National Writing Project

Expanding and Energizing Site Leadership through the Annual Meeting: Santee-Wateree Writing Project

The Santee-Wateree Writing Project describes how it utilized both structured and unstructured opportunities at the Annual Meeting to build leadership and set long-term goals for the site.


The Santee-Wateree Writing Project, housed in the Department of English at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, was established in 1988. Founding director Harriett Williams feels the National Reading Initiative work “has really energized the site” and prompted the site to broaden its leadership pool by opening up opportunities for science and social studies teachers.

Why attend the NWP Annual Meeting?

For representatives of the Santee-Wateree Writing Project in Columbia, South Carolina, attending the Annual Meeting represents an opportunity for site leaders to experience the power of the National Writing Project network. Attending the 2004 Annual Meeting facilitated face-to-face interactions among five site leaders, resulting in long-term planning for the site. (The team found that such conversations can be hard to have back home because the site leaders live and work far away from each other).

Santee-Wateree site leaders attended the Annual Meeting in order to facilitate the growth of team members—as teachers, as teacher-consultants, and as site leaders. The team members also identified specific goals about what they wanted to bring back—both to their site and to their day-to-day work as teachers and professional developers:

  • Expanding the number of TCs involved in site leadership
  • Planning for the next phases of the site’s National Reading Initiative work
  • Establishing “a solid base from which to run our Santee-Wateree Writing Project [web site]”
  • “Looking for things to take back” to other teachers and to their own classrooms.
How did Santee-Wateree plan for the Annual Meeting?

In order to make the most of the Annual Meeting experience, all participants started coordinating their plans well before they boarded the plane for Indianapolis. Over email and again over diet Cokes at a centrally located Subway sandwich shop, they planned which NWP site development workshops and NCTE sessions each team member would attend. They purposefully selected sessions that would help them achieve important site goals.

In addition, Harriet Williams, then Santee-Wateree’s site director, intentionally created opportunities for the Santee-Wateree team to bond. The team flew to and from Indianapolis together and the site director arranged for the team to stay in a hotel that serves breakfast and hosts a complimentary cocktail hour. Prior to the Annual Meeting she reflected, “I know that we are going to get a heck of a lot of work done above and beyond the sessions, just from forced confinement, and I don’t mean that negatively at all.”

What did the Santee-Wateree team do at the Annual Meeting?

Building Santee-Wateree’s leadership capacity was central to the team’s participation in the 2004 Annual Meeting. The site’s technology liaison and one co-director attended sessions focused on technology, with the expectation that they would get a clear job definition for the technology liaison (for more, read about NWP's Technology Liaisons Network) and glean ideas for building their website. The site director and one other teacher-consultant immersed themselves in National Reading Initiative work. In addition each team member attended NCTE or NWP sessions of her own choosing, including a session about teaching writing to African American students and one about site leadership.

Santee-Wateree’s annotated 2004 Annual Meeting activity log (PDF) illustrates one way to connect participation in NWP sessions, team conversation, and planning for ongoing site work. The team considered how to offer constructive criticism about sessions they attended and they strategized about how best to move forward significant pieces of site work (the website, their National Reading Initiative work, and their advanced institute).

Overall the team enjoyed spending time with colleagues from home and around the country. The director felt that the Annual Meeting provided a “chance to do so much planning and reflecting with my group, mostly as prompted by ideas, issues that arose from sessions.” The technology liaison noted, “I was very happy to hear from so many different people across the country about what they were doing with their [web]sites. I enjoyed talking about the challenges, and all the activities we had in common and learning about new things we could do.”

How did Santee-Wateree draw on the Annual Meeting back home?

The Santee-Wateree team gleaned new ideas for expanding its leadership and providing “better opportunities for our most experienced TCs.” The site built on its National Reading Initiative work by inviting 15 veteran teacher-consultants to participate in a teacher inquiry network with an eye toward offering an invitational Inquiry Institute that would include up to 20 experienced TCs. The group of annual meeting participants, which included key members of the Reading Initiative leadership team, planned and organized their Inquiry Institute at the Annual Meeting. These plans served as the impetus for getting experienced teacher-consultants—the “best of the best”—pulled back into site leadership roles.

Following the Annual Meeting, Debbie Jackson, the technology liaison, implemented her new ideas for expanding the Santee-Wateree website and for encouraging more people to use it. By May 2005, the new website had increased “cyberspace reflection” and teacher-consultants were increasingly active in online site conversations. In fact, the site director credited cyberspace with enticing inactive TCs back to Santee-Wateree.

This work ties into Santee-Wateree’s goals for expanding the site’s leadership pool, increasing active involvement in site-sponsored activities, and providing opportunities for its most experienced teacher-consultants to continue to grow and develop. Sessions at the Annual Meeting provided specific strategies for working toward those goals. As one team member noted, “We have a lot of great people whom we can fit into some great leadership positions at our project site, but we need to delineate specific . . . areas where we need people and this is what their responsibilities are.” The ideas, time, and space at the Annual Meeting facilitated Santee-Wateree’s work to expand the number of their teacher-consultant leaders and energize the site.

Written by Linda Friedrich and Sela Fessehaie
With Joye Alberts, Shirley Brown, Yu-Min Ku and Pat Mumford
© 2023 National Writing Project