In 2002, only two years before I retired after teaching for 20 years, our youngest daughter Vickey, Central Language Arts teacher, encouraged me to apply for Prairie Lands Writing Project Summer Invitational Institute (SI). Encouraged is a mild term for her tactics in getting me to fill out the application. I was teaching science, health and web design in a small rural school along with writing grants to acquire technology for the students. She told me she knew I could write, because of the grant success I was having, but she wanted me to try some creative writing. Creative writing in science and health I questioned. At the same time Vickey was working on her sister a K-12 art teacher to apply for the Summer Invitational Institute. We were both accepted.
On day two of the SI the PLWP director Jane Frick explained that the anthology published at the end of each SI had previously been printed as a bound book copy. She said, “I think it could be published on a CD, but I don’t know how.” This is how my kids get me in trouble. Stacey, the K-12 art teacher raised her hand and says Mom does. That was the beginning of my serving as the PLWP technology liaison. After venturing into the creative writing world using Georgia Heard’s book Writing Toward Home, I read poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldredge. These are still two of the books I refer to when facilitating a mini technology institute.
In the fall of 2002 I went back to my classroom invigorated to write with my students in science, health, and web design. In 2003 I was given a class with 75% of the students having IEPs. The other 25% were seniors who needed a science class to graduate, or had LLS (learned laziness syndrome). Their first writing assignment was to write a letter to the superintendent with recommendation for treating the trees around the school that were infected with leaf eating caterpillars. He was in agreement to consult with them about the treatment. We had collect leaf samples and identified the trees and the infestation. We had reviewed pesticides and their uses to determine the safest treatment. This was the first writing they had ever done with an authentic audience. They went on to write a bio poem about their favorite plant from the 20 plants they had researched and reported on using PowerPoint. I would have been lost with this group had I not had the experiences from SI. It was by far the best professional development I have ever experienced in my 20 plus years of teaching.
In the summer of 2004 I retired as planned. After sharing this with Jane Frick, I was hired as the technology liaison for Prairie Lands Writing Project. I have been blessed in being chosen to attend the 2006 Because Technology Matters in Chico, CA. This is where I meet the most amazing group of people. Kevin Hodgson, Paul Oh, Chris Sloan, Bonnie Kaplan, Christina Cantrill, Troy Hicks, Paul Allison, Peter Kettle to name a few. I am in digital contact with these and more individuals almost daily even though we are miles apart. I know if I ever have a question about writing, technology or photography I can send an email and find the answer. Bud Hunt, Gail Desler, Lynn Jacobs, Lynette Harris, and Britton Gildersleeve all have a face connected to their name as a result of National Writing Projects annual conference. I have reconnected and assembled a greater network of wonderful writing teachers across the country.
Since 2006 I have facilitated or co facilitated a mini institute each summer on marrying writing with technology especially in the content areas. I feel last summer was the best mini institute we have ever done. See the whole picture at www.missouriwestern.edu/plwp/digi. January of 2011 Mya Mikkelsen and I lead an online book study of Because Digital Writing Matters.
We as a community of writers both at PLWP, the Missouri Writing Project Network and National Writing Project continue to grow and find ways to promote student literacy. National Writing Project expanded my horizons in the world of education in the last seven years more than anything in my teaching career which began in 1967.
Thank you National Writing Project.