Kathleen Danzey Cohen
Self-contained sixth and seventh grade subjects; seventh and eighth grade social studies, language arts, drama, and science.
For eighteen years I taught in the Diocese of San Jose at St, Leo and St, Patrick Schools. For nineteen, I taught and was an intervention specialist at Miller Middle School in Cupertino Unified School District. For the last four years, I have served as Assistant Principal at Miller during maternity leaves, taught in an after school writing project at Laneview School in Berryessa District, and have been a teaching coach for Cupertino and Los Altos School Districts.
Local writing project:
San Jose Area Writing Project (SJAWP)
Awards & Recognition
- SJAWP Teacher Consultant
- Guilder Lehrman History Project Fellow
- CUSD Teacher of the Year
Two of my teaching mates attended the Invitational Leadership Institute at San Jose State University, probably in the late nineties. I could see right away that they had an entirely new slant on teaching writing. I stopped looking at writing as organization and grammar exercises meant to be homework, and began to see writing as an integral part of my teaching day with much of it achieved in class, shared and celebrated. Being in the Leadership Institute and having SJAWP colleagues for support, I completely changed my teaching and definitely for the better. Most important, I learned to write with my students and share my writing with them.
I was the kind of writer that would never finish anything on time, and I was never satisfied with what I wrote. The Leadership Institute gave me courage to try poetry and narratives and to finish them. I had not seen myself as a writer, and SJAWP gave me confidence, so I could write personally, from the heart.
Because of SJAWP and the Leadership Institute, I honed my leadership skills, have lead district level projects, many Saturday Seminars, and Leadership Institute writing groups. The best advice I can give younger SJAWP teachers is to participate and lead at the school site. The profession needs good teachers to be involved.
Write every day, and have your students write everyday. Even if it’s only a sentence, write and share. Keep writing in notebooks. Chromebooks are fine, but there seems to be a pencil/ brain relationship that encourages authors. Use mentor texts and children’s books religiously. Students will write more confidently if they talk about what they are going to write before they put pencil to paper. Have your students find and keep a list of “golden sentences” that capture their imaginations. Copy and keep your own collection of “golden sentences” that include student writing. Don’t be afraid to teach grammar and usage. Use your students’ errors to inform your teaching. If you tell them you’re going to do this and don’t publish their names, they won’t mind. Rather than use the red pen, try writing conferences where you can encourage improvement and support the young authors. Students need to write in all their classes, and when you support history or science teachers, they will be far more likely to continue writing in their classrooms.
Carol Jago has had a profound impact on me. I love her writing assignments especially those that use poetry. Tracy Kidder’s book, Good Prose, is particularly helpful with beginnings and endings. My writing bible, always by my bed, is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Finally, Patti Smith doesn’t write about writing, but her thoughtful, simple prose provides great mentor texts. Dr. Mary Werner’s book, Writing in an Age of Assessment, Grades 7 – 12:Passion and Practice, is co-authored by SJAWP Teacher Consultants and Dr. Jonathan Lovell. It has great ideas and can inspire teacher writing.