Tech takes part in regional writing project

Tech is now one of three universities across Tennessee giving teachers in the Putnam County area the chance to participate in the Upper Cumberland Writing Project.”The purpose of the program is to improve writing and the teaching of writing,” UCWP Director Shannon Collins said. “The learning doesn’t just stop at the writing project.”

The program, an affiliate of the National Writing Project, demonstrates teaching through discussions and readings. The project works to bring together teachers, administrators, learners, and community members to read, write, study, and share their strategies in an effort to enhance writing instruction for all learners. Teachers discover innovative ways to meet standards and to implement unique instruction. Educators also learn ways to approach writing and reading that develop critical thinking among students.

“The program allows teachers to get ideas from others to bring back to the classroom,” UCWP Teacher Consultant Cecilia Jenkins said. “We explore all different areas of writing and share each other’s writing. There is so much encouragement.”

“A lot of people have negative associations with regards to writing,” Collins said. “Most teachers fall back on the ways they were taught to read and write, and we just keep this vicious cycle of writing. I just wanted to do something about that.”

Collins had been working on the program for four years, but the program didn’t receive official funding until Jan. 2008. The program received money from the National Writing Project and required Tech to match funding either through commitment or cash. U.T Martin and MTSU are the only other universities from Tennessee associated with the National Writing Project.

In June, the Upper Cumberland Writing Project held its first summer institute. 15 individuals from schools across Tennessee participated in the four week program: Marianne Rohr form Dry Valley Alternative School in Cookeville, Angie Janoe, Kevin Lewis and Kari Rockwell from Frank Frank P. Brown Elementary from Cumberland County, Jennifer Magnusson, Michele Campbell and Ina Maxwell from Pleasant Hill Elementary from Cumberland County, Stacy Rhea from Pine View Elementary in Cumberland County, Martha Ramsey from Sycamore Elementary, Amanda Robinson from Union Heights Elementary in Smith County, Leslie Goad from Westside Elementary in Red Boiling Springs, Cecilia Jenkins, Tanya Adkison and Virginia Fillers, recent education graduates, Tony Baker, associate professor of English at Tech, and Obiajulu Emejulu, president of Reading Association in Nigeria.

“The program was a chance for me to learn more about how other teachers use writing in their classrooms,” Tony Baker, associate professor of English, said. “My beliefs about writing instruction were amplified and deepened during the one month seminar.”

“We have had tremendous support from faculty and staff, department chairs, the dean, and colleagues,” Collins said. “We are so blessed to have Tech working with us collectively to serve its community.”

Teachers interested in participating in the seminar for summer 2009 can apply online at www.tntech.edu/ucwp/ or may call or e-mail the UCWP to request an application. The deadline for eligibility is Feb. 27, 2009. Early applications are strongly encouraged. A $1,550 stipend will be paid as a fellowship to participants upon completion of UCWP Summer Institute requirements.