Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Write in the Middle
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Write in the Middle
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About the Contributors

Advisory Council

Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens, the lead content advisor for Write in the Middle, teaches English and ESL at San Bernadino High School in San Bernadino, California, east of Los Angeles. Among Bobbi's students are Spanish, Hmong, Vietnamese, and Arabic speakers. Bobbi and her classroom were featured in the Annenberg series Conversations in Literature.

In addition to her full-time work as a teacher, Bobbi serves as chair of the NCTE's committee on racism and bias and edits the column "English in the News" for The English Journal. She also is a part-time lecturer in the Department of Language, Literacy, and Culture at California State University, San Bernardino.

Charles Whitaker, Ph.D., the lead field content advisor for Write in the Middle and a contributing writer for the Web site, is professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky where he has taught for 28 years and has been recognized as an EKU Foundation Professor. He has taught writing for more than 30 years, along with graduate courses in composition studies, and has published articles and a textbook on writing. He administered the writing program in his department for ten years; and for the past 17 years he directed two National Writing Project sites—EKU and the Mountain Writing Project, conducted in collaboration with Hazard Community College. Dr. Whitaker has served on the Kentucky Writing Advisory Committee for more than ten years and has worked closely with the Kentucky Department of Education to develop the state’s Program of Studies in English/Language Arts, materials used in statewide assessment of writing and statewide professional development in writing instruction. In addition, he consults with school districts and schools throughout Kentucky to improve instruction and test scores in writing. Dr. Whitaker also has served on the faculty at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.

Barbara Flores, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Language, Literacy, and Culture in the College of Education at California State University, San Bernadino. During her tenure at Cal State, she has collaborated with teachers and administrators in action research on literacy among culturally and linguistically diverse children. Barbara coauthored Reading in a Bilingual Classroom: Literacy and Biliteracy with Drs. Ken and Yetta Goodman and Whole Language: What's the Difference? with Carole Edelsky and Bess Altwerger. Both books were published by Heinemann. She also has written a number of articles and chapters for journals and books.

Dewey Hensley works for Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, in their principal internship program. Part of Dewey's time is spent traveling the district working with assessment-year elementary school teachers helping them in their reading, writing, and math instruction. Prior to this position, Dewey served as a Highly Skilled Educator for the Kentucky Department of Education, selected on the basis of his teaching excellence and leadership ability. During his two-year tenure as an HSE, Dewey was assigned to several struggling Kentucky schools, where he provided on-site training and support and helped the administration and faculty develop school-wide plans for improving student performance.

Before becoming an HSE, Dewey taught English at South Oldham High School in Crestwood, Kentucky. He also has taught at Eminence High School in Eminence, Kentucky, and at Fairdale High in Louisville. Dewey's professional activities include serving as associate director of the Louisville Writing Project, conducting training sessions for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, and serving as a leader for portfolio analysis and as on-demand writing test writer for the Kentucky Department of Education. A National Board-certified teacher, Dewey has a B.A. in English and philosophy from Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, and a master's in English from the University of Louisville.

Linda Rief teaches eighth-grade language arts at Oyster River Middle School in Durham, New Hampshire. She also is an instructor in the Summer Reading and Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire and has taught graduate courses for Northeastern University and Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Linda's publications include Seeking Diversity: Language Arts With Adolescents (1992) and a 1999 book and companion CD, Vision and Voice: Extending the Literacy Spectrum. In addition she coedited All That Matters: What Is It We Value in School and Beyond? (1995) and Workshop 6: The Teacher as Writer (1994) with Maureen Barbieri. All four books were published by Heinemann. Linda also has written several chapters and articles for professional books and journals.

Linda's teaching was the subject of Conferences and Conversations: Listening to the Literate Classroom (2000) by Douglas Kaufman, also published by Heinemann. In this book, Kaufman chronicles a year in Linda's classroom as she fosters relationships with and among her students; establishes classroom organization and routines; and uses conversations and conferences to improve her students' writing, reading, and thinking.

Tom Romano, Ph.D., teaches writing and language arts methods in the Department of Teacher Education at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the author of Clearing the Way: Working With Teenage Writers (Heinemann, 1987); Writing With Passion: Life Stories, Multiple Genres (Boynton/Cook, 1995); and Blending Genre, Altering Style: Writing Multigenre Papers (Boynton/Cook, 2000).

Tom taught high school English for 17 years and has been a faculty member at Miami since 1995. Tom is in demand nationwide as a consultant because of his unique combination of scholarly expertise, his specialized knowledge in teaching multigenre writing, and his experience in high school classrooms, writing workshops, and in teacher development.

Tom’s undergraduate and master’s degrees are from Miami, and his doctorate is from the University of New Hampshire.

Frank X Walker is the director of Kentucky's Governor's School for the Arts, which provides hands-on arts opportunities for the state's talented high school students in dance, musical theatre, drama, vocal and instrumental music and creative writing in addition to visual art, architecture, and historic preservation. Frank also serves on the board of directors for the Kentucky Writers Coalition and the Louisville Arts Council.

A photographer, muralist, and writer, Frank is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a group of African American writers with roots in the rural South. In 2000, he published his first collection of poetry, Affrilachia. He also was featured in Coal Black Voices, a 2001 documentary on the Affrilachian Poets produced with support from the Kentucky Educational Television Fund for Independent Production.

Frank was born in Danville, Kentucky, a small town south of Lexington, and graduated from the University of Kentucky, where he majored in English. He presently is working on an M.F.A. at Spalding College in Louisville. In addition to his work with the School for the Arts, Frank has served as the assistant director of the Black Cultural Center at Purdue University, as the program coordinator for the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center at the University of Kentucky, and as the executive director of the Bluegrass Black Arts Consortium, an organization he founded. He also has five years of experience teaching creative writing.


