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 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.