Program helps Valley teachers improve their skills through writing

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Close to two dozen teachers apart of the San Joaquin Valley Writing Program at Fresno State have similar feelings of gratitude.

"There are all these people here, who basically have the same motivation which is to learn," said one teacher. And what they're learning is how to become better writers so they, in turn, can help their students succeed.

For 40 years, the program has taken groups of educators willing to learn and has given them new teaching tools.

"Each summer a group of teachers committed to improving their teaching of writing, come together to learn from one another," said Dr. Juliet Wahleithner, assistant professor at Fresno State.

From kindergarten to college, those participating are from schools across the Valley, some from rural areas like Sonia Gonzalez.

She teaches 7th through 8th grade a Traver Joint Elementary in the small farming community of Traver.

"They have faith in me and have given me the tools to support my kids," Gonzalez said.

Most attending Traver Joint Elementary are English as a second language students, so learning new techniques to help with their writing is valuable.

"I thought that if I could come to this program and bring something different to our kids, that do not necessarily get all the access that bigger cities have, then I was willing to give up my time," Gonzalez said.

Dr. Wahleithner says one of the challenges in the education system is the lack of emphasis on writing.

"Because teachers are scared to teach writing, they turn to formulaic approaches and then students never get to discover their own voices with writing and they never get to enjoy the thrill of writing something they are really proud of," she said.

Once the three-week summer program is completed, those attending become leaders in their field.

They'll go back into their communities to teach fellow teachers, creating a ripple effect across the Central Valley.
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