National Writing Project Annual Report for 2015:
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The mission of the Shenandoah Valley Writing Project is to improve both writing instruction and the use of writing as a tool to enhance learning in all content areas, K-university. We strive to elevate teachers to teacher-leaders and to raise the professional stature of classroom teachers. We also support and enhance the literacy of our surrounding area through programs for both young writers and adults in addition to our work with practicing educators.
We are a network of practicing teachers. Study of 37 years of sustained network at this link.
Recent study of NWP Professional Development practices through SRI Research and Development.
We believe that classroom teachers are both knowledgeable and trustworthy when it comes to imparting best practices gained from their work with students, the curriculum, and their colleagues. We believe that working teachers of writing have gained professional knowledge from their classroom experience. Additionally, as members of the teaching profession, teachers should engage in challenging, validating, and enhancing the authority of their experience by familiarizing themselves with current and past research, by gathering evidence to support the effectiveness of their own teaching practices, and by engaging in continual professional discourse with their fellows.
We agree with the NSSD that successful staff development requires ongoing and continually renewing collaboration of teaching colleagues who continue to share and pool their expertise beyond a few scheduled workshops or even beyond an extended summer institute.
We believe that all teachers of writing, K-university, belong to a single, interdependent, collegial community with shared professional challenges, which will best be met through collaborative efforts based on mutual professional respect.
We believe that teachers of writing must write: their authority as teachers of writing must be grounded in their own personal experience as writers, persons who know first-hand the struggles and satisfactions of the writer’s task.
The practices of the Shenandoah Valley Writing Project emerge from our belief system.
We encourage teachers to reflect on their teaching and share that teaching with their peers through the Intensive Summer Institute, through courses run by the Teacher Consultants of the SVWP, and through the development of programs for schools and districts to meet the shared literacy goals of the service area.
The programs offered by the SVWP emerge from literacy needs that are both identified and then resolved by the Teacher Consultants of the SVWP. This has resulted in Young Writers workshops, presentations for professionals to meet the needs of all learners, and the continual development of programs and practices from shared teacher discussion.
Teacher Leadership emerges through the work of the project, as all positions and roles are fulfilled by practicing teachers. This practice underscores and amplifies the notion that teachers are professionals who both practice and shape their own work.
Teachers are encouraged to write both for themselves and for the profession. The SVWP makes writing opportunities available for the teachers of the network and encourages all teachers to model and write in front of their students in order to make the messy, recursive, invisible work of writing visible to students.
The work of the Shenandoah Valley Writing Project began in the summer of 2005 with the first Summer Institute offered as a satellite of the Northern Virginia Writing Project.
The first summer of 13 fellows, held on the campus of Lord Fairfax Community College, included many of the current leaders of the site. (Susan McGilvray, Jessica Cavalier, Erin Hubbard, Mary Tedrow, and Shea Finny.)
The Satellite began its work in earnest that first year by holding several workshops for young writers in the valley. Following that, the Teacher Consultants also offered workshops to instructors at various locations including Shenandoah University and Page County. The network of committed, professional teachers has grown over the years and reached over 70 professionals and thousands of students in seven districts by the time NWP conferred site status on the group.
Erin Hubbard and the team of Young Writers began a relationship with Shenandoah University and soon found a common goal with the Children’s Literature Workshop founded and directed by Dr. Karen Huff. The synergy created from the collaboration around both reading and writing for young people made the Writing Project and Shenandoah’s College of Education and Human Development a natural fit. The leaders at Shenandoah University embraced the work of the Teacher Consultants by formalizing the relationship in October of 2014.
The SVWP follows the model of the National Writing Project begun in 1974 by Jim Gray on the campus of University of California at Berkeley. The model has been replicated at over 200 university based project sites and is the oldest professional development program in America. Studies have shown that the model has been successfully taken to scale without loss in quality or outcomes.
The Shenandoah Valley Writing Project is confirmation of the vision of the first director at USC Berkeley, Jim Gray. When teachers teach each other what they gain from “the wisdom of practice,” students and communities benefit.