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 Kim Larson

Background:

  • Coordinator of Professional  Development for the Nebraska Department of Education’s  21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, for the past 3 years
  • Instructional Facilitator for secondary instruction for Papillion-LaVista School District, 2008-2010
  • Director of Reading/Writing for the Nebraska Department of Education from 2000-2008
  • Elementary teacher for Lincoln Public Schools from 1988-2000 “The belief statements that are the foundation of the Nebraska Writing Project are the critical understandings that shape and securely hold the fabric of my professional world.
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Professional Accomplishments and Publications: 

  • Awards
    • Recipient of Papillion-LaVista School District’s 2010  "Creating Greatness" Award
    • Received  the National Writing Project’s 2007 Administrator Recognition Award
    • 2002 recipient of the Academic Freedom Award for Nebraska’s PreK-16 Language Arts Curriculum Articulation and Alignment Project.
    • Publications
      • "Threads of Understanding." How Teachers Become Leaders: The Ways They See It. Eds Lieberman, A. & Friedrich, L. D.. New York: Teachers College Press. (2010): 42-45.
      • "Refining Projects: Making The Leap Towards Individual Interests." Composing A Teacher Study Group: Learning About Inquiry in The Classroom. Eds.  Meyer, R., et all. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (1998): 70-97.
      • Leadership in Research and Beyond
        • Served as the Principal Investigator for the 2011 National Aeronoautics and Space Administration Nebraska BLAST!  Summer of Innovation grant
        • Directed the 2010-2012  NASA Summer of Innovation Capacity Building Grant which provides professional development to teachers and afterschool staff in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
        • As part of meeting the Nebraska Department of Education’s goals, Kim led work in developing and implementing  K-12 Literacy Initiatives for  all Nebraska school districts, 17 Educational Service Units, 4 Professional Organizations, and Nebraska Postsecondary Institutions.
        • Led the 2004-2008 Nebraska Reading First Federal Grant Initiative
        • Directed  work related to Nebraska Reading/Writing Standards including revision, clarification, implementation, curriculum alignment, and assessment
        • Co-facilitated Nebraska’s PreK-16 Language Arts Initiative in July of 2003,  including the collaborative creation of Creating Learners: A Shared Responsibility
        • Planned and implemented  the first Learning Community of Writers’ Institute , a project involving 24 educators from 11 Nebraska school districts across the Omaha area
        • Led collaborative efforts by several Nebraska professional organizations--The Nebraska State Reading Association, Nebraska Language Arts Council, Read-Aloud Nebraska, and the Nebraska Writing Project-- to meet the Nebraska Department of Education’s established goals
        • Served as Assessment Coordinator for School at the Center and The Nebraska Writing Project’s Goals 2000 Project
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        Involvement with NeWP

        • Began her involvement with Nebraska Writing Project in 1995,  with her first Summer  Institute, on the recommendation of a professor who was conducting research in her classroom As an elementary teacher at Lincoln’s Evert Elementary School, Kim was drawn to The Writing Project because she felt, "I was interested in knowing more about writing instruction. I felt like I was a pretty good reading teacher, but I didn’t have that same comfort level about teaching writing."
        • Co-Director of the Nebraska Writing Project
        • Served as a Facilitator for three Summer Institutes The Writing Project really transformed the way I taught writing and allowed me to see students as writers.
        • As a Secondary Instructional Facilitator  at Papillion-LaVista, Kim helped to facilitate the embedded institute by having teachers "come together over the course of a semester, learn about writing together, and take teaching ideas back to their classrooms"
        • Helped to facilitate a Learning Community of Writers Institute, in which  people from all of Omaha’s new learning community districts were invited to participate as "a way to share professional development across the learning community."
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        Early Lessons in Teaching and Thinking
        My very first experience in The Writing Project really helped me grow as a leader.

        • Early in her teaching career, Kim says that her "participation in my first summer institute, totally changed the way I taught writing."
        • After that first Summer Institute "We modeled our teaching in the elementary classroom after The Writing Project, with a writing workshop time every day. The kids had free writing time, and could make choices  about what they were writing, we had mini conferences with them, they published,  and they shared."
          • She remembers worrying that, "our first-graders would probably need a lot of support to come up with ideas to write about, but what we learned over a pretty short amount  of time was that they could come in really ready to write."
          • "They’d come in and sit down and start writing right away," she recalls "in fact, we were in trouble if there was ever a day when they didn’t get writing time. They loved writing time."
          • And, in the end, she says, "the kids were doing a lot of writing. Some pretty cool, powerful poems. We had a lot of fun and they spent a lot of time writing."
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        Lessons In and Pathways To Leadership:

        • After beginning her involvement with the Nebraska Writing Project, Kim says, "I began serving in more of a leadership role in the building and in the district. I did a lot of professional development in the district around reading and writing."

