UC Merced’s Writing Project(UCMWP) has been teaching teachers
throughout the county since 2000, long before the campus opened to
students or faculty.
“If UC Merced’s goal was to increase the college-going culture
of the San Joaquin Valley, we knew we had to give teachers a way to
study the latest research and effective classroom practices,”
Director Pauline Sahakian said.
This summer, teachers from Atwater, Merced, Los Banos and Winton
are participating in an intensive four-week institute at UC Merced.
The teachers, from kindergarten through college, must be invited to
attend and are interviewed to ensure they are committed to
improving their teaching methods and helping their peers do the same.
“Experience level isn’t the only factor considered,” Sahakian
said. “We look for teachers who have something to contribute beyond
years in the classroom.”
Participants work together to hone their teaching skills and
also to share best practices. They have weekly writing assignments
that undergo peer response and discuss books. The idea is that they
will take these learning experiences and incorporate them in their
classes in the fall to increase the writing performance of their
students and improve their general educational experience.
“These are busy professionals dedicated to improving their own
writing skills, as well as their teaching practices,” Sahakian
said. “Our program gives them the opportunity to improve themselves
as teachers and then to pay it forward.”
Upon completion of the institute, fellows become Teacher
Consultants and serve as Teacher Leaders for the Project throughout
the academic year and in future workshops, such as the Saturday
The UC Merced Writing Project is funded by the California
Writing Project and the National Writing Project, which is
celebrating its 35th year of existence. Merced’s Project recently
received its ninth year of funding in the form of grants from the
state and National Writing Project.
“Having the state fund us for another year is a huge vote of
confidence,” Sahakian said. “It shows that legislators believe the
work we do here is valuable.”