A Teacher Empowerment Grant from the Heinz Endowments, is helping teachers and students write the story of academic excellence by promoting opportunities for students to write creatively and meet with professional authors.
The Clairton City School District in Pennsylvania will create a local model of the Young Writers Institute called Clairton Writes. The project is a Teachers Leading Change initiative, fitting into the Heinz Foundations mission to support learning communities for educational excellence in Southwestern Pennsylvania and embrace diversity.
Students have the opportunity to challenge thenselves at the Young Writers Institute, while gving one another feedbback and receiving it from peers and instructors. An important piece of the program is that students think of themselves as writers.
“It’s going to provide the district an opportunity to give the students something here at their own school that some students have to travel to downtown Pittsburgh to experience,” Clairton curriculum director Debra Maurizio said. “There’s only a few districts that do this at home.”
“We’re really trying to empower students to be more confident in their own abilities and what they can achieve,” Maurizio explained.
Teachers Jen Wells and Linda Withrow said the program will be rooted in consistent reading and language arts instruction throughout the district’s K-12 program. With the Pennsylvania Common Core putting a great emphasis on literacy in all subjects from traditional English classes to math and science, the skills students learn will be useful across the curriculum.
When classes begin on Friday, teachers will be prepared to introduce new writing initiatives and open students to the idea of Saturday workshops and field trips that will be free to their families. Funds are available to bring nonfiction and fiction writers, as well as poets and musicians, to speak during the workshops.
“This program is targeted toward students who are living in poverty or in economically disadvantaged communities,” Wells said.