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Professional Staff Development

The school year also offers the Teacher Consultants opportunities to share their experience and knowledge with colleagues who have not been through the summer institute. Individual schools or whole parishes invite AWP Teacher Consultants to present series of five or ten workshops on a wide variety of topics, such as Implementing the Writing Process, Using Classroom Portfolios, Evaluating Student Writing, Getting Student Writers to Revise, and The Place of Grammar in the Composition Class. On occasion it presents a day or half day of workshops for area teachers at a central location. For example, on a Saturday morning last November, workshops designed to help teachers cope with the new standards and assessment instruments adopted by the state were offered to elementary, middle, and high school teachers at the UL Student Union. Over 70 area teachers attended.

Acadiana Writing Project workshops are characterized first by the fact that they are taught by credible teachers--the graduates of the invitational institute. Second, these workshops are tailored to the needs of the contracting school or parish system. AWP works in concert with the school faculty to design full professional development programs with sessions matched to the school, teacher, and student context. Programs are conducted in a series, rather than as one-shot events, so that teachers can receive support as they make changes in their practices. Third, Acadiana Writing Project programs can work through regular school support structures like school improvement committees, grade level teams, or content area departments.

In addition to the professional development workshops sponsored by the schools, the NWP of Acadiana provides a wide array of other programs to serve teachers and schools, including open enrollment summer mini-institutes, teacher research groups, professional reading groups, and support systems for new teachers.

One of the most effective forms of professional development provided by the AWP has been delivered through Project Outreach, a program funded by a grant from the Dewitt Wallace-Readers Digest Foundation. AWP is one of eighteen sites of the National Writing Project to be selected to participate in this effort designed to improve teaching in schools whose students are primarily drawn from low-income communities. For three years the team of eight Teacher Consultants has gone into such schools in the Acadiana area to offer assistance by providing teacher workshops, professional materials, and curriculum consultations. Such help has been ongoing and sustained in Washington Parish and Acadia Parish for over a year at no cost to the schools or teachers receiving the support.

Professional development is also provided for the Teacher Consultants themselves. In addition to the continuity programs discussed above, which are primarily group activities, help is also available for individual or paired Teacher Consultants who wish to attend conferences. Over the years the NWP of Acadiana has sent teachers to professional meetings of the National Council of Teachers of English, Global Conversations in Language and Literacy ( held in Oxford, England; Heidelberg, Germany; Bordeaux, France; and Utrecht, The Netherlands), and the Louisiana Council of Teachers of English. The Project Outreach team has attended workshops at the Chauncey Center of the Educational Testing Center in Princeton, New Jersey, University of California-Berkeley, and Lake Tahoe. Three years ago AWP sent a Teacher Consultant to work with a Pennsylvania NWP site for two weeks. For the past five summers it has sent representatives to the NWP professional writing retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Forr the past several years AWP Teacher Consultants have attended Rural Sites Retreat and Rural Sites Institutes, initiative sponsored by the National Writing Project in different locations across the country.

In addition, each summer the NWP of Acadiana offers an Advanced Institute for its Teacher Consultants. Lasting only one week, over the years it has provided them with the opportunity to read, discuss, and learn about such topics as ethnographic research, the new state standards and assessment instruments, the relationship of reading and writing, and using folklife materials in the composition classroom.