November 17th, 2010 marked the kick-off of the National Writing Project’s 2010-11 Annual Meeting, staged this year in sunny Orlando, Florida. Eleven members of the Chippewa River Writing Project’s leadership team traded chilly Michigan temperatures for the chance to exchange ideas with NWP colleagues from around the nation (and around the world) during the three-day event, which took place on the grounds of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Held in conjunction yearly with the National Council of Teachers of English’s Annual Convention, the event offers a tremendous opportunity for teacher participants to reinvigorate their love for teaching and writing, as they return to their classrooms with new ideas and innovations gleaned from intense seminars, discussion sessions, and fellowship opportunities with colleagues to use throughout the year. Moreover, these teacher leaders return to CRWP with ideas for site development opportunities related to the summer institute, professional development, continuity, and youth programs.
St. Louis High School teacher and CRWP team member Erin Busch-Grabmeyer captures the feelings of all participants as she notes: “Orlando was a wonderful experience; not only to learn new ideas to incorporate into our own SI, but to re-energize myself as a writer and a teacher of writing! I enjoyed seeing other like-minded individuals collaborate and learn from each other to improve writing programs in schools across America. Overall, it was a very positive and motivating experience.”
Highlights of the Annual Meeting included a welcoming address delivered by NWP President Sharon Washington, as well as a general session led by renowned elementary school educator, NWP teacher, and author Donalyn Miller, whose recent work The Book Whisperer has helped many teachers find new ways to help their students foster a love of reading.
For many participants, however, the most valuable experiences were gained from the sessions themselves, which offered a wide range of topics targeted at a variety of interest levels– from technology, to administration; youth programs to partnership building, the conference offered something for everyone. “The level of commitment and professionalism was refreshing and amazing,” observes Greenville High School teacher and CRWP team member Beth Nelson. “I especially enjoyed the accessibility of the presenters.”
Meridian Junior High School teacher and CRWP team member Amanda Smoker echoes Nelson’s enthusiasm when she recalls a particularly favorite session: “I’m not exaggerating when I say that I found all of the sessions I attended to be valuable. The session that I was probably most inspired by was the session on Content Area Reading and Writing. I’m glad I put myself on the waiting-list for this session! For years, I have been a huge supporter of reading and writing across the curriculum and this session gave me some great ideas to bring back about how to get other content area teachers as involved in and excited about it as I am.”
The range of sessions offered during the Annual Meeting even lent two CRWP members the chance to share the expertise they have gained in developing the Summer Institute program since CRWP’s inception in 2009. CRWP Director Troy Hicks and K-12 Co-Director Kathy Kurtze were joined by Iowa Writing Project’s Ann Berger and University of Colorado Denver’s Rich VanDeWeghe in delivering “Reading in the Invitational Summer Institute,” an exploration of the role reading plays in the Summer Institute classroom in connection with writing and teacher demonstrations.
All in all, the experiences gained from Orlando will remain with each of the eleven participants as they look towards CRWP’s future and begin to plan for a new year. “The conference was so invigorating for me!” notes Smoker. “I love attending conferences in general, but the Annual Meeting is different; it’s a hands-on extension of the Summer Institute. I spent the entire three days being reminded why I love being a part of the Chippewa River Writing Project.”