Tampa Bay Area Writing Project Leadership Institute empowers writing teachers to share expertise, improve practice
TAMPA, Fla. (July 2, 2018) – In a classroom of nearly 20 teachers, pens and notebooks are sprawled across tables. The room is quiet, in a way that you would typically expect when students are busy working on an assignment, but the quiet doesn’t last for long.
When time is called at the end of the activity, conversations and laughter fill the room. Those who were once writing away raise their hands to share their work with their peers. The stories these educators have crafted are both creative and, at times, personal – but collaborating with one another is an experience they’re thankful to participate in, because it will help them become not just better writers, but better teachers of writing.
The Invitational Leadership Institute is a two-week long professional development workshop hosted each summer by the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project, a program housed in the David C. Anchin Center for the Advancement of Teaching and modeled after the National Writing Project – an organization comprised of nearly 200 local sites that utilize a professional development model of teachers teaching other teachers how to improve their writing instruction.
The National Writing Project believes that writing is fundamental in all subject areas, not just English and creative writing. The Leadership Institute was created to develop a cohort of teacher consultants each year who serve not just as coaches for other teachers, but also as advocates on behalf of the program.
Pat Daniel Jones, PhD, an associate professor of English Education and the founding director of the Tampa site, said since its inception 20 years ago, the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project has welcomed nearly 300 new teacher consultants to the program.
“In any writing project, we honor the expertise that the teachers bring to us,” Daniel Jones said. “It’s not a sit down and be quiet (activity). You can’t learn to write without writing, so every one of our teachers come in and they have to create a three-hour presentation…Integral to every lesson is getting our audience to write.”
At the beginning of the Leadership Institute, each teacher is tasked with developing a 90-minute writing demonstration that the rest of the class participates in. During each presentation, opportunity is left open for writing exercises to take place, which encourages everyone in the room to put pen to paper and begin creating their own work.
Through participating in one another’s presentations, the teachers provide each other with feedback and help brainstorm how to improve the lessons for their own classrooms.
Joanna Fox, a middle school creative writing teacher from Sarasota County and the 2017 recipient of the College of Education’s Dean’s Lifetime Achievement Award, said the Leadership Institute gives participants the opportunity to come together, share what they do best and become better at it.
“I can’t wait to try some of these activities with my students,” Fox said. “I’ll be teaching at high school for the first time in a long time this year. A number of these plans that we’ve experienced will be better, I think, for my high schoolers. It’s given me the opportunity to think about what we do in the classroom at the next step up.”
Many of the participants are seasoned teachers like Fox, but the Leadership Institute also provides a learning opportunity for up-and-coming educators like Dulcie Self, a graduate student in the College of Education’s Master of Arts in Teaching program.
“I fell in love with the whole concept, the whole idea that teachers could have a support group to help them teach better and learn better,” Self said.
Now that she’s going to be a teacher consultant, Self said she will be able to share her knowledge with other writing teachers and help them work through the different concepts she’s learned that go into creating an effective lesson.
“I have so much more confidence,” Self said. “Because of the connections that I made in the two week (program), I’ve made connections with other English teachers who have more experience than I have, and I can turn to any one of them.”
The Invitational Leadership Institute is one of numerous programs offered by the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project throughout the year. The organization also hosts summer writing camps for K-12 students, professional development workshops, and in-service training for practicing teachers across the Tampa Bay Area.
Jones said watching the program grow over the past 20 years has been a wonderful experience, and that participating in and mentoring teachers through the Leadership Institute helps fuel her passion for writing and coaching other writers throughout the year.
“We’re developing ourselves as writers, and then we’re developing how to teach writing. But it’s not just teaching writing; it’s teaching people,” she said. “What we want is for everyone to become a lifelong writer.”
Learn more about the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project on the program's website.