National Writing Project (NWP) recently selected Shenandoah University as the official site for the Shenandoah Valley Writing Project (SVWP). The SVWP joins a network of nearly 190 local sites of the National Writing Project, serving all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The mission of the SVWP is to improve both writing instruction and the use of writing as a tool to enhance learning in all content areas, from kindergarten to the university setting. The group strives to elevate teachers to teacher-leaders and to raise the professional stature of classroom teachers. It also serves to support and enhance the literacy of the surrounding area through programs for both young writers and adults, in addition to its work with practicing educators.
The SVWP focuses on three core beliefs: 1) all students can and should view themselves as writers; 2) writing is the most effective tool for learning in all content areas; and 3) classroom teachers are the most effective teachers of others in their profession.
The program is led by John Handley High School’s Porterfield Endowed English Chairperson Mary Tedrow, NBCT, M.Ed., who serves as director, and Shenandoah University’s Director of Teacher Licensure and Professor of Curriculum and Instruction Mary Bowser, Ed.D., who serves as principal investigator and site director.
“This site gives the teachers of the Shenandoah Valley a home,” said Tedrow. “The university community and physical space allow teachers within our network to continue to learn and grow together. We have space, the support of credit-bearing courses for the work, and the intellectual fervor of the university community to engage and energize the teaching network. We are grateful that Shenandoah University has welcomed us.”
Tedrow cited Shenandoah’s annual Children’s Literature Conference (which will celebrate 30 years in 2015) and its Claude Moore Center for Literacy (CMCL) as programs that augment and amplify the work of the SVWP. “We think the synergy of these three programs will be a boon to the area going forward,” said Tedrow.
Since 2005, the SVWP has operated as a satellite of the Northern Virginia Writing Project (NVWP) at George Mason University. As the group has increased in size and scope throughout the years, it is now its own entity, able to serve not only Virginia writers but individuals in West Virginia, Maryland and other areas not served by NWP sites.
Independent site status allows the SVWP to build its own independent infrastructure and form local alliances with the school districts it serves, which will strengthen the efforts of the network. However, the group intends to sustain an ongoing alliance with the teacher consultants of the NVWP.
“We are thrilled that Shenandoah University is now home to this fundamental and essential program,” said Bowser. “Not only does it enrich our course offerings, but it is also an honor to provide a way for local educators to continue their professional development and training and, in turn, impact the writing of their students.”
Each summer, the SVWP holds a four-week, Invitational Summer Institute for exemplary teachers from throughout the area. Those who attend this writing institute span all content areas, and through the learning process, they become teacher consultants. They are then expected to take their training and techniques back to their home school systems to train fellow educators in the process.
“Every time a school system sends a teacher to this workshop, their teacher receives the latest and greatest ideas for the consultants to take back to their school for staff development,” said Bowser.
Shenandoah University is now the seventh NWP site in Virginia; other host universities include George Mason University, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Virginia Tech and the College of William & Mary.
“We have been on a long journey and are gratified and excited that Shenandoah University has agreed to partner with the teacher consultant community of the Shenandoah Valley,” said Tedrow. “We know that our partnership with the other literacy initiatives will make the schools of the Shenandoah Valley able to provide an even stronger experience for our students.”