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The Nebraska Writing Project hosted its annual Spring Gathering in the Student Union on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. This year, NeWP had something special to celebrate–thirty years of continual service to the Cornhusker State. The event was organized by NeWP Advisory Board members Beverly Hoistad, Jane Connealy, Anne Walden, and Susan Martens-Baker with help from many of the Writing Project leaders including NeWP Director Robert Brooke and Secretary Rhonda Schoenmaker.

Susan Martens-Baker
Susan Martens-Baker, co-director. Photo credit: Kate Brooke

This all-day affair began at 2 p.m. with a keynote address by Co-Director Martens-Baker. After a welcome speech and a Faculty Leadership for Writing Initiative award presented by Shari Stenberg, Professor of English at UNL, forty participants attended one of three workshop activities. These included a mini marathon with Jen Stastny, Omaha Central High, on place-conscious teaching session, Sharon Bishop heartland community NING presentation the technology board and poster sessions several members NeWP teacher consultants center. A second session was held at 3:45, which it included a second Mini Writing Marathon facilitated by Chris Lund of LaVista Junior High. In addition, the Technology Committee hosted a session on Blogging. Jeff Grinvalds (Westside High) and Dan Boster (Ralston High) held a round table discussion Teaching and Social Justice while Beverly Hoistad of Pyrtle Elementary, Lincoln, was in charge of a Book Talk and Swap.

Cyndi Dwyer
Cyndi Dwyer. Photo credit: Jeff Grinvalds

Cyndi Dwyer of Lincoln Southwest High then hosted an overview of the site’s technology arsenal including the new Ning social networking site, the NeWPForums (, Blogs, and a number ofother goodies. She was assisted by other members of the technology committee. After the presentation, NeWP members were invited to sign up for the Ning.
After the afternoon sessions came to a close, forty-five members of the Nebraska Writing Project spanning all thirty years of the life of the NeWP met in the banquet hall for a dinner. Entertainment was provided by members of writing groups from various locations across the state including Carol Mertl of Wahoo, Linda Hayekof Omaha, Lisa Fricke of Lexington,and Beverly Hoistad of Lincoln.

David and Yolie Martin
David and Yolie Martin. Photo credit: Jeff Grinvalds

Among the attendees were David Martin, editor of the Fine Lines journal and retired Omaha Central High teacher, and his wife Yolie Martin of Millard’s Andersen Middle School. They met during the very first Nebraska Writing Project Summer Institute in 1978. “It was the writing project that brought us together,” said Martin.

The evening was rounded out by an awards ceremony emceed by Dr. Robert Brooke. Chris Gallagher was presented with a Certificate of Special Recognition for his services to the state of Nebraska and the Nebraska Writing Project. He will be leaving UNL for Boston next year. The Administrator Certificate of Recognition was earned by Robert Slauson of Lincoln Southwest High School for his support of Cyndi Dwyer and the summer NeWP Technology Institutes. This year’s Carol McDaniel’s “Teacher of the Year” award was given to Deb Coyle. Her service to Lincoln Public Schools and especially her writing students was outlined in a heartwarming speech by Dr. Brooke including quotes from her former students.

Dr. Brooke said that the night was a smashing success and noted that this year’s event earned about 300% more contact hours than previous Spring Gatherings. In addition he said, “I personally had a great time. You all throw a wonderful conference.”

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