Plano Writing Leadership Academy
The Writing Leadership is structured around a belief that we teach best what we have experienced. To that end, sixty elementary and secondary teachers are named each year as Fellows to the Plano Writing Leadership Academy. In the non-threatening atmosphere of a writers' workshop, these teachers spend three weeks developing their own writing skills and styles.
They engage in all the stages of the writing process — prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing — before they begin to analyze how to best teach writing in their own classrooms. Concepts such as levels of writing and targeted writing skills and techniques such as ratiocination and reading aloud emerge; appropriate grade level applications soon become apparent.
The Academy classroom mirrors the writing workshop classroom of an elementary or secondary school. It is a very busy and friendly place where people share writing, write collaboratively, confer, and along the way develop some important and long-lasting bonds. Individuals and small groups draft at the keyboard and later gather around the computer monitor to conference about and revise their writing. Large screen projectors allow for class presentation of multimedia writing.
Instructors in the Academy range from writing specialists within the district to outside consultants with various university affiliations. In addition, the teachers study the work of Nancy Atwell, Donald Graves, Robert Probst, and Lucy Calkins, among others.
The Fellows leave Plano's Writing Leadership Academy with an arsenal of new strategies for the teaching of writing, but another important by-product is that teachers all leave as confident writers themselves, having published at least one piece of writing in an Institute Anthology. A number of former PWLA Fellows have gone on to be published in professional journals and other books.
Six hours of graduate credit or district-required staff development hours are awarded at the completion of the Leadership Academy. At reunions scheduled during the year, Fellows exchange successes and refine their skills in the teaching of writing.
History of the Plano Writing Leadership Academy
The Writing Leadership Academy was a natural outgrowth of the Plano Writing Project, which was established in January of 1993. A group of k-12 teachers, under the leadership of Mary Pfeiffer, came together to consider what an effective, articulated writing program should be. Research and classroom visits led to the development of a philosophy and program, along with an articulated Writing Handbook and a district writing poster. The idea of a local institute to train Plano teachers in these methods was developed by Bettye Mischen, the Secondary English Coordinator. In 1994, Writing Project members conducted the first secondary Institute at Vines High School. The following summer saw the implementation of an elementary Institute as well. While the Institute began with mostly language arts teachers, it has expanded to include science, social studies, foreign language, math, and special programs teachers. One Plano campus can boast that its entire language arts faculty and its principal are Plano Writing Fellows.
Lisa Thibodeaux, Secondary English/Journalism Coordinator