Chippewa River Writing Project Teacher Spotlight: Debbi Meister

Debbi Meister, celebrating her achievement with friends and colleagues during the CRWP holiday event.

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!

CRWP Co-Hosts K-12 Statewide Writing Conference

Partnering with CMU’s Center for Excellence in Education, the Chippewa River Writing Project has kicked off an exciting new year in professional development with the K-12 Statewide Writing Conference.  Four members of the CRWP leadership team led the event, which took place Monday, January 17th, alongside the direction of CEIE facilitator Andrea Abke.

Erin Busch-Grabmeyer directs "Collaborative Writing with Wikis and Google Docs"

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.”

Participants share ideas to develop classroom wikis

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.

For more information on CRWP’s professional development opportunities, please visit the PD page of this website.

Renewing Her Passion For Teaching: A Profile of Erin Busch-Grabmeyer

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.

Erin Busch-Grabmeyer (right) consults with fellow teacher participant Rose Daum during the 2010 CRWP Summer Institute.

“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 troy.hicks@cmich.edu or visit http://chippewariverwp.org

CRWP Teachers Share Ideas at Fall Conferences

It has been a busy fall for CRWP Teacher Consultants, as they have been presenting  their classroom research at conferences around the state.  From inspiring students to write their own novels, to engaging them with Shakespeare through music and other media, CRWP teacher consultants have been sharing their innovative teaching practices with audiences of their peers.

Chanda Wekwert,  CRWP 2009  and teacher at Hillman Junior High School near Alpena, presented her workshop, “Writing Without Limits,” at Eastern Michigan Writing Project’s fall conference, “Writing Beyond Expectations,”  at the end of September. Wekwert encourages her students to create extended pieces of fiction as a part of National Novel Writing Month by inviting students to create a muse and reach certain word counts each day.  In celebrating their competence over the course of the month, she invites them to write without limits and better understand narrative structure in the process.

Andy Schoenborn, CRWP 2010  and teacher at Mount Pleasant High School, was the first of three presentations at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English Autumn Assembly in late October. He presented his workshop “Writing Into Drama,” where participants  were prompted to recount their own experience learning drama in high school and then explored imagery, music, and lyrics as poetry so they could immerse themselves in productions. Such an approach allows students to make meaningful connections, read with deeper understanding, and use writing as a tool to step into the minds of characters.

Also at MCTE, Rosie Nedry, CRWP 2010 and  teacher at Chippewa Hills Mosiac High School, presented “Imagination Unchained!”  During her session, Nedry invited teachers to think about how to inspire reluctant writers with untapped imaginations. By inviting teachers to consider how to structure writing activities, begin a list of topics, and express their creative side, Nedry was able to share how she inspires her reluctant writers.

Another session at MCTE featured Elizabeth Nelson, CRWP 2009 and teacher at Greenville High School, who shared her work on starting a high school program for at-risk learners called “Getting Them Into Books!”  Her presentation focused on how to initiate and sustain a literacy program at the high school level specifically designed to meet the needs of at-risk learners. From roleplay to book talks and all kinds of writing strategies in between, Nelson was able to provide her colleagues with a variety of activities that they could take back with them to use in their classrooms.

As the Chippewa River Writing Project continues to grow its cohort of teacher consultants, we appreciate the work that Wekwert, Schoenborn, Nedry, and Nelson  have shared with their colleagues through these conference presentations, and we look forward to seeing more presentations at local, state, and national conferences.