Nineteen teachers from southwest Virginia who teach kindergarten through college levels received fellowships to attend the Blue Ridge Writing Project (BRWP) at Virginia Tech.

The intensive four-week summer institute runs through July 17 and is co-directed by Aileen Murphy and Kelly Belanger, faculty members in the Department of English.

The BRWP consists of writing groups, reading groups, and teacher demonstrations. “The purpose [of the demonstrations] is to share best practices with one another,” said Murphy, “as well as to present areas in our teaching in which we would like feedback for improvement. The teachers end up leaving the summer institute with dozens of new ways to incorporate into their own classrooms in the fall, and they become very excited about being writers themselves, which ‘infects’ their students -- that love of writing.”

Retired sixth grade teacher from Blacksburg Middle School and longtime participant Nyanne Hicks, also helps facilitate the Blue Ridge sessions. She says of her experience with the writing project: “Those weeks turned theory into practice for me. I no longer ‘taught’ writing to my children; I wrote with them. We built a writing community of which I was a member. I continue to value the writing process as it is shared in a community of authors.”

Part of the National Writing Project (NWP), the Blue Ridge sessions are packed with information and first-hand practice with writing strategies and digital tools. Teachers then have the ongoing advantage of support from their local writing project site and from the NWP national network. Returning to school in the fall, these teachers will bring new insights and skills to their students, and to their colleagues, so that students in many classrooms benefit.

Students themselves believe good writing is essential for success, and they believe that more writing instruction would be to their benefit, according to “Writing, Technology and Teens,” a 2008 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The digital generation may write more than any other when it comes to e-mail, instant messaging, and social networking. But it is up to teachers to help students build on their interest in communication by showing them how to write for academic and workplace purposes.

Written by Lindsey Love, of Stafford, Va., a 2009 graduate who received a degree in communication from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

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