English Language Arts
Jefferson Middle School/San Gabriel Unified
Local Writing Project:
UC Irvine Writing Project (UCIWP)
CWP/CDE web resources:
Upstanders, Not Bystanders: Lesson Planning Template/Writing Editorials About Upstanders
Wrestling with the Abstract: Learning to Write Analytical/Reflective Essays
Awards & Recognition
- UCIWP Teacher Consultant
The UCI Writing Project Invitational Leadership Institute in the Teaching of Writing, which I attended in 2001, changed my teaching practice profoundly, and, equally important, introduced me to a professional learning community that has been my lifeline ever since. I learned to use the power of mentor texts and student choice. I learned to think like a student, and to encourage my students to think of themselves as writers. Writer’s workshop and student book clubs became essential practices in my classroom. After that Leadership Institute, I returned to my school site a much more confident and effective teacher than I had ever been. In the years since 2001, I have continued to stoke the fires that were lit by attending Writing Project II, our ongoing monthly meetings of Teacher Consultants, which has allowed me to maintain the professional and personal contacts that I value so much.
I had always thought of myself as a writer when I was in school, and had even entertained notions of having some kind of professional writing career. However, in college I began to measure myself against the “greats” and decided that I did not have what it takes. During the Leadership Institute, I was fortunate enough to rediscover the joy and satisfaction that comes from writing for pleasure, thanks to the encouragement of my writing group, and I have continued to exercise that “muscle” ever since. One of the greatest pleasures of being involved in the Writing Project is the opportunity it provides to develop one’s personal voice as a writer, in addition to one’s professional voice as a teacher.
Being associated with the UCI Writing Project has allowed me to grow by leaps and bounds both as a Teacher Consultant and as a leader at my school site. I have been fortunate enough to serve as Associate Director at several Invitational Leadership Institutes in the Teaching of Writing since 2001, and thus have been able to give back some small measure of the riches that were afforded to me in my own experience in the Leadership Institute. Through the UCI Writing Project’s Peer Partners program I have been able to guide several new Teacher Consultants as they implement the strategies they have learned in the Leadership Institute in their own classrooms. I also gained the confidence to be a presenter at conferences, bringing some of my own ideas to others who might find them useful. At my school site, I have been a leader in bringing writing project strategies to my department, and have led staff development sessions, as well as serving as department chair, and on several site and district committees. Without the confidence boost that I gained from my Writing Project experiences, I doubt that any of this would have happened.
I believe that students must learn to be independent thinkers. It is my job to open the world of literature to them, to usher them into it, and to provide a “road map” of strategies. It is not my job to be the “tour guide,” explaining the significance of everything they see. In writing, I also try to provide “road maps” in the form of mentor texts, and to expose my students to a wide variety of genres and text types. As they examine the moves that professional writers make, students become more confident about trying some of those moves for themselves. My goal every year is that each of my students will leave my class with the sense that he or she has something valuable to say about the world, along with the skills and confidence with which to say it.
The Reading/Writing Connection by Carol Booth Olson is the book that, in conjunction with the UCIWP Leadership Institute, changed my practice forever. Each edition since the first one has strengthened and deepened my understanding of the way that reading and writing are inextricably connected. Practical lesson ideas coupled with meticulous research have made this book my “go-to” text for over a decade. Among the other authors to whom I look for advice and ideas on a regular basis are George Hillocks, Kelly Gallagher, Kylene Beers, and Jeffery Wilhelm, whose book Get It Done! Writing and Analyzing Informational Texts to Make Things Happen was foundational for the work my students did in CWP’s Upstanders Not Bystanders project.