KSU hosts writing conference

Brittany Moffat

Leon Bibb is best known for his work as a broadcaster on Cleveland newscasts, but his interest in writing is more than professional.

At a writing conference Friday in Moulton Hall ballroom, Bibb described his approach to journalistic writing and read two of his poems, including one written in tribute to his late father.

“This I wrote with blood,” Bibb said about his poetry.

Friday’s conference brought together more than 65 Northeast Ohio teachers for the Write Here! Write Now! conference, sponsored by the National

Writing Project at Kent State.

Kent State is one of 200 locations nationwide and one of five in Ohio where teachers gather every summer to learn and share new ways of teaching writing to students at all levels and across the curricula. Kent State became a part of the federally funded program in 1997 under the direction of former faculty member Nancy McCracken.

The project had its origins at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1974 with the intent of changing the way writing was taught and used as a learning tool, according to the project’s Web site. The project emphasizes the importance of “teachers teaching teachers,” a technique promoted for professional development among educators.

Kent State organizes an annual four-week invitational institute for teachers in Northeast Ohio. Alexa Sandmann, first-year director of the program, said this summer’s session, which started June 9 and ends tomorrow, invited about 22 teachers from different disciplines to attend.

Kent State’s program is funded by federal and university dollars through a matching funds arrangement. Additional scholarships for participants are offered through the Ohio Board of Regents.

Sandmann said the participant’s personalities are an element in deciding who will be invited because the goal is to create a community of writers, who will nurture each other in the “struggles and the victories of writing well.”

Doctoral candidate Judy Sewell and Jeff Harr, a

Theodore Roosevelt High School English teacher, are part of the team Sandmann works with to organize and run the summer institute.

Harr, an alumnus of the 2007 institute, described the experience as powerful and said the program at Kent State helps to create “teaching communities” where educators can share ideas and offer support, even after they leave.

Sewell, in her third year working with the project, said although the skills teachers leave with will immediately benefit students, the way teachers approach writing and using it as a tool is changed forever.

“You can change a lifetime of teaching,” she said.

Friday’s conference, organized by co-director Deb Debenedictis, also included a panel discussion with Bibb, WKSU reporter Vivian

Goodman and Laura Ofobike, chief editorialist for the Akron Beacon Journal.

Conference attendees broke into smaller groups for three sessions of afternoon workshops after the morning’s discussions.

Sandmann and her colleagues agreed that the four weeks they spend each summer with the institute are worth the time spent organizing and planning during the rest of the year.

“Writing is a lifetime skill. It’s not just a school skill,” Sandmann said.

Contact College of Education, Health and Human Services reporter Brittany Moffat at [email protected].