The Teachers

Teachers featured in Write in the Middle
Teachers featured in Write in the Middle include (L-R) Jenny Beasley, Mary Cathryn Ricker, Vivian Johnson, Velvet McReynolds, Jack Wilde, Damond Moodie, Allen Teng, Laurie Swistak, and Gloria Hamilton.


Jenny Beasley has taught language arts at Meece Middle School in Somerset, Kentucky, for the past nine years. She is presently teaching sixth-graders. Jenny earned a B.A. in public relations/journalism from Auburn University in Alabama and then returned to Auburn several years later to complete her M.E. in elementary education.

Jenny is very active professionally. At Meece Middle, she has served as language arts chair and Writing Cluster Leader. She also has been part of the School Portfolio Assessment Team and was the chair for Meece's school-wide review, conducted in 1998-99 by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. After completing the Eastern Kentucky Writing Project's Summer Institute in 1995, she spent three years serving as the EKU Writing Project co-director. The recipient of several teaching awards, Jenny has conducted professional development workshops on writing instruction at the state and national level.

For the past 23 years, Gloria Hamilton has taught in the Inglewood Unified School District in Inglewood, California, an urban community near Los Angeles. Currently she teaches eighth-grade language arts at Crozier Middle School and serves as a district-wide literacy coach. Her other accomplishments include designing and implementing a writing and testing program for technical students at the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Southern California, and West Los Angeles College. She also developed and piloted a student mentor program in partnership with the Inglewood Public Library. Gloria graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree from Indiana University. She completed an advanced study in reading from Northern University in DeKalb, Illinois.

Vivian Johnson has been teaching language arts at T.A. Dugger Junior High School in Elizabethton, Tennessee, for seven years—the last five years enjoying eighth-graders. She holds an E.Ed. in curriculum and instruction and an M.S.T. in English from the University of New Hampshire, and she became National Board certified in 1999.

Vivian's special interests as a teacher of literacy center on the workings of a writing process classroom, and she frequently presents writing and reading workshops for school districts in her region. She has published articles in Tennessee Reading Teacher and In the Middle. Her most treasured accomplishments, however, are students who leave for high school with a strong sense of who they are as readers and writers, on their way to being lifelong learners.

Velvet McReynolds has been teaching for 30 years. Following graduation from UCLA, Velvet spent 20 years teaching middle school language arts in Los Angeles County's Lennox School District. While in California, Velvet served as a peer coach and mentor, specializing in portfolio assessment, and as president of the Lennox Teachers Association. She was named Teacher of the Year for the Lennox School District in 1989. Velvet earned her master's degree in curriculum development at California State University at Dominguez Hills. Since the early 1990s, she has taught in Hoover, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham. She continues to serve in a mentorship role and facilitates workshops on portfolio assessment, multi-culture in language arts, and authentic writing. She earned National Board certification in 1997.

Damond Moodie is in his sixth year of teaching at Roosevelt Middle School in the Oakland, California, school district. He has taught seventh-grade English and history for more than four years. Damond has served on the Leadership Team and as chair of the Social Studies Department. He coaches the seventh-grade boys' basketball team and works in Roosevelt's homework center as well. He has a B.A. in English from the College of Wooster in Ohio.

Since 2000, Mary Cathryn Ricker has taught seventh-grade language arts at Cleveland Quality Middle School in St. Paul, Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and her master's in teacher leadership with a certification in staff development at the University of Minnesota. She began her career at South Junior High in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and she also has taught at North Junior High and Tech High School in St. Cloud. Additional experience includes three years teaching seventh-grade language arts in Camas, Washington, and a year teaching English in Seoul, Korea. Mary Cathryn coordinates the Promising Young Writers Program for the Minnesota Council of Teachers of English and serves on the board of the Minnesota Writing Project. She is a member of the Minnesota Best Practice Writing Workshop, the Loft Literary Center, and the St. Paul Federation of Teachers Executive Board and COPE committee. She co-chairs the Education Action Committee at Progressive Minnesota.

Laurie Swistak received a B.S. in education magna cum laude in 1989 after 20 years as a stay-at-home mom. In 1991, she left her first teaching position at a small Catholic school to begin working at Cranston-Calvert Elementary School in Newport, Rhode Island. In addition to teaching general fifth-grade social studies and math, she teaches language arts to gifted and talented students who come to Cranston-Calvert from schools throughout the district.

Laurie presented on the multigenre approach to writing instruction featured in Workshop 5. In addition, she is active in her local teachers' association and serves on the curriculum and literacy committees. She also serves on the Cranston-Calvert School Improvement Team and attends the Rhode Island Institute for Learning.

Allen Teng is in his third year of teaching seventh-grade language arts at Rogers Middle School in Lawndale, California. He received his master's degree in education and credential from UCLA in 2000 after finishing his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley with a mass communications major and creative writing minor. Before teaching, he worked on race and education policy in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento.

Jack Wilde has taught for more than 34 years. He presently teaches the fifth grade at the Bernice A. Ray School in the small town of Hanover, New Hampshire, where Dartmouth College is located. Jack and another fifth-grade teacher share the responsibilities for teaching two groups of approximately 20 students. Jack teaches language arts to his own homeroom and math to both classes while his partner is in charge of science instruction. Jack has two master's degrees, an M.A.L.S. from Dartmouth College with a concentration in math and science, and an M.Ed. from the University of Toronto in language arts. He has been a workshop presenter and instructor of writing at various sites including the University of New Hampshire.


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