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College to host Schools of the Future Conference

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (April 20, 2009) - This year's Schools of the Future Conference at SUNY Plattsburgh aims to educate teachers and parents about the importance of effective writing instruction and how change can be made to the schools of the future. This two-part education forum will be led by Linda Christensen, an activist and international expert on teaching the writing process. Both sessions will be held on April 30 in the Warren Ballrooms of Angell College Center.

Linda Christensen

The first part, "Their Stories: Bringing Students' Lives into the Classroom Through Writing," will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. It is an interactive writing workshop, free and open to area teachers and college instructors. Christensen will engage participants in writing activities that invite students to bring their lives into the classroom. She will also discuss how teachers can use such strategies to meet curriculum standards. 

The second discussion, "Integrating Home, Community and School: Parents, Teachers, Students and the Community Working Together to Bring Change to Schools of the Future," will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Open to the community, this interactive event will engage parents, schools and community members in conversations about how, together, they can create the schools they desire for children.

Christensen is the director of the Oregon Writing Project, now part of the National Writing Project, located in the Graduate School of Education at Lewis & Clark College.

"Linda is a visionary about what teachers can be doing to involve their students and improve their writing. So, to say that we are excited for her to be here is an understatement," said Jean Mockry '75 G'78 CAS'87, a lecturer in the college's education program.

The National Writing Project is a network of professional development sites, usually located on university or college campuses. The sites serve writing teachers at all grade levels and in all subjects. They are designed to advance student achievement by improving the teaching of writing.

There are two important elements to the philosophy of the National Writing Project: The first is "Teachers Teaching Teachers" or the theory that the best people to instruct teachers in the art of teaching are teachers themselves, according to Assistant Professor of English Alex Mueller. The second is "Teachers as Writers" or the idea that the best teachers of writing are writers themselves.

Currently, there are no National Writing Project sites in the North Country. As a result, there is a lot of interest in getting a site here, according to Mueller.

"If we were able to get a site here it would not only benefit the culture of writing-across-the-curriculum on campus, but it would also create long-standing partnerships with area schools and teachers of writing," said Mueller.

As a result, several faculty members on campus have been working to bring the National Writing Project to SUNY Plattsburgh. They carry hope that, eventually, when some of the budget concerns ease, this will happen. 

"Everything is life-long in regards to how we can become better instructors. We have to realize that all students can't be served in the same way," Mockry said. "The work of the National Writing Project brings authenticity to writing. It's the humanity of the work that intrigues me; this is not a contrived learning experience."

In addition to her work with the National Writing Project, Christensen has authored several books, including "Reading, Writing and Rising Up: Teaching about Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word." She also co-edited "Rethinking School Reform: Views from the Classroom and Rethinking our Classrooms." A member of the Rethinking Schools editorial board, she has received the Fred Heschinger Award for use of research in teaching and writing from the National Writing Project and the U.S. West Outstanding Teacher of Western United States for "Reaching Beyond Classroom Walls."

For more information, contact Jean Mockry at 518-564-5137 or [email protected].

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