Carol MacDaniels Award

In Honor of Carol MacDaniels

The Nebraska Writing Project inaugurates

The Carol MacDaniels Teacher of the Year Award

March 2000

The Nebraska Writing Project is pleased to announce the inauguration of an annual Teacher of the Year Award, named for a long-time teacher leader in the NeWP network, Carol MacDaniels.

NeWP will be entering its 25th year in 2001, celebrating a quarter century of Summer Institutes, of past director Les Whipp put it, in those years the Nebraska Writing project has grown up. From our humble beginnings as an experimental summer program for two dozen teachers sweating in the basement of Andrews Hall, we've developed into a teacher network nearing 1500 strong. We offer three to five institutes a year, coordinate with schools and school districts, sponsor a variety of after school and community programs, and are recognized as a leader in the National Rural Sites Network.

As we complete our first quarter century, the Nebraska Writing Project is initiating an annual award to recognize the work of a Nebraska teacher who exemplifies the principles for which NeWP stands. Through a teacher-monitored nomination process, NeWP will select each year a Nebraska teacher who has made a significant contribution to writing education in the state. We will honor a teacher who has not only taught writing well, but has inspired other teachers or connected school to community or publicly advocated for teacher expertise. These are the activities that the Nebraska Writing Project values as its purposes and includes in its vision for Nebraska education.

In selecting a model for this Teacher of the Year Award, a teacher-leader who illustrates with her work the principles that NeWP values, we have needed to look no farther than teacher leader Carol MacDaniels. Carol has helped the Nebraska Writing Project for almost 15 years through a variety of ever-shifting positions. She participated in her first Summer Institute in 1987 and Literacy Institute in 1988. She was one of the first teachers appointed as a summer facilitator, serving the Lincoln Institute several times in the early 90's. She became, with Sue Anderson, one of NeWP's first two Associate Coordinators, helping to establish our mini-grant and reading group programs and our Advisory Board. For the past five years, she has served as Rural Coordinator, which has meant developing our important Rural Institute program, leading our nationally-recognized Rural Voices Country Schools team, representing the whole National Writing Project at a variety of conferences, and serving on the executive committee of the National Writing Project's Rural Sites Network. Carol MacDaniels, in short, has helped the Nebraska Writing Project grow up. We are who we are largely because of Carol MacDaniels' guidance.

Carol's vision of education, and of teacher's work, have become key elements of the Nebraska Writing Project stands. She is centered in writing, in community relevance for education, and in educator advocacy.

As a model NeWP teacher, Carol is a writer herself. Since the summer of 1992, she has met every Thursday night in a writing group, sharing her own work and responding to the writing of others. In those eight years, she has written memoir, family history, poetry, Nebraska history, professional articles, letters to the editor, and journals. Much of this writing she shares with her students. Her modeling allows students to write what's most meaningful, to learn the rhythms of regular writing which makes life richer and more intelligible, to try strategies which make the written word more publicly effective. Those who have had the pleasure of sharing writing with Carol know the gentle way she draws meaning from writing.

Carol has also taught us a deep understanding of local place, the necessary connection of Nebraska writing and teaching to Nebraska. A native Nebraskan herself who traveled east and then returned at a crucial moment in her life, Carol understands the celebration and critique of local community, and the way true citizenship can only develop in a people who understand their roots. As Rural Coordinator for the Nebraska Writing Project, she continues to lead our Rural Voices team in imagining ways to match education to community history, geography, biology, and heritage. Her book with Gerry Cox, A Guide to Nebraska Authors, is an important resource for such work. In her work for the Rural Resource Program, she's been described as one of only two or three people in the state who really have their finger on the pulse of both Nebraska teachers and Nebraska communities.

And while she's been busy doing all this, Carol has acted on her belief that educators need to educate the populace as well as their students. She has taught us that educators must be advocates for each other. She has served on the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska and the Nebraska English/Language Arts Council, written letters on education to the Lincoln Journal-Star, participated in conversations with School Board members, and repeatedly argued that good teachers have the skill s and knowledge to make wise decisions about their classrooms.

As Carol MacDaniels has shown us, a successful Nebraska educator can be centered in writing, connected to the community, and publicly active on behalf of other educators. Her work over the past decade has provided us a model we might try to emulate. But even further, her work with Nebraska education is full of such strengths. In the communities in which she's worked, Carol has regularly unearthed the success stories of Nebraska education: the elementary teacher, at first fearful, who discovers the joys of writing and develops a community-school writing club through which to share them; the computer teacher whose high school class develops web pages recording local oral history; the group of educators who decide to work together to actually get something sensible done about assessment.

With this award, the Nebraska Writing Project honors Carol MacDaniels and hopes to honor over the coming years teachers like her. In creating this award, we are in part saying thank you to Carol for helping NeWP grow up, and in part saying thank you, as Carol has guided us to discover, to the best teachers in Nebraska schools and communities and to the excellence and expertise we know is there.

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