Writing Project Helps Merced County Teachers Improve Classroom Skills

MERCED - 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 Outreach Series.

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."

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