NeWP Profile-Anne Walden
Gifted Facilitator, Retired,
Lincoln Public Schools, Lincoln, NE
- A Place for Teacher-Research
- Creating A Place for Writing Acress the Disciplines and the Levels
- A Place For Critical Thinkers and Reflective Teachers
- A Place That Creates Confident Professionals
- Creating A "Home Place" for Teachers
- Ann has worked in her current position, as Gifted Facilitator at Rousseau Elementary School in Lincoln, for 16 years
- As Gifted Facilitator, Anne’s work with students and teachers includes “gathering materials for teachers to use with their gifted kids, to help teachers in providing these students with something that is more challenging for them in the classroom.”
Professional Accomplishments and Publications:
- Received Teacher of the Year Award in 2011
- Presented for the past 8 years at the National Gifted Education Conference
- Has earned a Master’s Degree and a 6-year Diploma in Gifted Education
- “Finding A Space for Professional Development: Creating Thirdspace through After School Writing Groups.” Language Arts. 82.5 (2005): 367-77. With Deborah Coyle, Anne Walden, Connie Healey, Kim Larson, Virginia Laughridge, Kim Ridder, Molly Williams, and Shawn Williams.
- Participated in and contributed to the 2002 Spencer Foundation Grant exploring Elementary After School Writing Circles
- Participated and contributed to the 1999-2001 Spencer Foundation Grant addressing Elementary Teacher Study Group for Political Engagement
Nebraska Writing Project Involvement:
- Anne participated in her first Summer Institute in 1996 when she was teaching first and second grade.
- Since then, says Anne, “there’s never been a year that I haven’t been involved with The Writing Project one way or another.”
- She has participated in the Technology, Humanities, Literature, and Rural Institutes and helped to organize a Leadership Institute
- As a Member of the Advisory Board, Anne helps to keep track of the writing groups that continue after the Summer Institutes and helps to organize the Spring Gathering and Fall retreats.
- Served as a past Co-Director
- Facilitated an embedded institute in Papillion -LaVista for three years
- Has presented Nebraska Writing Project workshops and mini-institutes for various school districts
- Between 1999-2002, Anne participated in two teacher-research projects funded by the Spencer Foundation.
- For two years, Anne and eight Nebraska Writing Project teachers studied best practices in elementary writing and collected data from their own Elementary classrooms and after school writing groups.
- In the grant’s final year, they shared their research at regional and national conferences.
- In 2009-2011, Anne and five of her colleagues received a grant from the National Writing Project to conduct teacher research in writing across the content areas.
- The participants grounded themselves “in what teacher-research is,” by studying Marian Mohr’s NWP book on teacher research.
- The six teacher-researcher teams of a Writing Project teacher and a content area teacher met weekly to discuss “teaching writing in their classroom.”
- Together, the teacher-researcher teams explored questions such as, “What happens when you use writing in math? When you teach kids to do questioning before they write? When I use writing in social studies?”
Creating A Place for Writing Across the Disciplines and the Levels
- For Anne, one of the fundamental strengths of the Nebraska Writing Project is the opportunity it gives teachers to “hear other people talk about what’s going on” at other levels and other schools.
- “The Writing Project has given me a different perspective about other teachers, about other people in different school systems, about middle and high school teachers and what they do.”
- “when you participate in the Writing Project, you have the benefit of seeing all those different perspectives from across the grade levels.”
- “You get the opportunity to learn what writing workshop looks like when you’re a first grade teacher or a middle school teacher, or a high school teacher. If you’re teaching literature, what does looking at social justice mean when you’re a third grade teacher versus what does social justice mean when you’re at the middle or high school level?”
- The Nebraska Writing Project has made one of its goals, according to Anne, “recruiting more content area teachers to our Summer Institutes because their voices are really important to hear.”
- Much of Anne’s practitioner research has focused on working with teachers from across the curriculum areas as they consider incorporating writing into their teaching.
- After presenting workshops, as a Nebraska Writing Project teacher, to teachers from across the curricular areas, Anne came to understand writing fluency, as many districts are trying to improve it in student writing, “really has to do with being comfortable writing in a content area.”
- Anne asks teachers to consider, “What the vocabulary is in their domain. What does writing look like when you’re a scientist or when you’re a mathematician? You don’t have to teach students to be ‘writers;’ you teach them the types of writing they use when they work in a field.”
