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 or visit

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.

CRWP Teacher Livens up the Classroom with Bitstrips Comics

Powell created a gallery to highlight students' creations with Bitstrips.

Shannon Powell, CRWP 2009, and teacher at Central Montcalm Middle School has found a way to breathe new life into classroom projects using a creative technology called Bitstrips for Schools.  The online software acts as an innovative and user-friendly program that allows students to develop and publish their own unique webcomics.

For Powell, Bitstrips offers students the attraction of playing while working.  Many of her most reluctant writers found an opportunity for success using the creative medium of the webcomic.

“My students are addicted to this program,” confesses Powell.  “I could hardly keep them off it, and they were happy to have new assignments and complete them so they could share with the rest of the classes.  Having a purpose in playing really kept them interested in what they were doing.”

Powell’s success with the program was featured in a recent article on Bitstrips for School’s own blog.  Excited by the work her students produced for such projects as a Favorite Books gallery, she encouraged colleagues to try webcomics in their own classrooms, many of whom soon had their own success stories to share.

Tyler's webcomic uses humor to tell about his favorite book by Rick Riordan.

Powell notes the interdisciplinary aspect Bitstrips has to offer when she recalls, “One of our social studies teachers wanted to use the program to make brochures for other countries her students were studying, and math or science concepts could easily be explained through comics as well.”

Formed in 2008, Bitstrips has formed a partnership with the National Writing Project, and is currently available for free download through August 31st to NWP teachers.

CRWP Celebrates Its Second Annual Summer Institute

Rose Daum shares a draft with Erin Busch-Grabmeyer.

Friday, July 9th, 2010 marked the completion of another successful Summer Institute for the Chippewa River Writing Project, including its sixteen newest teacher consultants.  For four weeks beginning June 14th, participants and leadership team members met daily for writing and responding, reading and research, fun and collegiality.

Both as teachers and writers, the experience was a period of hard work and intense growth, as well as a chance to forge new friendships with colleagues from all over the state.  The entire month made up, as teacher participant Janis Germain observes, “an enlightening and fast-moving class.”

Participants experienced such opportunities as meeting with friends and family in an annual Writing Marathon and collaborating with third through fifth grade writers during CRWP’s first annual Youth Writing Camp.

Andrea Palmer and Linda Patton exchange ideas.

“The Chippewa River Writing Project has changed my perspective on writing instruction,” notes teacher participant Kelly Murphy.  “I’ve become very reflective about my current practices, and it’s challenged my thinking.  I’m ready to employ new strategies from a new, refreshed mindset.”

Rosie Nedry and Jill Wilson consult over a piece of writing.

Fellow participant Jodi Mata echoes Murphy’s feelings as she reflects upon the experience:”The Summer Institute has challenged me to write outside of my comfort zone.”

Participants honed their skills as educators through the development of lesson plans, creative writing prompts, and innovative projects utilizing such technologies as podcasting, wikis, a print anthology, and digital storytelling.

The institute culminated with the creation of portfolios presenting multigenre snapshots of participants’ roles as writers, as well as a celebratory dinner and reading.

CRWP 2010 teachers celebrate their final day of the summer institute!

As the Summer Institute drew to a close, participants looked back with fond memories, exhilarated for the school year to come.  Teacher participant Rosie Nedry sums up her time as a member of the SI with a playful grin:  “It was da bomb!”

CRWP now prepares for its school year professional development and continuity programs, including the opportunity to host the state network retreat for the National Writing Projects of Michigan and its own Advanced Institute for Professional Development in August, as well as additional programs throughout the 2010-11 school year.

Teachers interested in applying for the 2011 summer institute are invited to visit our Summer Institute page later this fall to find out how to begin the application process.

Congratulations, 2010 CRWP Teacher Consultants!

  • Amanda Bruce, Covenant House Lifeskills Center West
  • Erin Busch-Grabmeyer, St. Louis High School
  • Rose Daum, La Salle High School
  • Janis Germain, Mt. Pleasant High School
  • Jeremy Hyler, Fulton Middle School
  • Delia King, Crystal Elementary School
  • Jodi Mata, Central Michigan University
  • Elizabeth Miller, Oakwood Elementary School
  • Kelly Murphy, Midland High School
  • Rosie Nedry, Chippewa Hills Mosaic School
  • Andrea Palmer, Alma High School
  • Linda Patton, Hillcrest Elementary School
  • Bridget Rise, Beaverton Middle School
  • Andrew Schoenborn, Mt. Pleasant High School
  • Kayleen Schumacher, Saginaw Valley State University
  • Jill Wilson, Farwell Elementary School