Blogging For the NWP

This weekend teachers from the National Writing Project (NWP) are engaging in a blogging campaign to help restore funding for our program.

On March 2nd, Congress eliminated earmarks which provides funds to many educational programs including the NWP--a program proven to improve student achievement and increase teacher effectiveness. The executive director of the NWP, Sharon Washington, states:

“This decision puts in grave jeopardy a nationwide network of 70,000 teachers who, through 200 university-based Writing Project sites, provide local leadership for innovation and deliver localized, high-quality professional development to other educators across the country in all states, across subjects and grades. In the last year alone, these leaders provided services to over 3,000 school districts to raise student achievement in writing.”

I am writing as a teacher-consultant for the Nebraska Writing Project housed at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. I have been involved with the NeWP for three years taking courses and helping to organize professional development activities for teachers that have improved student performance and student learning as well as the quality of teaching in our great state.

I began my teaching career in August of 2008 at a rural high school in southwestern Nebraska. I had not yet completed my student teaching experience, but the district was in dire straights--so they hired me--a college student with no degree and no teaching experience. I jumped in head first to a load of eight preps in an eight period day: English 11, Practical English 9-12, Creative Writing, Journalism and Yearbook and was the assistant speech coach. I made it through my "student-teaching," graduated in December and was officially considered a full-time employee with the district. The school was fantastic, and the kids were just as awesome---the load was not. I resigned in March of 2009 with no job lined up. After eight short months, I was exhausted and wanted to be done with teaching. I loved it, but if this was what teaching was---I wanted out.

Meanwhile, the Spanish teacher across the hall urged me to apply for the Nebraska Writing Project's Summer Institute. I completed my first Summer Institute in June of 2009.

That four-week course equipped and energized me to return to the classroom. It provided me a network of the best K-16 teachers in our state who are dedicated to education reform, researching and implementing best practice and equipping students to become writers and learners. Without this course, I would not still be teaching.

This is my second year teaching high school English with Ogallala Public Schools, and I have had the chance to reach over 200 students. Recently my English 9 students at Ogallala High School were featured in our local paper, on the local radio station, and on our local news channel for completing social action projects for a class project that made a difference in our own community. Two of my students raised $835 for a local resident battling cancer. Without support and training from the NWP, I would not have been able to tackle a project like this and consequently, my students would not have had this wonderful opportunity to become catalysts for social change.

Without funding for the NWP, our country may lose an invaluable partner in education for students and teachers alike; we would not be able to provide the quality professional development that truly keeps teachers teaching.

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