National Writing Project

Director's Update

By: Richard Sterling
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 11, No. 1
Date: 2006

Summary: NWP Executive Director Richard Sterling reflects on Jim Gray's life and his legacy—which includes the connection that NWP members have with each other, as evidenced by the community's response to the Gulf Coast hurricanes.


Dear Friends and Colleagues:

By the time you receive this issue of The Voice, nearly 200 summer institutes will be under way on university campuses in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Thanks to all of you—university faculty, K–12 teachers, new and experienced writing project participants—we are making a real difference in improving the teaching of writing for all students.

As many of you know, Jim Gray, the founding director of the Bay Area Writing Project, the California Writing Project, and the National Writing Project, passed away on November 1, 2005. All of us who are reading this publication share in his legacy. He was thrilled to see the growth of the writing project network and he never tired of talking with teachers and writing project directors about their work. Perhaps Jim’s vision is best summed up by the title of his memoir of the early years of the project, Teachers at the Center. This issue of The Voice includes but a few of the many stories, memories, and tributes to Jim’s life and legacy.

One important legacy of Jim’s is our connection to each other. The writing project network responds to challenges and difficulties wherever and whenever they occur. This past year the devastating hurricanes along the Gulf Coast destroyed homes, schools, and communities. Writing project directors and teachers have written and spoken eloquently about the changes in their lives—some as part of a show produced by Richard Louth, director of the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project, on Louisiana public radio (see the NWP Rural Sites Network Featured Resources). And colleagues from across the country have responded with donations, with their own writing, and with great caring. Recovering from natural disasters of this magnitude takes a long time, and it is important that we continue to pay attention to the needs of our colleagues and their students.

The reflections written about the life and legacy of Jim Gray and the many postings on our After Katrina blog are testimony to the power of writing to inspire, to move, and to gather us together. Thank you again for your commitment and dedication to improving the teaching of writing in our nation’s schools. And welcome to the nearly 3,000 of you who are joining the NWP this summer at your first invitational summer institute.

I hope you have a wonderful summer and I look forward to seeing many of you at future writing project events.

Richard Sterling
Executive Director

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