Agate Writer’s Workshop to be held July 17-19, 2017

This year’s Agate Writer’s Workshop will be July 17-19th at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.  We will explore the Women of the West with focus on the women scientists, paleontologists and homesteaders that built the communities and resources in Western Nebraska.  Please join this unique event by registering online and extend the invitation to interested educators from other disciplines.

Exploring the Bones of Place: 50 Years in the Nebraska Panhandle

Spend two days at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument discovering the bones of place. Staff from the National Park Service and Nebraska Writing Project will lead teachers through a variety of activities designed to make science exciting, inviting and accessible through writing. This workshop is open to teachers of all grade levels and content areas. Participants can expect to:

  • generate their own creative writing
  • explore the women of Agate and their unique roles in paleontology, geology, and place
  • leave with classroom activities for integrating science and writing

Registration fee for the program is $75. The workshop is limited to fifteen participants. It begins at 8:00a.m. on July 17th and concludes at 2:00p.m. on July 19th. Food and lodging are not available at the park. Registration ends June 30, 2017.

Participants will need to arrange for lodging in nearby communities. Local hotel or camping accommodations can be found at:

  • Harrison House Hotel in Harrison, NE (
  • Hotels in Scottsbluff/Gering, such as Comfort Inn, Days Inn, Hampton Inn and Suites, Holiday Inn Express
  • Fort Robinson State Park (Nebraska Games and Parks Commission)

A limited number of tent camping sites are available within Agate. Sites have access to an indoor bathroom and kitchen facilities. Reservations for tenting sites is available on the Agate Fossil Beds website or by emailing Alvis Mar at

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NeWP Teachers Enjoy National Council of the Teachers of English Convention

Nebraskans at NCTE in Minneapolis
Nebraskans at NCTE in Minneapolis

At least sixteen Nebraska Writing Project teachers descended on the Twin Cities for the National Council of the Teachers of English convention November 19-23.

NeWP teachers presented at three panels. Pius X teachers Lauren Funk, Katie Elsener, Tom Seib (emeritus) and Jane Connealy (emeritus) presented on their Holocaust education program.
NeWP Director Robert Brooke was joined by three past NeWP teacher leaders, now site directors at other Midwestern Writing Projects, for a panel on NWP and community engagement. Maggie Christensen, Director of the Oxbow Writing Project, spoke about their young writers partnership at the Hope Center. Cathie English, Co-Director of the Ozarks Writing Project, spoke about her teacher education course. Susan Martens, Director of the PrairieLands Writing Project, spoke about Writing Marathons. Robert Brooke, NeWP Director, spoke about the Veterans writing workshops our site ran this year in Lincoln and Omaha.
NeWP University partners Lauren Gatti, Nicole Green, and Sarah Thomas presented a panel on the Secondary English Education program at UNL, and were part of a post-conference workshop session Monday on the same topic.
Jeff Grinvalds, our Technology Liaison from Westside High School, Jane Connealy, Maggie Christensen, and Susan Martens all represented our site at the NWP meeting the day before the conference. Susan Martens organized a NWP- sponsored Writing Marathon in downtown Minneapolis on Friday and was joined by fellow Nebraskans, Dan Boster, Jane Connealy and Jeff Grinvalds.


Writing Marathon Minneapolis Style
Writing Marathon Minneapolis Style

Other attendees from Nebraska included Daniel Boster (Ralston), Sally Burt (Pius X), Katrina Gottschall (O’Neill High School), Darin Jensen (Metro Community College), Jeff Lacey (Ralston Schools), and Colleen McBride (Pius X).


Presenters at NCTE
Doctor Robert Brooke, Director of the Nebraska Writing Project
Inside the Skyway

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2015 Leadership Institute

During our summer board retreat in July of 2014, many of our discussions drifted towards what we can do to develop our leadership within our site and how we can continue to engage our veteran Teacher Consultants who have completed all of the institutes we offer and who are seeking no more graduate credit. Drawing on one of our beliefs on the value of social justice practices, our idea was to create a three-day professional development opportunity for teachers to come and work on a project that would create departmental, building, or district-level change. We ended up calling this a Leadership Institute.

Included in our schedule for the three day institute were group discussions on leadership and issues surrounding it along with large chunks of work time for teachers to collaborate. Our schedule also included guest speakers from the Nebraska Department of Education, a curriculum director from a Nebraska school district, an instructional coach from a local district, a representative from the Nebraska Humanities Council, and teachers from area school districts. Some of these guest speakers served on a panel discussion about how to initiate and sustain change while others gave presentations on grant writing. Our three facilitators checked in with teachers along the way to engage them in discussion about their project to help further their thinking. We had teachers submit a piece of writing that articulated their goals in the form of a letter to a relevant audience (parents, teachers, administrators, etc) along with a reflection letter that required them to articulate their work for the Institute and a timeline of their next steps.

Nineteen teachers were nominated and participated in the Institute representing eleven school districts (including three teams of teachers). These teachers left with viable project ideas (tackling the creativity crisis in the writing classroom, revamping AP curriculum, aligning department curriculum to include more critical thinking, seeking out grants for student laptops, etc.) that would enact sustainable change in their school communities. We received loads of positive feedback from teachers very similar to the comments below:

“I enjoy being a teacher leader, and this institute continued to stretch my thinking on what that role looks like, and frankly, how much work it is. It has also reminded me of the importance of taking on that role to benefit students, staff, and the overall good work of schools.” -Colleen McBride, Pius X Catholic High School

“72 hours ago, my peers and I had a list of concerns about the way writing and creativity are practiced and taught (or not) in our school district . . . and that was all we had. We had problems but no solutions, questions but no answers. I am thrilled beyond comprehension to report that not only have we found solutions, we have been able to develop a real‐life, accessible format for implementing a hybrid Writer’s Workshop into our district over the next three years. This evolution was born entirely of the power of collaboration, and your gift of offering us the time and space to have the necessary conversations to instigate change.  Thank you!” -Jennifer Long, Gretna High School

We will be running the Leadership Institute again on June 1-3, 2016 in Lincoln. If you are interested in participating or know a teacher or two who would appreciate an institute like this, please contact Bill Dimon, Amy Tasich, or Danielle Helzer.
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