National Writing Project Aimed To Aid Teachers, Students
From left to right are Rhonda Sutton, Ed.D., assistant professor and chair of East Stroudsburg University’s reading department and director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writing Project (NPWP); Mary DeFazio, an English teacher in the East Stroudsburg School District; Karen Gordon, an English teacher in the Pocono Mountain School District; Margot Vagliardo, a teacher consultant with NPWP and ESU associate professor emerita of early childhood and elementary education; Cardelia Givens, an elementary school teacher in the Stroudsburg School District; and Jamilyn Husted, an English teacher in the Pocono Mountain School District. All six women are members of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writing Project (NPWP) leadership team.
More than 3,000 teachers attended National Writing Project (NWP) professional development institutes this summer. The seminars ensure that before teachers start school this fall, they will be returning with new ideas and strategies to help students improve their writing. They also will be better connected to a professional community—and therefore better equipped to teach their students how to write in this digital age.
This summer, teacher-leaders from all grade levels and disciplines have attended professional development sessions at 200 university-based NWP sites across the country. With deep cuts in federal support for these and other important literacy investments, the partnership between school teachers and university faculty has become that much more important as a viable way in which to sustain and support student achievement and teacher education programs.
“Thousands of teachers will return to school this fall with more than their batteries recharged,” said Dr. Sharon J. Washington, NWP executive director. “These educators have enhanced their knowledge of theory, research and practice to help students become better writers and learners. Going forward, without financial support from the U.S. Department of Education that local communities had been required to match, it will be very difficult for NWP to continue to provide the funding for these summer institutes.”
Rhonda Sutton, Ed.D., assistant professor and chair of East Stroudsburg University’s reading department and director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writing Project (NPWP), emphasized the importance of teacher professional development during the summer months.
“Summer is the perfect time for teachers to reflect on student learning and teaching practices that support student achievement,” she said. “Opportunities for teachers to learn collaboratively encourage professional growth and community.”
NPWP usually offers an in-depth, three-week professional development institute. However, this year NPWP held a two-day conference at ESU for 15 enthusiastic teachers from northeastern Pennsylvania. This conference ensured that area teachers would have high quality professional development to address their learning needs. The conference theme, Between the Lines: Reading and Writing for Contemporary Learners, featured two, large group workshops and several breakout sessions. The teachers who attended the conference will return to school this fall with new ideas and strategies such as connecting art and writing, integrating inquiry across the curriculum, making digital comics, character education, integrating reading and writing, teaching about disabilities through reading and self-publishing. In addition to the ideas and strategies, the teachers have resources to help them engage students in learning that is aligned with the Pennsylvania Core Standards.
NPWP has already begun planning the professional development institute for June 22 to July 14, 2015, with the help of a one-time grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Teachers participating in the summer institute will become members of a professional learning network and spend time reading about writing and the teaching of writing. As a part of the institute, teachers reflect on their beliefs about teaching and learning.
Margot Vagliardo, a teacher consultant with NPWP and ESU associate professor emerita of early childhood and elementary education, said, “Participation in the summer institute was life changing, professionally and personally.”
In the past with the help of federal funding, NPWP conducted on-site and off-site professional development workshops for K-12 teachers, in addition to the professional development institutes. Dwindling state and federal funds to higher education has put pressure on NPWP to limit partnerships with schools and school districts to offer high quality professional development for K-12 teachers. To meet this ongoing challenge, local sites such as ESU’s NPWP are actively working with the NWP and their home universities to seek alternate funding to continue this important work.
For more information about the NPWP, email Sutton at firstname.lastname@example.org.