Here is the SJVWP Story written by Kristie Leyba, Associate Director of SJVWP:
“You’re all grown up!”
Such an appropriate comment to hear at the latest SJVWP event. In my sixteenth year of teaching, thirteen years after being part of the Invitational Summer Institute, I just might have grown up as a teacher and certainly the SJVWP would be the mother who raised me.
Starting my career before BTSA and the PLC/Accountable Community were district support systems, I was teaching in a world where I was largely left to figure things out on my own. Sure, we had a very loving department chair and my colleagues were good lunchtime companions, but growing as a professional was not anything I ever considered I would have to seek out.
As a hatchling teacher, I had lots of energy and excitement to read research and spend hours on developing units and lessons, but was any of it good? Was I spending all this time on the right things? I was certain that my amateur efforts were honorable, but I needed mentoring, direction, friendly feedback, and validation.
I joined the Writing Project and a family of teacher/learners the Summer of 2002. My mentoring directors were thoughtful and savvy teachers who showed us, through their lessons, what good teaching looked like. These teachers were thinking about writing beyond just the grading of the stacks, but for the empowerment and relationships that teaching a writer provides. They shared that the creative and caring efforts in nurturing each student’s voice would be rewarded many times over.
They were right. And then they nurtured my voice as a teacher. I was asked to join a veteran group of facilitators to plan a summer institute at a local high school. Here I was sitting at the table with amazing teachers. Among masters, I realized were students. The lovely and sometimes contentious conversations about vocabulary instruction, engaging teachers as professional learners, focusing on what teachers wanted to learn… I soaked it all like a sponge. I listened and laughed and learned. I was witness to educators who pursued the elusive answers (how to take the fear out of writing, how to build community) their whole careers, to educators who were models of innovation and creative energy.
As I have moved forward in my career, I have had many other, equally valuable collaborative moments with the Writing Project. Each new invitation to participate is new branch of my teaching family tree. A new green bud that springs from brambles or pruned-to-death stubs. A root that anchors me as I move forward while nurturing the core of the kind of teacher I want to be.
I am who I am and where I am because of the SJVWP and all those teacher-mothers who loved me and enriched my world so that I could grow up and up and up.