National Writing Project

One Site’s Take on the Annual Meeting: Denver Writing Project

The Denver Writing Project describes how it prepared teacher-consultants to get the most out of the Annual Meeting and included time for socializing as well.


The Denver Writing Project, housed in the Department of English at the University of Colorado at Denver, was established in 2000. Founding Director Rick VanDeWeghe comments that the most exciting inservice work is building study groups in schools. The project sent eight participants to the Annual Meeting: the director, the co-director, and six teacher-consultants.

Why do sites participate in the NWP Annual Meeting?

For representatives of the Denver Writing Project, the 2004 Annual Meeting served as an opportunity to pursue several of the site’s goals by learning

  • what other sites were doing in connection with inservice work
  • ideas for how to revamp their site’s working groups, an important component of the site’s leadership structure
  • ideas for research and inquiry.

The Denver Writing Project also viewed the Annual Meeting as a medium to share with a national audience one of its prized accomplishments, namely, the development and implementation of school-based study groups that were an integral part of its inservice activities.

Why do teacher-consultants attend the NWP Annual Meeting?

Two first-time Annual Meeting participants noted that they viewed their participation as an opportunity to “gain an understanding of the scope of the NWP” and get “a sense of the big picture.”

Although the teacher-consultants were charged with the task of using the Annual Meeting to pursue the goals of their site, the Denver Writing Project site director also encouraged its teacher-consultants to pursue their own growth and learning. In practice, the two often went hand in hand.

Who attends the Annual Meeting?

In the case of the Denver Writing Project, the site director described an intentional and strategic process of selecting Annual Meeting participants. In addition to sponsoring the director and co-director, the site tapped current and prospective study group leaders, a teacher-consultant interested in launching a young writers camp, and a teacher-consultant with strong ties to a potential local ally and partner.

What are some ways to prepare for the Annual Meeting to get the most out of it?

In preparation for the Annual Meeting, participants coming from the Denver Writing Project communicated via email to coordinate with each other and plan which sessions to attend. The director encouraged those attending to take part in a wide range of sessions and to share what they learned back at the site.

During the 2004 Annual Meeting, Denver Writing Project representatives presented an Annual Meeting session on behalf of the Inservice Institute initiative. The team exchanged ideas about the session by phone and email prior to arriving at the Annual Meeting. The four participants who presented met formally in Indianapolis the night before to finalize and walk through the presentation.

How did the Denver Writing Project fund participation in the Annual Meeting?

While the Denver Writing Project budgets a generous amount of funds to sponsor teacher-consultants’ participation in NWP national gatherings, it also encourages teacher-consultants to act as entrepreneurs and to secure matching funds to support their participation in the Annual Meeting.

In 2004 matching funds came from two elementary schools, two high schools, one district, and the Public Education and Business Coalition. This strategy allows the Denver Writing Project to partially support a substantial number of teacher-consultants in traveling to the Annual Meeting.

What actually happens at the Annual Meeting?

The individual participants from the Denver Writing Project divided their time among different activities based on their responsibilities and interests. These activities included the following:

  • NWP-sponsored formal activities, including attending workshops, sessions, meetings, and the general session
  • NWP informal activities, including socials and receptions and spontaneous conversations among participants from different sites
  • Site activities (formal or informal), including conversations with colleagues from the site, debriefing after sessions, and formally planned site-focused debriefings and celebrations
  • NCTE sessions and activities.

Teacher-consultants’ session participation reflected a balance between sessions that supported their development as leaders of site work and sessions that fed their own desires to learn more about classroom teaching.

What about after the Annual Meeting?

Some teacher-consultants began sharing their work from the Annual Meeting almost immediately upon returning to their home state. Many opportunities were provided, although not mandated, by the project site or school district, for the participants to share what they learned with colleagues.

Teacher-consultants identified a long list of interests, concrete programs, classroom practices, and big questions that they hoped to pursue based on their participation in the Annual Meeting.

The site director recounts,

[A]t one of our social gatherings [at the Annual Meeting], the Thursday evening dinner, we developed a plan for forming working groups on our return to Denver. . . . Four of our working group leaders were present at the planning dinner; two of them were first-time annual meeting attendees.
Written by Linda Friedrich and Sela Fessehaie With Joye Alberts, Shirley Brown, Yu-Min Ku and Pat Mumford



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