          Larson Teaching

          • In the days before a formal assessment system was in place for assessing students as writers, Kim and a colleague "developed a portfolio assessment system for collecting information about students as readers and as writers" and were asked to present for other teachers about their assessment model.
          • Eventually, remembers Kim, "we even developed a course where teachers got district professional development  credit, around the Primary Program, which focused on early childhood development" and they applied for and received a district grant "to implement some early childhood curriculum in our buildings"
          • Kim recalls, "I had so many leadership opportunities because of the WP, in the five years before I applied for the position with the Nebraska Department of Education, I was involved with some projects at UNL that gave me leadership experiences and opportunities.
            • Then, while working  with other Nebraska Writing Project  participants, Kim learned of an open position as Reading and Writing Coordinator at the Nebraska Department of Education and consequently says, "I really hold The Writing Project responsible for getting me in that door, because I probably wouldn’t have even known about that job, otherwise."
            • After finishing her Ph.D., Kim imagines herself potentially "working in the field of teacher education, or mentoring new teachers, or even in a Writing Project somewhere."
          I was intrigued with this idea of teachers being the best teachers of other teachers, but hardly believed it was true. At that time, I was sure that someone outside of my school had all of the answers to my questions about learning,why some children could grasp concepts easily, and others struggled to make sense of the very same ideas. I thought that knowledge could be passed from these experts to me, and then I would understand what they knew already.
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          Passing on and Fostering Lessons in Writing: Kim Larson in front of classroom teaching

          • From her first Summer Institute, Kim says, "I started viewing teaching and learning differently, in that writing was about teaching and learning."
          • "Because of my involvement with the Nebraska Writing Project over many years," reflects Kim, "I now understand that learning anything is a process--that knowledge isn't transmitted from one to another, but is developed within oneself over time through interaction, support, trust, need, interest, and opportunity.
          • Committed to the importance of writing and learning with other educators how best to teach writing, in her early days with the Nebraska Department of Education, Kim developed and led a semester-long distance learning course for teachers from across the state that focused on writing and writing instruction.
          • In her current work at the Nebraska Department of Education and with the STEM program, Kim encourages a wide range of teachers to incorporate writing instruction and foster literacy learning in a variety of ways. She says, "A lot of the project directors and site coordinators in our STEM programs are not certified teachers, so one of my goals is to figure out ways to provide professional development in the area of literacy to the folks in our program, so that they can learn ways to integrate writing into the program. One of my long-term goals is figuring out some ways to help people see that it’s important to get students doing some writing along with those projects."
          Every once in a while I find a way to create a learning opportunity for others that resembles the many I experienced during my years of active involvement with Nebraska Writing Project. These opportunities have connected people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and gave them a chance to learn together through interaction and personal reflection.fancy line

           

          Lessons Learned Together by Fostering Shared Teacher Leadership:

          • Kim’s longtime involvement with The Writing project has taught her "that teachers really are the very best teachers of other teachers" and likewise that, "teachers are most critical to improving student learning or instruction. "
          • "It was because of my experiences in The Writing Project," says Kim, "that I discovered the power of learning with others and longed to recreate similar experiences for other Nebraska teachers." 
          • Kim’s on-going leader ship at the Nebraska Department of Education has reflected this belief that "getting teachers involved is critical, no matter what you’re doing. It’s not somebody else coming and saying ‘this is the best way to do it;’ it’s bringing teachers together to be the experts for each other, and to make decisions about what’s going to happen in their classrooms."
          • Furthermore, she says, "When I began my job as reading and writing director with the Nebraska Department of Education, I knew that teachers are the best people to make the decisions that can positively impact their students' learning--not people far removed from that environment in state and federal institutions. I also knew that change doesn't happen as a result of mandates, but rather through individual self-discovery and collective collaboration."
            • When working, for example, with project directors at the Department of Education, Kim says her work is, "not me standing in front of this group telling them what they need to do. They have lots of expertise, so its figuring out ways to give them opportunities to share with each other."
            • This approach to leadership has provided Kim and her and her "colleagues at the Department  of Education with a chance to learn together through ongoing interaction."
            • In all, she says, "My understanding of the complexity of teaching and learning—which she gained from her work with The Writing Project—would be the thread that would bind my many job responsibilities."
            What I like most about my job with the Nebraska Department of Education is that I have discovered how to connect what I learned through my work with the Nebraska Writing Project and my work as a state curriculum director. I no longer exist between two separate worlds.fancy line

             

            Lessons Learned That Can Now Impact Policy:

            • Kim’s leadership at the Nebraska Department of Education allows her to influence policy, learn with and from people with diverse perspectives, and often guide the direction of an assignment so that it takes on the philosophy that I bring to the table--that it reflects the guiding principles of the Nebraska Writing Project."
            • Her work, she says, has become less of a job and is instead a way she has "found to provide a meaningful learning opportunity for many Nebraska teachers. I was able to recreate a situation for others like many I had experienced as a Nebraska Writing Project participant--where learning impacts change through networking, support, and self-discovery, not because a state or federal mandate requires it.
              • In the work she has done with Nebraska teachers, she says, "Even though there were often many miles that separated us, all of us continued to learn about writing and teaching writing, discussed new concepts, asked and responded to each other's questions, and provided ongoing support for each other as we redefined ourselves as teachers."

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