Over the MLK holiday weekend, Troy and I spent four packed-full days with the NWP New-Site Leadership Instituteat the Scottsdale Marriott at McDowell Mountains. The NSLI is an annual invitational retreat bringing together leaders from new sites to explore the work of the NWP beyond the Summer Institute. While there, Troy and I gathered ideas for recruiting potential TCs, discovered different angles from which to look at continuity, considered the yearly budget, and began developing a vision for the CRWP.
One idea that stood out for both of us involved the CRWPs role in teacher professional development. After reading the Rhode Island Monograph, we began discussing the possibilities of combining continuity with the development of TCs presentation skills. By using a regularly scheduled gathering time, a TC will have the opportunity to present a teaching demo, conference session, or professional development seminar to the group. The group then uses a protocol similar to that used in writing groups to help the presenter revise his or her session. This may prove to be a great way to keep TCs connected, spread the name of the CRWP, and to promote promising practice throughout the profession.
The work at the NSLI was GRUELING, and opportunities to enjoy the gorgeous, sunny, 75 degree days were limited to a few stolen minutes here and there, but it was a greatly focusing weekend that left me excited and invigorated for the year to come!
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.
After 29 years of teaching high school English, Kathy Kurtze returned to her classroom this fall with a set of fresh ideas and resources she gathered from her experiences with the Chippewa River Writing Project — a site of the National Writing Project now at Central Michigan University.
Kurtze was among 13 teachers representing K-12 school districts, Mid Michigan Community College and CMU, who participated in the first CRWP institute.
“The most exciting part was being introduced to new teaching approaches,” said Kurtze, who teaches at Carson City High School. “The whole aspect of bringing technology into the writing process was brand new to me. Now, I’m excited to bring it into my lessons. I want my students to do podcasts and learn about how this enhances our writing.”
Sharing resources is one of the main goals of the National Writing Project, which operates with the concept of teachers teaching teachers and a mission to improve the teaching of writing and learning among kindergarten through college students.
Kathy Kurtze, an English teacher at Carson City High School, works on a journal entry about a recent writing assignment.
Photo by Robert Barclay CMU University Communications
Participants in this year’s inaugural Chippewa River Writing Project Summer Institute found over their four weeks together the time, energy, and support that they needed as writers and teachers of writing.
One anonymous evaluation comment summarized the feelings of many in stating, “After this summer, I feel so much more prepared to teach writing in my classroom. I have also vowed to write with my students and to take the time each day to write for myself.”
Each day, participants in the institute gathered to write for themselves and engage in activities related to the teaching of writing. At the end of the institute, each participant produced a portfolio of personal and professional writing, many of which can be found as links to their digital portfolios on the CRWP wiki.
At the end of the institute, Kathy Kurtze, an English teacher at Carson City Crystal High School, was announced as CRWP’s second K-12 co-director. From the CHSBS News site, she states:
“This has awakened a new need for me to know my writing and make changes,” said Kathy Kurtze of Carson City who has been teaching at Carson City-Crystal Middle School for 29 years. “From being students again, we all seem to have a renewed empathy toward our own students.”
Participants who completed the summer institute and are now teacher consultants affiliated with CRWP include:
Alicia Ciaramitaro, Collins Elementary, Houghton Lake Community Schools
Lucia Elden, Mid Michigan Community College
Louis “Bud” Kanyo, Mid Michigan Community College
Megan Kowalski, Central Michigan University
Kathy Kurtze, Carson City-Crystal High School
Rita Maddox, Retired from Gratiot-Isabella RESD
Gretchen Martin, Farwell Elementary School
Deborah Meister, Fellowship Baptist Academy in Carson City
Elizabeth Nelson, Greenville High School
Ashley Patton, North Elementary, Ithaca Public Schools
Shannon Powell, Central Montcalm Middle School
Amanda Smoker, Meridian Junior High School
Chanda Wekwert, Hillman Jr. and Sr. High School
CRWP events will continue this fall for both teacher consultants from this summer’s institute and other local educators. Plans for professional development events are underway and the CRWP leadership team will attend the National Writing Project’s Annual Meeting this November in Philadelphia.