CMU's Chippewa River Writing Project inspires the 'writer' in teachers

Project promotes model of 'teachers teaching teachers'
Chippewa River Writing Project

Eleven K-12 teachers from mid- and northern Michigan spent four weeks of their summer break immersed in writing at the Chippewa River Writing Project Summer Institute at Central Michigan University. CRWP is a site of the National Writing Project and provides professional development experiences to inspire participants as both writers and teachers.

“We adhere to a model of ‘teachers teaching teachers,’” said Troy Hicks, associate professor of English and director of the Chippewa River Writing Project. “By creating an opportunity to interact with each other in a casual, collegial setting, teachers are able to talk about teaching writing and experience the process of being a writer themselves.”

Teachers at this summer’s institute range from first grade to high school and their teaching experience spans from newly certified to a 34-year veteran.

“I was told by a fellow teacher who participated in the past, this was going to change the way I think about writing,” said Tricia Clancy, first grade teacher at Eastlawn Elementary School in Midland. “What I didn’t know is it would turn me into a writer. You learn to not only be a teacher of writing but also be a writer yourself. Ultimately, that makes you a better teacher.”

The National Writing Project has been in existence since 1974, and CRWP began as a site in 2009. It is designed to ignite creativity in writing among the participants, introduce digital writing methods and ways to incorporate technology in writing, and provide resources and networking opportunities that can be built upon and shared with other teachers in participants’ schools and districts.

“Students today are ‘tech comfortable,’ but not ‘tech savvy,’” said Susan Sampson, English teacher at Meridian High School in Sanford. “It’s our responsibility to teach them how to take skills and apply them with the use of technology as a writer.”

Teachers take their learning back to their schools in a variety of ways, from having conversations with colleagues and administrators to leading professional development programs.

“We’ve had teacher participants lead sessions in their schools looking at the Common Core State Standards for writing, and they later presented their work at state and national association conferences,” said Hicks.

Armed with a network of colleagues, knowledge of new technologies and teaching strategies, this year’s CRWP class is energized and anxious to return to their classrooms this fall.

“I’ve gathered some amazing ideas that have transformed how I will teach,” said Janet Neyer, English teacher at Cadillac High School.

CMU’s Chippewa River Writing Project continues to serve as a resource for teachers following the summer program by offering online networking opportunities, workshops, classroom coaching and professional development courses. More information can be found here or by contacting Troy Hicks, 989-774-3236 or troy.hicks@cmich.edu, and Elizabeth Brockman, 989-774-3671 or brock1em@cmich.edu.

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