I think often about Mitch Albom’s story The Five People You Meet in Heaven. For me the book’s message focuses on turning points in life, on the interactions between people, and on the importance of recognizing how one individual can affect another. Albom invites me to think about the five people who have most impacted me, who have altered my life in meaningful ways. Though not an individual person, NWP is one of my five.
In 2002 as I studied for a doctorate in literacy education, my supervisor dropped a yellow brochure on my desk with a sticky note that said, “This sounds like you.” I read about the Summer Institute, a four week program where teachers would come together as a community of writers and reflective researchers, and I immediately called my advisor at the university to see if I could add the SI to my course plan that summer. He agreed, my application was accepted, and I began a journey that has changed me professionally and personally.
Attending that SI and becoming conncected to NWP is the best thing I have ever done for myself. Though I earned my MA at an ivy league college and my PhD at a Research I institution, studying for neither of these degrees has shaped who I am as a teacher more than the NWP. The four weeks that I spent during the summer of 2002 gave me a community of educators who care deeply about their students. My NWP community has grown over the last decade from local, like-minded educators into a national network of teachers and researchers who I can call on to help me think hard about issues of literacy. When I go to a conference and I learn that the person next to me is an NWPer, we immediately bond, and we immediately begin discussing practice. The NWP has given me colleagues in arms; it has given me friends who foster my personal growth.
The NWP fights every year for its federal funding, support that allows the 200+ non-profit sites to do the kinds of work that support K-16 teachers of literacy in ways that rejuvenate them. Without these funds, NWP sites will cut programs, and the effects of the organization, which are research proven, will be minimized. More importantly, I’m afraid, is that teachers who see NWP as a professional home, a community that revitalizes their teaching year after year, will lose heart.
NWP has changed me professionally and personally. The teachers I have met through NWP continue to impact me and my practice. I hope that we, as a nationally supported organization, can continue to affect other teachers, to alter their lives in truly meaningful ways. I hope that young teachers throughout the nation will have the opportunity to add NWP to their Five.
To read more about teachers like me who want to save NWP, see this intitiative.