Teachers and facilitators gathered for a group photo on the last day of the four-week Invitational Summer Institute held this year at Woodland Junior High School in Fayetteville. Front row, from left, are Caroline Walton, Ashley Gerhardson, Nikki Holland, Deborah Goff, Jeanie Nance and Mike Thomas; middle row, Chris Goering, Jamie Highfill, Katy Moore, Renee Simpson and Tara Dye; back row, Vance Pitman, Casey Bazyk, Lynn Pevehouse and Scott Sullivan.
Teachers Complete Four-Week Writing Institute
Ten teachers completed the Invitational Summer Institute of the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project in July to become the latest group of teacher-consultants designated through the National Writing Project.
The intensive, four-week institute focused this year on writing to learn. The Northwest Arkansas Writing Project is based in the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas. Chris Goering, associate professor of English education, directs the writing project.
Jamie Highfill, who teaches eighth-grade English at Woodland Junior High School in Fayetteville, and Scott Sullivan, who teaches eighth-grade English at Washington Junior High School in Bentonville, co-directed the invitational. This year, Mike Thomas, longtime co-director, gave a motivational speech as Purvis Hooper, also known as “the chicken whisperer,” on the last day of the institute.
• Casey Bazyk of Fayetteville, ninth-grade English and speech at Rogers High School. Bazyk earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas. She previously taught at Darby Junior High School in Fort Smith.
“This training has changed everything: my writing and my interaction with it, the way that I work with others, and most importantly the way I look at teaching English and writing,” Bazyk said.
• Tara Dye of Springdale, sixth-grade literacy teacher at Helen Tyson Middle School in Springdale. Dye earned National Board Certification and a master’s degree in reading from Arkansas State University. She said she learned many new strategies to use in her classroom when teaching writing.
“This program has opened my eyes to different ideas and ways to encourage our students to become better, more involved writers,” Dye said.
• Ashley N. Gerhardson of Van Buren, instructional facilitator and interventionist at Darby Junior High School in Fort Smith in the areas of English and social studies. Gerhardson earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas. She previously worked four years at Northside High School, teaching pre-Advanced Placement English and then serving as AP English lead and language teacher. At Darby Junior High, she works in the areas of English and social studies.
“The most important thing that I have learned is that to teach writing, I must be a writer myself,” Gerhardson said. “This experience changed my view of writing and my teaching. Words cannot express what the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project teaches. The four weeks flew by and were well-spent.”
• Nikki Holland of Fayetteville, director of Razorback Writers. Holland earned a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas. She has worked as an educator for eight years and currently works with pre-service teachers and disadvantaged middle school students, helping kids to think of themselves as readers, writers and artists.
“If we want our kids to self-identify as readers, writers and artists, we have to think of ourselves as the same. This is the message that the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project gives us.”
• Katy Moore of Springdale, 11th-grade English teacher at Har-Ber High School in Springdale. She also teaches Advanced Placement language and composition and ESL. Moore earned a bachelor’s degree and Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Arkansas. She said she plans to use everything she learned at the institute in her classroom.
“The authenticity of writing to learn really questions my teaching process,” she said.
• Jeanie Nance of Springdale, ESL English teacher in the Language Academy at Har-Ber High School in Springdale. Nance earned a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from the University of Arkansas and a bachelor's degree in Spanish and a master’s degree in English from the USC. She has been teaching English as a second language since 1999.
“I teach English language learners, newcomer students in high school, and many of the writing activities I learned here will be perfect for them with some modifications,” Nance said.
• Lynn Pevehouse of Fort Smith, fourth grade in Fort Smith Public Schools. Pevehouse earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas.
• Vance Pitman of Springdale, Spanish teacher and soccer coach at Har-Ber High Schoolin Springdale. Pitman earned a bachelor's degree in English (creative writing) from the University of Arkansas, an ESL certificate from Arkansas Tech University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Arkansas at Monticello and is working on a master’s degree at Arkansas State University.
“I have a degree in writing, but I hadn’t planned to teach,” Pitman said. “When I became a teacher years later, I could explain some of the things I had learned but none of my education courses or professional development really addressed teaching writing in the way I learned.”
• Renee Simpson of Lowell, literacy facilitator at Mathias Elementary School in Rogers. Simpson earned a bachelor’s degree from Henderson State University and has been in her current position two years. She previously taught six years in kindergarten, first-grade and third-grade classrooms.
She said the institute helped her to find her own voice as a writer.
“Knowing how to tap into my own writing will help me to assist students in finding and developing their own voice,” Simpson said. “The connections to other teachers throughout this program will stay with me always.
• Caroline Walton of Bryant, ninth-grade English teacher at Bryant. Walton is a 2012 graduate of the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the University of Arkansas and will start her first year of teaching in August.
• Deborah Goff, a resident of Springdale who works as a literacy facilitator at Old Wire Elementary School in Rogers, served as a facilitator for the institute. She earned bachelor's and master’s degrees in elementary education from Arkansas Tech University and National Board Certification in English language arts.
“I will be sharing the demonstration lessons and quick-write ideas with fellow facilitators and teachers in my district,” Goff said.