Early on a Friday morning I awoke at my home in Connecticut, knowing I wouldn’t be returning back there until I had learned something.

Early on a Friday morning I awoke at my home in Connecticut, knowing I wouldn’t be
returning back there until I had learned something. What that something was I didn’t know at the
time, I just knew that I was on my way to NWP’s Urban Sites Conference in Birmingham and I
was going to present my first professional development workshop on a national level. I was
scared, excited, and nervous, but I knew that by the time I returned home I would have gained
something for having been through the experience. So I got my Starbucks, grabbed my bags,
and took a trip down south to expand my ever-growing knowledge of the teaching profession.

That’s what NWP means to me: opportunities for growth and learning as a teacher, a
writer, and a human being. Every time I participate in a National Writing Project event—either
locally through my site or nationally at annual meetings and conferences—I come back
refreshed and changed. I get to meet teachers from around the country, learn about the work in
their classrooms, and take new information back to my own classroom. There is simply no
better way to learn about teaching than from other teachers. “Teachers teaching teachers” is a
model I believe in. I’ve learned more from NWP teacher-consultants than all my pre-service
training and master degree courses combined.

I’m passionate about teaching and when I get to share that with equally passionate educators, my heart feels like it’s in the right place.

It’s because the people make the difference. The people I have met since my work with
the National Writing Project have been welcoming, dedicated, and inspiring. I’m passionate
about teaching and when I get to share that with equally passionate educators, my heart feels
like it’s in the right place. I feel part of a larger movement—like I’m taking my classroom walls
and expanding them to cover the entire country. NWP empowers me. And I carry all their
knowledge back with me when I teach my students. And the cycle continues: the work my
students do inspires me to teach others around the country. I get to teach locally and globally
through NWP—it’s a circle of learning that I never want to leave.

…I’ve seen that teachers are the difference and if we don’t invest in them—emotionally, economically, and politically—our public schools will fail.

When I returned from that trip to Birmingham I learned that writing is very much alive in
our schools and that I am only one of thousands of dedicated educators across our country who
believe in writing. I also realized my learning and growing as an educator is only just beginning.
Since then, after meeting with teachers in Chicago, Seattle, Boston, and Washington DC—I’ve
seen that teachers are the difference and if we don’t invest in them—emotionally, economically,
and politically—our public schools will fail.

When I was lobbying for NWP funding on Capitol Hill this past spring I saw a divided
country. Some states, like Connecticut, were on-board with our work at the National Writing
Project. Lobbying to our lawmakers was a dream—it was more of a conversation than an
attempt to lobby. But my constituents from other states were not so lucky. They told stories of
lawmakers brushing them aside and making empty promises. It made me realize that writing
and literacy is not a priority for some states. It made me wonder: how can we turn a blind eye to
something as important as the literacy of our children? Practically everything in life is built
around it.

And while I know there are other pressing issues our government has to focus on,
education needs to be one of them. We are in a state of flux. Yet I remain optimistic, with
organizations like NWP being the heartbeat of literacy and professional development, that we
will succeed and we will prevail. It’s my honor and privilege to work with you all—even if we
never met—because we are all doing important work. Alone we can only do so much, but
together, as the NWP, we can do anything.

That’s what NWP means to me.



Shaun Mitchell-NWPShaun Mitchell is an English and Drama teacher at Central High School in Bridgeport, CT. He directs the school’s plays & musicals and is the Connected Learning Liaison for his site, CWP Fairfield. He was the recipient of the 2014 Beard Excellence in Teaching Award this past May.

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