Awards & Recognition
- NCWP Director & Teacher Consultant
- Outstanding Academic Advisor, CSU, Chico
Almost all of my courses are populated by future teachers who are hungry to learn about literacy education, and they want much more than what can be gleaned from books. They wonder if the ideas in our textbooks can actually be implemented, and are curious about the ways that “real” teachers adapt theories into practice. Because of my connection to the Northern California Writing Project, I am able to provide my students with concrete, classroom-based examples from outstanding North State teachers. At the same time, my own teaching practices are informed (and shaped, and challenged, and modified) by the successes shared by teachers in the NCWP; I shamelessly steal great teaching ideas from my colleagues. I would say that the Writing Project’s fundamental stance—namely, that teachers should be informed, willing to take risks, and reflective—has been the most impact on my teaching life.
As a professor, I’m expected to write as part of my job description; I write articles, book chapters, grants, presentations, reports, and much, much more. Probably 99% of my publications and presentations have been influenced by the Writing Project; sometimes, the subject is centered on the work of the NCWP, but other times the idea I’m writing about surfaced during an NCWP event. Regardless of topic, the constant writing I do, and the reflective stance on writing that the NCWP has instilled in me, makes me a more informed and empathetic teacher of writing. I understand the challenges, frustrations, and joys of writing, and can help my students become better writers (and better future teachers of writing) as a result.
Like many who attend the Writing Project’s Summer Institute on the Teaching of Writing, my experience was focused on learning about effective writing instruction from my colleagues. Leadership was the last thing on my mind! But the beauty of the Writing Project model is that it gradually scaffolds participants from seeing themselves as leaders within their own classrooms to recognizing that they are also leaders for their fellow teachers. In my case, as a direct result of my participation in the 2000 Leadership Institute, I have spent well over a thousand hours leading inservice sessions and presenting at workshops and conferences. This has shifted my stance as a teacher. Whereas previously I might have thought about my teaching only as it impacted my students and myself, I am now always thinking beyond my own classroom to consider the ways that my experiments in pedagogy might be useful to other teachers. “Teachers Teaching Teachers” as the Writing Project motto has certainly rung true in my experience.
Purpose and audience drive my writing pedagogy. I do my best to avoid ever assigning “fake” writing—and by “fake” I mean writing that doesn’t position students to write about ideas they care about to an audience that matters to them. Inherent in my approach is a valuing of and respect for student choice. Students in my classes make choices about the purpose for their compositions and the audience they would like to address, and those choices help them make informed decisions about form and genre. And while I always want to help my students find success in their academic writing, my larger objective is for students to leave my classes as reflective writers who are able to identify the tasks, objectives, opportunities, and constraints in the writing situations they face.
For ways of thinking about the “big picture” of writing and writing pedagogy, I find that George Hillocks’ Teaching Writing as Reflective Practice remains insightful and helps me keep the recursive nature of writing and writing instruction at the forefront. Jody Shipka’s Toward a Composition Made Whole articulates the ways that multimodality and new media are shifting the ways we think about composition, and have deep resonances with the approach I take to encouraging students to take risks as writers.