Sunday, March 20, 2011

To the Teachers, Thoughts from an NWP Staffer

I have worked for the National Writing Project almost six years now, updating NWP's websites with articles, research, videos, documents, radio broadcasts, and more, all resources created by a wonderful network of dedicated educators, from kindergarten teachers to university professors, covering subjects from language arts to mathematics.

Most of my days are spent in front of a computer, but every once in awhile, I get to escape the cubicle, travel to a conference, and meet the teachers we serve from our offices in Berkeley. I witness the amazing work they do—a mixture of cutting-edge approaches to presenting knowledge, grounded in tried-and-true methods of getting kids to pay attention and wanting to learn.

I can imagine these teachers in the classroom, inspiring students to be active and eager learners, excited to study history and science, motivated to write their thoughts and ideas, and actually allowed to think creatively. Each teacher is just that dynamic and smart. My co-workers and I always comment how lucky the students of Writing Project teachers must feel.

For those reasons and more, the news of Congress and President Obama axing NWP from the federal budget felt like a punch in the gut. I can't speak for other employees of NWP, but the past few weeks especially have been trying. Of course, for selfish reasons, initially we worried about our jobs. But as the bigger picture began to take shape, we started to wonder about the network's future.

Many of us came to work for the National Writing Project for the ideals NWP stands for—because we love education and want to join the fight for teachers. We want kids to be able to learn and become more knowledgeable than the generations before them. Deep in our hearts, we care about the mission of NWP.

My mother was a public school teacher in a city south of Los Angeles for 33 years. I saw firsthand the dedication to children that teachers have.

So it has been an uplifting and even cathartic experience this weekend to read the dozens of blog posts people have contributed to the “Blog for National Writing Project campaign. Many thanks to Chad Sansing for organizing #blog4NWP.

To have 50+ teachers write about what NWP has done for them, and how teachers learn from each other as a professional network, and why students become better learners when their teachers have experienced the Writing Project—to see it collected in one place, in one weekend, is to know the true strength of the network.

Here are a few of my favorite passages:

“A couple of weeks ago, one of my administrators asked one of my students how she has improved so much since last year. My student said it was because of me. We teach for moments like these. We strive to have a positive impact in our students' lives. But how do we achieve this? Well, if that same administrator were to ask me how I was able to make such a difference, my response would be: Because of NWP.” --Janelle Bence

“The NWP and the network of educators that it represents have provided me with the best professional development of my young career. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without the NWP. Each semester, my classes fill quickly, and the successful learning communities that I build in those classes are the result of the work that the NWP does.” --Shane Wilson

“The National Writing Project is much larger, and much more effective, than its title suggests. And in any given year its impact is 100 times, 1,000 times the positive effect on children than all of Arne Duncan's highly funded, political-donor connected initiatives in Race-to-the-Top and I3 grants combined.” --Ira David Socol

I can read these testimonies over and over, and each time I feel a warm buzz. The passion of this network runs deep. Certainly, it will live on, one way or another.

As for staff, I suppose the future is uncertain. But this weekend has been a great reminder for me of what the past six years at NWP have been about. If there was any doubt about purpose or what we helped to accomplish, it's been settled. The teachers are who we work for, some of the best teachers the classroom has ever known.

--Gavin Tachibana, online content manager


  1. Great post Gavin, thank you. I've been trying to find the words from a "staffer's perspective", and I think this helps.

  2. Excellent piece, Gavin. So clear, compelling and moving. Thank you for sharing this. - Sharline