Northern Virginia Writing Project Celebrates Silver Anniversary

Posted: October 7, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

The strength of the Northern Virginia Writing Project (NVWP) comes from getting it right the first time: teachers training other teachers in better ways of teaching writing. The organization has maintained its original model of summer workshops, mentoring, and in-service programs for 25 years because it works so well.

The project accepts approximately 25 teachers each summer for an extensive five-week institute in which they examine issues in the teaching of writing, present and demonstrate approaches to the teaching of writing, study current research in the field, and write and critique from various points of view. After completing the training, the teachers become Teaching Consultants (TC) who then give presentations and lectures within colleges and universities, elementary, middle, and high schools, and private institutions.

Last Saturday, the project held its 25th anniversary celebration with more than 100 teachers, staff, and guests. A DVD presentation with pictures from the 25 years of the project recognized some of the major figures involved in NVWP from the beginning.

“The project continues to put excellent teachers in classrooms,” says Don Gallehr, director of NVWP since the program began. “I’ve been passionately attached to this program since the beginning because it creates a solid network of teachers. Our teachers have changed the curriculum, the methods of teaching, and the way students, parents, and educators talk about writing and the process of writing.”

The model of NVWP is based on the Bay Area Writing Project, begun by Jim Gray in 1974 in California. Gray’s model of teaching, which involved teachers demonstrating how they teach rather than just talking about it, got the attention of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1978, which then awarded Gray money to expand his program throughout the nation. George Mason was among the first to step up to the challenge, and 25 years later, NVWP is still going strong.

“The unique aspect of the summer institute is that everyone participates,” says Gallehr. “Even the directors and staff give new presentations. Everyone learns from each other, expanding their knowledge and wisdom.”

Over the years, the project has trained 635 teaching consultants, who have taught more than 695,000 students. The model has changed curriculum in the schools and has improved communication between school districts, experts in education, professionals, and administration. TC’s have conducted groundbreaking research in their classrooms and changed the face of academic writing, making it more open for discussion.

NVWP has many other programs and events that change according to the needs and interests of the TC’s. Some of these projects include The Journal, a publication that brings project news and articles by TC’s to the network; language and learning conferences, writers workshops with nationally known creative writers; journal workshops; technology workshops; and programs for first-year teachers and young writers.

For more information, visit the NVWP web site.

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