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June 16, 2002 – The first V.I. Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute began Monday, June 17, at the University of the Virgin Islands, and continues through July 18.
The Summer Institute, a partnership between UVI and the V.I. Education Department and linked into the National Writing Project, will concentrate on the teaching of writing, and give successful teachers the opportunity to develop their own writing. In fact, each participant is required to come to the opening class with a completed first assignment: a writing of something important to the writer.
"I am really excited, looking forward to it," said new UVI graduate but experienced teacher Marilyn Richards. "I expect to be able to share my writing techniques with others, and in turn get ideas from them.
"When something bothers me, especially something personal that I might not want to talk about, I like to write, get it out of my system, relieve my stress. It might even be poetry."
That's her feeling about writing, and she may share it with 21 other workshop participants, all of whom will have their own feelings and experiences to share – "teachers teaching teachers."

Virgin Islands now joins a national network
The National Writing Project, started from a single invitational institute at University of California at Berkeley in 1974, with a lot of apprehension and two dozen teachers in attendance, has expanded across the United States, and is now networked into every state, Puerto Rico, and – with its 175th site, the Virgin Islands.
The Virgin Islands, the newest site, is already included on the national website, although the map hasn't yet been updated.
The National Writing Project is built on the belief that teachers themselves are the best teachers of other teachers. Encompassing teachers from K-16, it believes in cross-pollination of ideas among diverse teachers in diverse cultures and disciplines. It believes in the value of giving teachers the opportunity to experiment, to be creative, to work with groups, to experience the risks that children face when given an assignment to write.
The National Writing Project website, www.writingproject.org, has a wealth of information and ideas. A look back at the first two institutes by founder James Gray is a fascinating chronicle of hopes, ideas and mistakes. Elementary teachers, for example, were not included in the first year's group – and this was quickly found to be an unfortunate oversight. By the second institute, elementary teachers were the envy of college teachers, with their classrooms full of color and decoration and hands-on projects, and the cross-currents of ideas moved fast in both directions.
The website has a host of academic papers of all kinds that have been written by participants, and an anthology of creative writing.
The local project
Two major focuses of the V.I. project are to be:
— use of dialects, such as Creole, and the issue of academic acceptance, an area in which the Virgin Islands is well-placed to make a major contribution, and,
— second, the idea of portfolio assessment, of holistic scoring. This concept is contrary to the practice of "marking up," "red-penciling," – or in editing parlance, "blue-penciling" – an individual writing, long the school method of keeping tabs on a student's progress. The portfolio idea presupposes the student actually collects a body of his or her writings, over perhaps some years, and is evaluated on the basis of the growth in writing within his own portfolio and in comparison to others' portfolios, i.e., "holistic scoring."
The local project has UVI Humanities professor Trevor Parris as director, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School English teacher Amy Roberts as co-director, and V.I. Education Department's deputy commissioner for curriculum and instruction, Dr. Leroy Trotman, as facilitator. The three have labored intensively for some years to get the program in place. Their success is perhaps measured by the fact that the Project grant requires matching funds – and the Virgin Islands secured triple-matching funds!
Roberts, who applied for and received a Christa McAuliffe fellowship for the purpose, took a sabbatical of several months to apprentice at institutes in California, where the National Writing Project began. "It was a completely life-changing experience," she said. "It gave me the confidence to feel I was really writing, a sense of myself as a writer." She now is anxious to impart her enthusiasm to others, and the program at UVI seems to have found a group of teachers likely to partake.
It is hoped that the diversity of participants will create a climate, a chance to experiment, to experience the risks that children face as they write an assignment that may be read to a group, that fledgling writers will be encouraged as Roberts was, and that teachers will trade and acquire important classroom teaching tools.
The local participants
For several months, candidates have been considered, nominated by school administrators and self-nominated applicants. It was unfortunate they couldn't take everyone, said Roberts, noting especially that Lew Muckle Elementary School on St. Croix has made an institutional commitment to improve their students' writing and four of their teachers wished to attend.
It was important, she said, to provide the maximum diversity and varied experience. They have teachers with 27 years of experience, with two years, and in between; while the majority are English teachers, there's a junior high physical education teacher, and high school social studies teacher, a new UVI graduate who's been teaching 10-plus years. Roberts is delighted that the language arts coordinators for both districts will attend. Organizers would have liked a science teacher or two and a college-level teacher, but perhaps next year …
For the 11 St. Croix participants, the Institute will offer the best of "summer study abroad." They will reside in UVI dorms on St. Thomas, their housing funded by the V.I. Education Department.
Committed to the five-week program, which delivers a modest stipend to participants, who seem to be willing to forfeit lazy beach days or vacations away for the duration, are:
— the three organizers: Parris, Roberts, Trotman.
— UVI professors making guest presentations: Vincent Cooper, Gene Emanuel
from St. Croix:
— Janice Carrington, Claude O. Markoe Elementary School
— Sharon Charles, Lew Muckle Elementary School
— Ellen Cyrille Charles, kindergarten teacher, Eulalie Rivera Elementary School
— Jennifer Esdaile, Juanita Gardine Elementary School
— Annette Gereau, Lew Muckle Elementary School
— Cheryl Jeremiah, St. Croix Central High School
— Barbara Knight, St. Croix Education Complex School
— James Ludwig Sr. – John H. Woodson Junior High School
— Charlene Matthew, language arts coordinator for St. Croix District
— Dureama Moorhead, Alfredo Andrews Elementary School
— Sharmane Myzette, Arthur A. Richards Junior High School
from St. Thomas:
— Symra-Dee Brown, Lockhart Elementary School
— Valerie Charles-Welsh, Charlotte Amalie High School
— Fenella Cooper, Charlotte Amalie High School
— Lydia Foy-Brown, Charlotte Amalie High School
— Mary Harley, language arts coordinator for St. Thomas-St. John District
— Carla Howard, Lockhart Elementary School
— Marilyn Richards, secondary teacher awaiting school placement
— Loretta Silcott, Michael J. Kirwan Terrace Elementary School.
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