Celebrating 35 Years of Teachers Teaching Teachers
On a beautiful spring Saturday, more than 75 educators, teachers, and friends gathered together to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the PA Writing and Literature Project. The luncheon, held at the West Chester Alumni Center, was hosted by Fellow and master of ceremonies, Bruce Perlman, and featured musical entertainment by Pat Bove, Gaetan Pappalardo, and Rob Levitt. Guests enjoyed a trip down memory lane with a photo slideshow as well as a poetry reading from PAWLP poet-in-residence Don LaBranche. PAWLP also raised money for its scholarship fund through a silent auction during the event. Many past and current PAWLP coordinators shared their thoughts, including PAWLP founder, Bob Weiss, who had a vision 35 years ago of a professional community of teachers and writers, a vision helped to make PAWLP what it is today. Remembering those early days, Bob shared:
- The astuteness of school administrators and I. U. personnel as they bought into the idea of PWP, as it was then known.
- The teachers in that first Institute – how smart and thoughtful they were and how dedicated to the Writing Project most of them became. (We met from 9:00-4:30, five days a week for four weeks.)
- The monthly follow-up Saturday meetings during the school year had an 85% participation rate
And of course, PAWLP wouldn’t be PAWLP without writing! Teachers wrote to the prompt, “What PAWLP means to me.” A sampling of responses follows:
- PAWLP means community. It means home. When I’m feeling professionally out-of-sorts, it’s here I seek refuge. My Fellows will put me to right with just the right anecdote or article. While I always know whose shoulders I’m standing on pedagogically, I also know that PAWLPers have my back.
- The project is a spa for my brain and spirit. I discovered that putting pen to paper or reading like a writer renews my personal and professional life. PAWLP friends are forever!
- When teachers ask me (a non-teacher) why I love PAWLP so much, I always say, “Well, because when I give 100%, they give 120% back! That’s why.”
- My daughter participated in Young Writers/Young Readers one summer. She wrote a lovely piece called “Salt and Pepper,” describing her experience organizing the salt and pepper collection with her grandmother. We framed it and gave it to Grandma as a special gift. Since then, my daughter has written about an experience that she had with me, her mom. I framed this one too! I like to think that PALWP helped my daughter to find her writer’s voice. Thank you PAWLP!
- I have been to several events hosted by PAWLP, but I’m not a member yet. I hope, one day, to be invited and attend the Summer Institute!!
- At every event that I have attended, I have taken back to my classroom great ideas, innovative strategies, and inspiration with excitement to try something new! I love rubbing elbows with all of the shining stars of the PAWLP community, and hope some of the stardust sprinkles into my teaching!
- PAWLP has been a life-saving, door-opening, collaborating opportunity that has touched my reading and writing soul…
- When I think about my Institute, I remember the commute. Four of us carpooled from Fort Washington out to West Chester. Being in a car for 45 minutes before and after our day of writing and learning gave us the opportunity to share, reflect, complain, sympathize, encourage, and grow as friends and peers. While we looked forward to our time in the Institute, we cherished our commute.
- Mostly, I associate PAWLP with confidence and positivity. I will never forget sitting in that freezing cold room at the Business Center the first couple of days of the Writing Institute. I picture myself now as a mouse…wanting to run away into a hole and hide. Who me? You think there’s anything in my life worth writing about? You’ve got to be kidding me! Fast forward four weeks…I was truly one of an amazing community of writers. The confidence I had gained from the experience of spending four weeks in that writing workshop setting was unreal. There was no doubt I’d be doing the Reading/Literature Institute the following year, and I walked in on day one that year, ready to take it on.
- PAWLP was the single most exciting experience I had in my teaching career, from expressing my feelings to listening to great ideas from others, to taking risks in leading others, especially children, to explore and feel and look and share.
- The people in my 1987 Institute were outstanding – Bob Weiss was our director, and though it was a rigorous adventure, it was wonderful.
- PAWLP came to me at a time in my life when walls were caving in, life was in disarray, and all hope was lost. PAWLP brought me back to life and made me realize…Everything about me is…..Write! – Lorraine Crane
- PAWLP has changed my life in a profound way by allowing me to share my personal story with family and friends, and fellow professionals. Learning to write is one thing, personal and reflective, yet this expression is hollow, if not shared. This is where PAWLP comes in. It allows me to share my successes as a writer with our youth, whose “stories” are often deep and profound – and hidden – until they feel free to make linear these stories. – Keith A. Lampman
- One afternoon, one of our carpoolers detailed the wonders of Dove Ice Cream Bars and the rest of us reluctantly agreed that somehow we had missed this opportunity in life. The next morning, Dove Ice Cream Bars were our breakfast! It was a good day at the Institute. – Joan Hollenbach
- I found so many exciting people who had such ways of expressing themselves. The fun, laughs, tears at times bonded us in ways I never would have imagined. The summer Institute with children was my highlight. I’m very fortunate that I was able to be a part of a life-expanding experience and journey with so many memorable people – still going strong! – Gerri Eisenstein
- PAWLP has provided exceptional professional development opportunities for the teachers of my school district for so many years. Teachers benefit from PAWLP not only because of the “theory into practice” methods that seem to work so well, but also because of the rich connections that are made among professional colleagues. When observing in classrooms, it is often quite clear to see the benefits reaped by our staff members who have completed coursework and the Summer Institute. The lives of our students have been enriched as a result of this programming. – Robert J. Milrod, PhD, Superintendent of Schools, School District of Upper Moreland Township
What a wonderful day filled with laughter, joy, and good friends. Many, many thanks to everyone who joined us and donated their time and gifts to not only put this luncheon together, but who continue to give their time and gifts into making PAWLP the professional community it is. Happy 35th, PAWLP – and here’s to 35+ more!