For 125 hours this summer, 12 local educators are exploring the teaching of writing through the 2003 Summer Institute of the South Texas Writing Project (STWP) at Texas A&M International University. Spending the greater part of the day together, they are learning to become better teachers by researching and sharing strategies with each other.
STWP Directors Lucinda Farrokh and Dora Flores said the Institute is building a community of writer-teachers who are better equipped to help their students to become better writers and readers.
"This Project truly believes that the best people to help solve the problems of education are teachers. Working together, we can study and research these problems, commit to strategies to address them and share these strategies with others to help assure their distribution and student success.
"Here in South Texas our problems are similar to those nationwide: students are not performing to grade level. In addition, we have issues with English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Language Learning (ELL). Institutes like these are held across the state and nation as part of a grass-roots effort by the National Writing Project, a non-profit organization which works to improve writing and reading at all levels," Farrokh said.
She explained that fundamental to all National Writing Project initiatives is the development of strong collaborations, something that the Laredo program has worked hard to secure in its eight years of operation.
"The summer offering, also now entering its eighth year, is part of an innovative collaborative between TAMIU, Laredo Community College and local school districts. LCC is administrative headquarters for the project, while TAMIU provides Summer Institute assistance and the school districts sponsor teacher participants. TAMIU's Writing Center director, Randy Koch, and associate director Paty Cantú are also STWP teacher consultants, as are professors Per Fjelstad and Frances Rhodes," Farrokh noted.
The end of the summer doesn't diminish the Project's efforts, she said.
"In addition to the Institute, we host workshops, retreats and other activities year round to keep our focus on our Project's goals. Local districts that participate include LISD, UISD, Zapata ISD, United Day School and St. Augustine High School," she added.
Teachers selected for the Summer Institute receive a $1000 stipend and earn six hours of graduate credit.
Participants in this summer's program and their respective schools include: Lesley Mitchell, Memorial Middle School; Graciela Gutierrez, Salvador Garcia M.S.; Tamar Ruiz, Bruni Elementary School; Maritza Mendoza, Los Obispos M.S.; Heather Corti, St. Augustine High School; Edna Anco, Kennedy-Zapata H.S. and Rosa Aguilar, Lamar M.S.
Also, James Buckley, Cigarroa H.S.; Jennie Sanchez, Salvador Garcia, M.S.; Kaj Fjelstad, Santo Nino E.S., and Veronica Amaro, Los Obispos M.S.
STWP Administrative Director is Carlos Nicolas Flores. Site director is Lucinda Farrokh and co-director, Dora Maria Flores.
For information on applying for the next Summer Institute, please contact Farrokh at 721-5491 or Flores at 721-5490 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.