National Writing Project

Director's Update

By: Richard Sterling
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 7, No. 3
Date: May-June 2002

Summary: An update from Executive Director Richard Sterling.


Dear friends and colleagues:

With this issue of The Voice, I'd like to offer a warm welcome to all of the teachers who will be participating in the 2002 writing project summer institutes that will soon be taking place in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In joining the National Writing Project network, these teachers will become part of an extraordinary group of people at an interesting—although demanding—time for education.

This is a time when education for our young people is viewed as one of the top national priorities. However, it is also a time when, despite this truth, teachers are facing great difficulties and challenges in every aspect of their work—some immediate and some ongoing. This past school year is an example of a more immediate challenge, as teachers and students—like all of us—tried to come to terms with the events surrounding the September 11 attack on the United States. Among the long-term issues is the teacher retention rate. As many of you know, the "stick rate" among new teachers is not good; some school districts lose 50 percent of their new teachers within the first five years of their teaching careers.

The good news in a time such as this is the writing project. Teachers new to the network can take heart in the fact that, over the years, many of the teachers selected for the summer institutes have gone on to play important roles in improving instruction in their classrooms and the classrooms of others. This year again, the local sites will be bringing together a powerful mix of kindergarten-through-university teachers to enhance and strengthen knowledge and practice to improve the teaching of writing.

Writing project teachers are among the strongest teachers in the nation. Through their association with the writing project, teachers further enhance their understanding of how to support their students. Such experience will lead teachers through school years such as this one just passed, helping them know how to educate and inform our children in such insecure times and equip them—through writing—with the awareness, knowledge, and compassion that will serve them immediately and always.

The summer institute experience and the work of the network also teach our teachers to support themselves and each other. Specifically, through programs we are building, the writing project network will directly support new teachers, helping them develop effective practices and find success in their work—a combination that will translate into a commitment to the profession.

For some readers, this issue may be a first exposure to The Voice and, through it, a first glimpse of the network beyond a summer institute experience. Please take some time to read the issue and to explore the work of writing project teachers from across the country. Through even this glimpse, you will better understand the work of the project, its resources, and its goals. And in this way, we will continue to learn together about the relationship between reading, writing, and learning.

Executive Director

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