high school, university freshman, and university graduate students
High School-- English 9, English 10, AP Composition (11th graders), Contemporary English (11th graders),
University -- “Freshman Composition,” and “Content Area Literacy for Single Subject Credential.”
Clovis High School, Buchanan High School, and California State University, Fresno
Local writing project:
UC Merced Writing Project (UCMWP)
Awards & Recognition
- UCMWP Director & Teacher Consultant
My affiliation has allowed me to continue to grow as an educator and teacher of teachers. My experiences reinforce my belief that effective teaching strategies travel beyond time and space and change. So what I know to be true of effective educational pedagogy in 1982 is still true today—that is, writing teachers need to be writers.
Before the Leadership Institute, I never thought of writing along with my students. In doing so, I was able to first discover and then share my own process—the messiness of a first draft, the importance of understanding the needs of a reader from feedback and discussion, the joy of manipulating ideas via word choice and sentence structure. I finally understood what being a writer means and was able to demonstrate my own journey with my students. On a professional level, I became interested in publishing articles on the teaching of writing and have done so.
Becoming a Teacher Consultant and eventual Project Director led me on a journey I would never have imagined. My initial experience as a Teacher Consultant inspired me to return to university for an MA in English with emphasis in composition. I wanted to continue learning about teaching writing through my own reading and writing. This experience prompted my school district to create a new position for me: Writing Assessment Resource Teacher. This position required me to create demonstration lessons in K-12 classrooms and to conduct whole district scoring sessions by grade levels. A few years later, my experiences of working with teachers led me to a doctoral program where I decided to study the writing development of four second language high school boys over a four-year period. A few years later I became the UCMWP Director. Clearly, the Writing Project has been a sort of yellow brick road that I continue to follow in the midst of ongoing changes in student demographics along with state and national mandates. Yet, I still think of myself as a Teacher Consultant. I continue to share my knowledge of lesson designing and coach Fellows during the Leadership Instititute, along with writing grants and meeting with administrators and teachers to propose programs.
Learning to write is a critical skill as it embodies one’s learning to think. This growth as a thinker clearly influences how one reads and interprets text. Writing is also an art. Good writers learn to shape their text for a reader, drawing out empathy, arguments, and even humor. Therefore, writing should not be taught in isolation. Every writing assignment I design includes a text that we read, analyze, and discuss to determine the writer’s purpose and how the structure of the text conveys that purpose. We repeat the process with a student’s own text. The back and forth aligns their writing with published writers and honors their learning process.
As I write this, I am seeing the shelves of books on writing that fill my office both at home and at work: Books by James Moffett, Toby Fulwiler, Donald Graves, Peter Elbow, Lucy Calkins, Nancy Atwell, Frank Macrorie, George Hillocks, even Stephen King’s On Writing, to name a few. I recommend all of them, but I have to choose just one it would have to be Donald Murray’s Learning by Teaching as a thoughtful, practical approach to teaching writing.