Transcript of presentation speech by Robert Brooke, NeWP Director
I am pleased to present the 2012 Nebraska Writing Project Carol MacDaniels Teacher of the Year Award to Anne Walden.
Anne Walden teaches writing in the context of her work as Gifted Facilitator at Rousseau and McPhee Elementary Schools here in Lincoln, the city where she’s taught for over two decades. For over half that time, Anne has been a major contributor to the Nebraska Writing Project. She’s served as Co-Director and on the Advisory Board. She has facilitated almost all our institutes—a Summer Institute and Embedded Institute at Papillion-La Vista, the Humanities and Literature Institutes, and our occasional Leadership Institute. Her real passion, though, is sponsoring teachers’ growth through their own writing—something she currently accomplishes through the Lincoln Writing Group which meets every two weeks almost all year long, and through the Fall Writing Retreats at Platte River State Park which she’s co-facilitated with Jeff Grinvalds for the last two years. Anne Walden helps us all grow the contexts that keep us writing.
As a teacher, Anne’s gifts are in motivating and inspiring young writers. She has a knack for inviting young writers into the sheer pleasure of writing, as one of her 4th grade students explains:
This year we did a project where we each took part of a story and wrote, and then the next person continued the story where we left off…it was awesome. We all got really creative ideas from Mrs. Walden.
The “awesome” writing her students experience comes, of course, from Anne’s careful work creating the contexts that grow writers. Her principal notes the “many hours building and sustaining” non-traditional writing opportunities that Anne volunteers. She writes:
Anne has given of her own time to offer after school clubs for our youngest students. Anne does it all!
This extra volunteer time to set up moments for learning didn’t go unnoticed by another of her nominators, who has a unique insight into the extra time Anne donates:
I’m truly honored that my mom has been nominated for this award. Growing up I watched my mom spend countless evenings and weekends at school and at home creating lesson plans, decorating her classroom, grading papers, and designing projects for her students. For her, teaching is not just a career choice, it’s a lifestyle!
Of course, Anne’s generosity in supporting writers doesn’t only support elementary writers—those of us in the Nebraska Writing Project also know how much she supports us. One of her nominators notes “Anne generously hosts out-state teachers in her home so that can attend the Summer Institute”—and many of you here today can imagine that generosity, since you know how self-absorbed any writer gets after four solid weeks of daily writing! Those here today with long institutional memories will also recall Anne’s hard work during our Spencer-funded After School Writing Circle project, and our two years of Leadership Institutes at the Aurora Center. In these projects, Anne helped us create study groups that kept us writing, kept us writing with our students, and kept us excited about both. During her term as Co-Director from 2007-2011, Anne drew on these structure-building skills to develop two additional projects for us: 1) a grant-funded Teaching in the Content Areas program, linking Nebraska Writing Project teachers with colleagues who write in other school subjects, and 2) our teacher writing groups across the state, for which Anne served as state coordinator.
I’d like to say a bit more about those teacher writing groups, because I think that’s the context in which Anne Walden shines the most. Sit at a table with Anne and share writing, and you’ll see what I mean. One of her nominators this year, a member of the Lincoln Writing Group Anne sponsors, explains Anne’s real gift of connecting with others through writing:
Anne sees the potential in everyone she encounters and makes us all, student or friend, feel valued. Her personal writing about her family, her professional writing about education, compel all of us to take better stock of our own families and the profession we share.
I want to close by reading a short piece of Anne’s own writing, from the 2005 Institute Anthology “I Know What You Wrote Last Summer.” For that anthology, Anne and her group wrote a collaborative recipe introducing their work as a group. I think you’ll hear in their words Anne’s beliefs about writing and sharing and the comradeship of teachers.
How to Be Our Group, Worried Women Writers
- Start with a healthy dose of life experience
- Add a new piece of writing each day
- Blend in personal history
- Stir in brothers, sisters, friends, mothers, and fathers (Optional: nuts and husbands, past and present)
- Strain out bitterness
- Sprinkle with a pinch of tears and sorrow
- Flavor with handfuls of laughter
- Fold in equal parts feedback, revision, creativity and determination
- Watch clock carefully while baking
- Frost with balloons, puppies and good books.
Please join me in recognizing Anne Walden as the Nebraska Writing Project Carol MacDaniels Teacher of the Year.
Robert Brooke, 4 May 2012