OWPC Summer Institute 2015

By Tracy Velez


If you happened to stop by Salem Broadway Commons the last two weeks of June, you may have noticed writing was happening there; at coffee tables, clusters of couches and arm chairs, in conference rooms, sunny spots, and small groups, pens and pencils scratched against rapidly filling composition notebooks. Eleven teachers gathered together to write and share and grow in their practice during the Oregon Writing Project Collaborative’s annual Summer Institute. Nancy Fischer, Institute Director, led and encouraged the group of teachers to consider their strengths and find things they do well to practice and share with each other. Through writing and inquiry into these areas of strength, teachers--who represented elementary to university level classrooms stretching from Sherwood to as far south as Winston—explored and shared ideas about writing in the classroom. They learned how music, photos, videos, podcasts, and mentor texts can serve as entry points for student writing, imagined how writing can connect and have relevance to students’ 21st century lives, dreamed of developing deeper awareness of self through poetry and private writing, and discovered new ways to use the writer’s notebook, guide revision, and enhance non-fiction writing. Through the process, they were also able to focus on and share personal writing which culminated in rich and delightful portfolios of work from each teacher.

Institute Director Nancy Fischer, who will be stepping away from the Institute after many years of leading, guiding and directing to spend more time with family, was joined by a talented leadership team of TC’s: Susanna Steeg, Tracy Velez, and Angela Newport.

On July 1st, the group was joined by a number of Summer Institute alumni and guests for a private tour of Oregon State Hospital’s Mental Health Museum. As part of the thoughtful and mind-opening presentation by museum volunteers and hospital leadership, teachers were given lesson plan ideas and encouraged to return with students to help begin a community conversation on mental health. This experience seemed to affirm themes emerging from the Summer Institute of offering a positive environment of hope for students to learn and write and receive feedback while nurturing the development of empathy.

The teachers and leaders of the Institute are excited to reconvene in the fall to share how they have been able to apply new practices and writing strategies in their classrooms. Participants expressed that in addition to fresh ideas for their teaching, this Institute experience helped them find their voice, explore their identities and purposes, and gain confidence as writers.

For more information about the Oregon Museum of Mental Health, please visit: http://oshmuseum.org/