A Place For Critical Thinkers and Reflective Teachers
- As a result of her experiences in the Nebraska Writing Project, Anne feels she has become a more reflective and critically aware educator.
- After her first Summer Institute Anne says she “had a totally new awareness of what we ask children to do in the classroom every day in terms of writing.”
- Because of this experience she became more aware of “the value of choice in terms of choosing writing topics, the amount of time it takes to develop writing, and doing writing every day so that kids learn that writing is a process and not a product.”
- Anne also credits The Writing Project for encouraging and cultivating her critical thinking as a professional and as a life-long learner.
- “I’ve always been a person who asks questions in class and The Writing Project only reinforced that intellectual need,” says Anne. After participating in The Writing Project, “every time you go to a workshop or professional development, you think, ‘who says it has to be that way? Do we get to discuss this?’ And that’s expected in The Writing Project; you’re expected to be involved and to share what you know.”
- “I find a lot of graduate courses in Education or related to education are more project-based rather than teacher-research, or even library research-based,” says Anne. But in The Writing Project, “you are pushed professionally to read different kinds of things and engage in practitioner research.”
- Most importantly, says Anne, The Writing Project encourages teachers to be reflective, professionals, thinkers, and writers.
- Anne argues that “it’s the reflective teachers who are the best teachers and the whole process of writing about your teaching—and feeling comfortable writing at all—helps you be more reflective about your life as a teacher.”
- “I’ve never written so much as I wrote during my first Summer Institute,” says Anne “and I learned I don’t have to write something to publish it, but I have all these things I could write about and that I can capture on paper. I really think, then, that teachers are better teachers if they’re reflective.”
- Anne has noticed that “the people who have gone through The Writing Project and stay with it are willing to take a stand within their own districts. Whether or not they get to be in a formal leadership position, they certainly are in a position where they’re asking questions and asking people to think critically about what we’re having children do. They’re the risk takers within their buildings and they’re willing to ask the tough questions and they expect to be heard when they give you their opinion about things.”
- From Anne’s perspective “Writing Project teachers are very bright, they’re energetic, they’re willing to try things out, and they’re willing to push the limits a little bit.”
- Over the years, Anne says she has noticed a change in herself and others that comes “from the confidence that comes from participating in The Writing Project.”
- “Since I’ve been involved with The Writing Project, I’ve gotten another degree, I’ve gotten all my hours toward an Administrative Certificate, and all of my research hours toward a doctorate in Educational Administration.”
- When she was given the opportunity to work with other Writing Project teachers on the Spencer Grant, she remembers immediately noticing “that I was working with a group of teachers who were highly esteemed in their districts—I knew their names, even though I hadn’t worked with them.”
- Because of her experiences in The Writing Project, Anne now thinks of the best professional development as that, “where teachers are really responsible for sharing their experiences with other teachers.”
- In her administrative role as Gifted Facilitator, Anne no longer thinks of the professional development she leads “in terms of ‘teaching’ and thinks of it instead as ‘facilitation,’ which means I don’t have to be the expert anymore. Someone else is going to know what I don’t know, or we’ll work on it together and figure it out.”
- “When I of what Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)--a means of professional development that has been pushed nationally--should be, I think of The Writing Project,” says Anne. “I think of PLCs as us all having this one area we want to learn about, and so we come together, we each bring our own information about the issue, we sort it out, and we come up with plans.”
- Anne remembers her involvement with her writing group in her first Summer Institute as one of the most powerful experiences she has had in the Writing Project.
- “People will tell you that the most transformative part about a Summer Institute is having your small writing group every day.” She recalls that her first summer, “we called ourselves the Baby Writers because we all just felt like we were starting out. Having to write and having to share with your group is the most terrifying part in the beginning, but it is the part that you want to continue when you leave.”
- Nearly 20 years since that first Summer Institute, Anne says she continues to be deeply involved with the Nebraska Writing Project because “this is the one place in my life where people have the same frustrations with education as I do. I can get together with Writing Project people, though, and when I am with them it’s just like being home.”
- “The People you meet in the Writing Project have a sort of energy about them,” says Anne, “They do a lot because they are committed to it—they’re committed to their teaching and they’re also committed to the Writing Project.”