Robert holding a clay gnome

After 35 Years with the Nebraska Writing Project

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Over 35 Years In Nebraska Writing Project

I came to Nebraska Writing Project in 1984, as a new professor fresh from a doctoral program focused on cross-disciplinary writing at the college level.  Les Whipp, the current NeWP director, invited me to sit in for a day, since “the Writing Project is our main educational outreach program and you’ll connect.”  He was right.  That first day, a writer presented “the minutes” from the day before, spoofing the events as a restaurant review; an ELL teacher taught us all a writing lesson purposefully IN SPANISH so we’d all experience the challenge of bilingual learning; and we shared writing, a poem/an essay/a film review in the group I attended. I felt curiously at home, and knew I had to be back.  The next summer, I was: for the full experience, five weeks of daily writing and best teaching practices, all across the grade levels.  The Nebraska Writing Project Summer Institute cemented for me that:

  • we writing teachers are engaged in a common practice, elementary through college;
  • that writing is a means of discovery and change, for person and community; and
  • that we can move to collective community action from a shared professional center.

I have stayed in the Nebraska Writing Project for over 35 years now.  In that time, NeWP has expanded. I value my memory of driving out to Henderson, NE, for our first rural institute, spending an afternoon in the cemetery writing eulogies for those two infants buried together in 1888.  I value the many Writing Marathons at the Platte River Writing Retreats, and my always-aborted attempt to write from the top of the Lincoln Journal Star observation tower. I value partnering with Cara Morgenson’s ELL class, taking her high school students and my college juniors together to Homestead National Monument to see what immigration to the Great Plains was like then, and to contrast it to now.  My head—and heart—are filled with such memories.  What I glimpsed that first summer of 1984 – about the common practice and collective action of passionate teachers – has proved true:

  • Working together, in a spirit of inquiry, dialogue, and personal efficacy, empassioned teachers really do transform their schools, their communities, their state.
  • In decades when some national pundits have belittled education and sought to build “teacher proof” instruction that supposedly anyone can teach, the National/Nebraska Writing Project has been a consistent voice of sanity.
  • Good teachers are the experts and lead education toward great outcomes.
  • Informed teachers working together really are the “last, best hope” for American schools.

NeWP circa 1984

  • Summer Institute
  • Level II Institute

NeWP circa 2021

  • Young Writers Camps
  • Embedded Institutes
  • Writing Retreats
  • Place-Based education
  • Nebraska Warrior Writers
  • 20+ member Advisory Board
  • National Parks Partnerships
  • MA in English, Concentration in Teaching
  • Husker Writers Partnerships
  • And more!

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