National Writing Project

Stepping Stones

By: Phyllis J. Owens
Publication: The Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 2
Date: Spring/Summer 1994

Summary: Phyllis Owens, a high school English teacher in McDowell County, West Virginia, a region burdened with ninety percent unemployment, joins the writing project and invigorates her teaching. Turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones, she gets grants for such projects as a student Shakespeare presentation and an anthology of student writing depicting the heritage of McDowell County. She develops a host of writing projects around the simplest of resources: a stone.



Drawing on the distinctive writing opportunities my rural area provides, my students and I find we have special stories to tell. Sometimes we take a mental journey into a secluded wooded area, explorations that are so much a part of my students' experiences that they are easily recreated in their minds. Then they record their trips in writing. I am glad to have the opportunity to trek with them, for each year I get new images—images that make me glad to live in a community such as McDowell County, West Virginia, an isolated area, but one where I, with the help of so many students, parents and colleagues, have been able to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

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