Seven CRWP Teachers Present at National Conferences

Most teachers attend a conference for professional development, many choose to go to local events, a few go to national, and even fewer present at a national level… Chippewa River Writing Project is present at all levels.

CRWP Co-Director prepares for her presentation at the NCTE 2012 Convention.
CRWP Co-Director prepares for her presentation at the NCTE 2012 Convention.

Since the inception of Chippewa River Writing Project (CRWP) in 2009, we have been involved at a national level, attending the National Writing Project (NWP) Annual Meeting and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention for the past four years. These national conferences attract many participants—nearly 600 attend NWP’s annual meeting, and over ten times that attend the NCTE Annual Convention.

As a new writing project site, CRWP wanted to send teacher consultants to national conferences to gain information about best practice and new trends in the teaching field, not only to help with their own classroom instruction, but also to help foster the growth of CRWP and the Summer Institute.  After a few years of attending these conferences, and renewing our excitement for the classroom setting, conversations post-conference eventually led to the submission of proposals.  Even as a young site, we knew we had something to offer other colleagues.

CRWP’s national presence began in Orlando in 2010, with an invitation to Site Director Troy Hicks and Co-Director Kathy Kurtze to present at the NWP Annual Meeting as a first-year site.  CRWP’s commitment to furthering writing and literacy education continued in Chicago (2011) and in Las Vegas (2012) with presentations by many teacher consultants.  Most recently, in Las Vegas, Teacher Consultants Jeremy Hyler, Erin Busch-Grabmeyer, Elizabeth Nelson, and Co-Director Penny Lew, along with Site Director Troy Hicks, presented “Writing, Technology, and the Common Core.” In this presentation, the genres of narrative, informational, and argumentative writing were discussed, along with ways to incorporate different types of technology, including Glogster, Prezi, and digital stories into writing instruction.

In addition, Teacher Consultants Andy Schoenborn and Amanda Smoker, along with Co-Director Kathy Kurtze, presented “Alternative Approaches to Teaching Argumentative Writing.” Using George Hillocks’ book, Teaching Argument Writing as a framework, these three discussed how argument can be taught in a classroom setting without falling into the 5-paragraph trap, utilizing Prezi, Public Service Announcements (PSA), Glogster, and Voki.

Finally, several teacher consultants have participated in NCTE’s Tech-to-Go, an on-the-fly conversation about digital learning tools.  Teacher Consultants – Elizabeth Nelson, Erin Busch-Grabmeyer, Andy Schoenborn, Amanda Smoker, and Site Director, Troy Hicks – have all offered their knowledge and experiences with various types of technology in the classroom.

In addition to our national presence, several teacher consultants have also presented in local districts and at statewide conferences, including Michigan Reading Association (MRA) and Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE), showing CRWP presence around the state as well.

Admittedly, it is common for all teachers to attend some kind of professional development.  As we continue to grow, we fully expect to expand our voice in area schools as well as at the national level at both NWP and NCTE.  Whether it is sharing our experiences about technology or guiding teachers in effective content instruction, CRWP is a presence that is here to stay.

CRWP Attends NWP 2010-11 Annual Meeting in Orlando

November 17th, 2010 marked the kick-off of the National Writing Project’s 2010-11 Annual Meeting, staged this year in sunny Orlando, Florida.  Eleven members of the Chippewa River Writing Project’s leadership team traded chilly Michigan temperatures for the chance to exchange ideas with NWP colleagues from around the nation (and around the world) during the three-day event, which took place on the grounds of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

CRWP Co-Directors Sue Steffel and Liz Brockman attend a special-topics session together.

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.

CRWP teacher team member Beth Nelson during Friday's general session.

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.”

CRWP Attends National Writing Project Annual Conference ’09 in Philadelphia

Sara Beauchamp-Hicks, CRWP Technology Liaison, presents to an audience of NWP teachers at the Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.
Sara Beauchamp-Hicks, CRWP Technology Liaison, presents to an audience of NWP teachers at the Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

The Chippewa River Writing Project ended its first year with a new beginning. Members of the CRWP leadership team attended the National Writing Project’s Annual Meeting this past month, their first visit as an official NWP site.

The three-day event took place at Philadelphia’s Downtown Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center from November 19th to the 21st, and was held in conjunction with the NCTE’s annual convention.  Participants were able to attend a variety of interactive learning sessions, as well as socialize and meet other members of NWP sites from around the country.

Kathy Kurtze, one of CRWP’s K-12 co-directors, felt positive about her experience.  “I loved meeting people from all over the United States and sharing our passion for the Writing Project.  Learning from my peers, hearing their stories, and sharing in their successes was exhilarating.”

CRWP joins nine other sites from around the nation in being newly welcomed into the NWP for the year of 2009.  This makes CRWP the eleventh site representing the state of Michigan.  All sites were welcomed at a general session hosted by NWP Executive Director Sharon J. Washington, with a featured poetry reading from 2001-3 National Poet Laureate Billy Collins.

“For the Chippewa River Writing Project, we had an exciting end to our first official year as a National Writing Project site when we were introduced at the NWP Annual Meeting in Philadelphia,” states CRWP Director, Troy Hicks. “I am thrilled that we were able to bring nearly all of our leadership team for this first annual meeting, and look forward to sharing the great ideas that we learned there as we plan for 2010.”

CRWP Technology Liaison Sara Beauchamp-Hicks, who facilitated a session on integrating newer technologies into site leadership,  commented on the overall experience. “For me the annual meeting is an energizing event.  I love the feeling of playing a small part in such a monumental educational movement.  There is definitely something special about all the teachers who are involved in the NWP — and you can feel that energy when you attend the annual meeting.”

Friday morning also marked the date of the National Writing Projects of Michigan Site Leaders Annual Meeting, which five members of the CRWP Leadership Team were able to attend. Site leaders discussed future development and planned projects for Michigan sites up into the coming year, including the possibility of a summer retreat at CMU next August for the state network.

The NWP Annual Meeting wrapped up Saturday, and CRWP’s six attendees once more returned to work in Michigan, exhilarated by the experience.  CRWP K-12 Co-Director Penny Lew sums up the event: “My first NWP annual meeting was an amazing, inspiring experience, and what great timing!  November is always the month I begin to doubt myself as an educator; the newness of the school year has worn off, and the kids and I are both realizing this isn’t the honeymoon we thought it was.  NWP, however, gave me renewal—refocused my thinking, reminded me of what an important and satisfying vocation I’ve found.”

As CRWP applies for continued funding and plans for its 2010 Summer Institute, the experience that site leaders had at the annual meeting will guide their work and help them prepare for the new year. All look forward to attending NWP’s 2010 Annual Meeting next November in Orlando, Florida.