Writer’s workshop offered for teachers

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Local teachers will get a chance to hone their writing skills this summer.

In conjunction with the Saginaw Bay Writing Project and the College of Education, the Vada B. Dow Writer’s Workshop for Area Teachers will take place from July 23 to July 27 at the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio in Midland.

The Alden and Vada Dow Creativity Foundation started the workshop as a way to support area teachers and as a way to recognize Vada Dow, herself a teacher, and the time she has spent working with children.

The Writer’s Workshop is a week-long event where 30 local K-12 teachers will work with two nationally known writers, John Mauk and Anne-Marie Oomen, who will lead the fiction and memoir-writing workshops, respectively.

“What we do is we immerse ourselves in the workshop process that we want our students to mimic in the English classroom or the social studies classroom or anywhere we’re asking students to write,” said Allison Jordan, assistant director of the Saginaw Bay Writing Project. “So we want to make sure that all of our participants feel that pressure and that stress and that joy that you get from writing exactly the same way that your students feel it.”

The workshop will be held at the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio and the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library in Midland.

The studio and the foundation will make housing available for students who have to drive long distances and otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate.

“Because the Saginaw Bay Writing Project, a national writing project site, believes that the best writing teachers are writers themselves, the workshop encourages teachers to write fiction and memoir pieces they craft, revise, and share at the end of the workshop, practicing the very skills they hope to teach their students,” said Helen Raica-Klotz, the director of the Saginaw Bay Writing Project and the SVSU Writing Center. “We hope this experience reminds them of the joy, and challenges, of writing.”

The first workshop took place in the summer of 2016. Like the current workshop, it was held at the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio.

One difference from last time is that this year, there will be a full scholarship offered to one College of Education (COE) student to participate in the workshop free of charge.

“This is a great opportunity for any COE student, regardless of their major, to learn more about the art of teaching writing and network with other area teachers,” Raica-Klotz said.

Craig Douglas, the College of Education Dean, echoed that sentiment and encouraged students to apply.

“Now is a terrific time to become a teacher,” Douglas said. “There has never been such a critical need for candidates during my four-decade career.”

The workshop sponsors the Michigan Authors’ Series, which, in addition to Mauk and Oomen, will feature authors such as Zilka Joseph and Linda Nemec Foster reading their work and talking about their craft on Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the Saints and Sinners Lounge located at the Midland Center for the Arts.

The readings are open to the public and free of charge.

As part of the Writer’s Workshop, there will also be a guest speaker.

Colleen Cruz, a writing educator and the author of “The Unstoppable Writing Teacher,” will be leading a workshop for the teachers on Monday morning. Cruz will give a free talk for all area educators and parents on ways to support the writing abilities of their students and children on Monday night.

Jordan emphasized the importance of being able to foster better communication among one another and with one’s students.

“We need to learn to find a way to write our stories in a clear way so that we can share our stories with others even if they disagree with the things that we say or believe,” Jordan said. “The fact that we have the ability to sit and listen to each other and speak in a civilized manner to people is so important and writing helps you do that.”

Jordan also hopes the workshop will provide a rewarding experience for the teachers, one that they can take into the classroom with them.

“If you’re not learning yourself how to be vulnerable in your writing and how to be brave in your writing and to share that with others,” Jordan said, “then how in the world do you expect any child in your classroom to trust you with their writing?”

The deadline for the application is April 30.

More information can be found at the Saginaw Bay Writing Project’s website: svsu.edu/sbwp/vadabdowworkshop.

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