NeWP Profile-Jeff Grinvalds
Westside High School, Omaha
Metropolitan Community College, Omaha
- Nebraska Writing Project Difference:
- A Difference in Professional Experience and Contributions:
- The Nebraska Writing Project Is Different:
- The Nebraska Writing Project Professional Difference:
- Making a Real Difference for Students:
- The Nebraska Writing Project Makes a Difference in the Numbers:
- The Nebraska Writing Project Is The Difference:
Nebraska Writing Project Difference:
- Participated in Summer Institutes beginning in 2002
- Member of the Advisory Board
- Co-Technology Liaison and Member of the Leadership Team
- Member and contributor to an Omaha Nebraska writing Project-based writing group.
A Difference in Professional Experience and Contributions:
- 12 Years of High School Teaching Experience
- Special Editor and Web Master for Fine Lines (a literary journal produced and published by a past Nebraska Writing Project participant)
The Nebraska Writing Project Is Different:
- For Jeff, his first summer institute “was a lot more than just a summer course,” as he saw “what good teaching was and what good teaching looked like” from other experienced teachers, whose ideas he could bring into his classroom.
- The Nebraska Writing Project collects talented and experienced teachers—creating an enduring network of professionals whom participants can continue to learn from and with—and, according to Jeff, “there’s just nothing else like that.”
- Because the Writing Project is immersive, says Jeff, teachers are able to “internalize” the teaching practices and enact the same research-proven teaching techniques in their own classrooms in the school years to come.
The Nebraska Writing Project Professional Difference:
- The Writing Project provided Jeff with concrete lessons and practices which he could take directly into his courses.
- The opportunity to learn from and teach something to experienced professionals across a range of grade levels, says Jeff, creates for participants and “internal paradigm shift that changes your outlook on education.”
- Without the Writing Project exposing him to graduate work from the “inside,” says Jeff, he may have never pursued his master’s degree. And unlike other graduate programs in which participants may “just want the hours, I wanted to learn and become part of the conversation after seeing glimpses of it in the work we did in the Nebraska Writing Project.”
Making a Real Difference for Students:
- As a writer himself, Jeff sees himself as possessing an intimate understanding of the subject he teaches and thus can better identify with student writers and is “better equipped to help students achieve better writing themselves.” Teachers who are not writers themselves, he suggests, many not fully appreciate the work they are asking students to do through the prompts and writing activities they provide.
- Through his Nebraska Writing Project involvement Jeff was introduced to the online writer’s forum (which he is now webmaster of) and now actively and consistently engage all of his students in the class conversation as they post to the forum.
- While teaching at Ashland-Greenwood and immediately after completing his first summer institute, Jeff saw the true power of writing and Writing Project instructional methods in his classroom, as a an at-risk Junior from Lincoln was able to work through significant troubles from his past, though his writing, and begin to “start a new life.”
- Based on the increased writing—in both variety of genres and quantity—which Jeff asks of his students and the greater awareness he feels he pays to the kinds of writing tasks he asks of students, his students are able not only to become better writers, but produce material which they find meaningful in their own lives.
The Nebraska Writing Project Makes a Difference in the Numbers:
Jeff, after participating in the Nebraska Writing Project and using the strategies he learned in his Junior-level composition course at Ashland-Greenwood High School, saw the scores of the school’s students on the state writing assessment improve by over %20 from the previous year.
- In 2004, the average of 87.4% of the state’s students passed the Nebraska State standardized writing assessment, while and astounding 96.5% of Ashland-Greenwood students passed.
- By 2005 100% of Jeff’s students earned passing scores on the assessment, compared to only 89.5% of students across the state.
- The year Jeff moved from Ashland-Greenwood to teach in Omaha, leaving the Junior Composition course to be taught by a non-Nebraska Writing Project Teacher, student scores dropped to 93.8%, only 1.5% above the state average.
The Nebraska Writing Project Is The Difference:
- After participating in the Nebraska Writing Project, Jeff saw his students, his school, and his professional relationships in whole new ways, finding opportunities to improve “not just [his] classroom, but the entire school environment through collaboration and facilitation rather than teaching.”
- Involvement in the Writing Project, according to Jeff, has allowed him has cemented his belief in the critical value of writing education in order to help students to both meet state standards and produce personally meaningful texts. Such writing encourages students to move beyond the standard pattern and formulaic writing allowing them to “show people what they’re capable of accomplishing and letting their ideas come out in a way that is useful for other people to read.”
- Finally, The Nebraska Writing Project “gets teachers together for the sake of becoming better teachers, and not just to get credits, and not just to take classes because they have to; but instead encourages teachers to actually figure out what they can do to be a better teacher and the more people that participate in such a model, the better off we would be in the field of education.”