Welcome to the NCWP

The Northern California Writing Project is a professional development organization devoted to improving the teaching of writing in our service region.


October 2020
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Author: Kim Jaxon

Course Design for the Now Times by Kim Jaxon

Course Design for the Now Times by Kim Jaxon

image of books and a robotLike many of my colleagues who think about digital pedagogy, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions from fellow educators as we shift to online teaching. Every educator I know is trying to get this moment right, to do our best to support learners. Universities and school districts are scrambling to support faculty and students as well, all with the best intentions. My own intention with this piece (the first in a series this semester) is to share course design practices and resources that might serve as alternatives to the primarily tool based, EdTech, approach. My fear: we’re worrying so much about solving problems of schooling that we’re forgetting to solve problems in our disciplines and in the world. More concerning, we’re allowing EdTech to rule our choices. Lots of companies are ready to sell us solutions for problems we didn’t know we had. At stake are our students (and teachers) and the ways their bodies are being controlled in the name of learning. We need to stop the outcomes, rubric, template, surveillance, plug in, packaged courses, frenzy.

I offer an approach to course design that moves away from “how do I take attendance” and toward “how do I support a newcomer to my community?” The suggestions are also guided by the most frequently asked questions I receive from faculty. Keep in mind, I never leave a class thinking “nailed it!” I humbly offer a process that I am constantly reflecting upon and revising.

One way to begin: a brainstorming session to understand your discipline

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to join a small group of international educators to think about professional development support for faculty who wanted to rethink digital pedagogy. We created an open site, Connected Courses, which you can access for resources: readings, example activities, webinars for course design. When we created the first sessions, we began by asking educators to consider the “why” of their courses; unlike a lot of course design, we didn’t start with content and outcomes (which are strange anyway: the learner should drive the learning outcomes, but that’s for another piece). We started with the why: why should students join our disciplines? Mike Wesch, a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University, offered a model for thinking about the “why” by starting with our disciplinary identities:

As I contemplated the “real why” of my course further, I soon recognized that anthropology was not a bunch of content and bold faced terms that can be highlighted in a text book, but was instead a way of looking at the world. Actually, that is not quite right. It is not just a way of looking at the world. It is a way of being in the world. To underscore the difference, consider that it is one thing to be able to give a definition of cultural relativism (perhaps the most bold-faced of bold-faced terms in anthropology which means “cultural norms and values derive their meaning within a specific social context”) or even to apply it to some specific phenomenon, but it is quite another to fully incorporate that understanding and recognize yourself as a culturally and temporally bounded entity mired in cultural biases and taken-for-granted assumptions that you can only attempt to transcend.

Once we come to understand that our disciplinary identities shape who we are and how we work, you start to notice these differences. For me, I remember vividly an early meeting with two science colleagues as we planned to research writing in science classes together. I watched them enter my office, arguing about a question related to light that had emerged in their co-taught class right before our meeting. Leslie (physics) and Irene (biology) had come to my office deep in conversation; they looked around, searching for a white board in my space to hash out the disagreement. They could not believe I didn’t have a whiteboard: doing science and talking about science without being able to draw representations of science is, well, sort of unheard of as I would come to understand. Even if I had had a whiteboard in my office on that day, as an English professor, it would more likely have been in use for to-do lists. Tools, even whiteboards, do not serve the same purpose across disciplines. And yet, EdTech would have us believe that there is one tool to rule them all.student working at whiteboard

My chemistry colleague, Lisa Ott, echoed these ideas this spring, as we were facing online teaching: “…you certainly can’t be a chemist without pouring some shit in a beaker and seeing what happens. It’s an experimental science.” Lisa spent part of this summer with chemistry colleagues thinking about how to solve the problem of being a chemist: “working on inquiry-based at-home analytical chemistry labs using microfluidic devices. We had so many discussions about what it means to be a chemist, different ways to teach students the practice of chemistry, alternative assessments– everything moving away from plug-and-chug and test, test, test. Everything moving toward playing in the places where chemists live.”

photo of robot with pencilAn activity to try:
I invite faculty to take some time, even 15 minutes, to informally write about disciplinary identities and the “whys” of your field. Some prompts to consider:

  • What does it mean to be an historian? An engineer? A poet? A political scientist?
  • How do you move through the world and see the world (like Wesch describes above)? What questions guide your field?
  • What are the tools of your discipline?
  • What spaces do you inhabit online? For example, I’m on Twitter because all of the educators I collaborate with are on Twitter. Computer scientists occupy spaces in GitHub. None of my colleagues, or the ideas in my field, live in the LMS. I know for some of you, the answer would not be a digital space at all; it might be “in a creek” or “on a mountain” or “surrounded by cows.” In the now times, perhaps students can still set out for those spaces and use an online space to share offline learning.
  • Why should students take your course or become _____ists?

Apply your brainstorming session above to course design:

  • Ways of being: who are students invited to be in your course (beyond “a student”)? Do they have an opportunity to try out, even in failed attempts, what it means to be this kind of person? In art classes, for example, students are invited to gallery walks and critiques, mentored in ways of talking about art with other artists.
  • Ways of working: What does it look like to do history or political science instead of learning about history or political science? How can you invite students to work in the ways your field works? What does informal writing look like in your field (email exchanges? Notes on paper? Chats in front of whiteboards?)? How might you break down formal assignments or projects into the “behind the scenes” parts? Which platforms or tools does your field use? Github, Adobe Illustrator, Google Docs? How do you collaborate with colleagues? Again, using DropBox, Google? Exchanging Word documents in email? What if you were leading a workshop with colleagues in your field: which tools would you use?
  • Ways of situating: Where do your professional communities live online? For example, I point my students to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and invite students to sign up for their newsletter. I request free copies of NCTE journals and hand those out to students. I point them to educators to follow on Twitter and introduce them to Instagram accounts like WeNeedDiverseBooks. In other words, I point them to where the fish are swimming in my field, toward the communities my students want to join. Where do your professional communities live or share informally?

I recognize the desire to limit the amount of platforms, tools, webspaces we are asking students to join or sign up for. This point is not trivial. But we are doing students a disservice, we are gatekeeping access, when we hide the communities they want to be a part of and only play in schooled platforms. Students do not need proficiency in learning how to use the LMS discussion board, the way to submit essays in TurnItIn, how to navigate a publisher’s textbook and quiz bank, and the worst, how to take a quiz while being proctored, and yet so much of their education is a series of lessons in schooled practices, not the rich practices of our fields. When people say students need a templated experience so they can more easily take our classes, I call BS. Students are already asked to use a ton of tools; how cool would it be if they were using tools that exist in the world, in their fields instead. Trust students; they are capable. They desperately need and want to play and learn for real. In fact, they may have an easier time navigating our disciplines when the spaces look different, not similar. The various spaces allow students to try on various identities: geographer, poet, chemist, sociologist… The LMS assumes they have one: a student.

tl;dr: who do students get to be in your classroom and what do students get to do in your classroom? Is the thing you’re asking students to do a thing that people do in your field? Is it a thing people do in the world outside of school? Carefully select any digital tool based on the answer to those questions. Ask yourself if your colleagues would recognize the tool. If you must, use the LMS for your syllabus and a calendar and then get students out of there and into the communities and spaces of your field.

One next step: building community and attention to noticing

By far, the question I am asked most frequently is about classroom community, stemming from the fear of its loss. For what it’s worth, here are some ways I intentionally design for community in online classes. Some of these ideas are no doubt things many of you are already doing:

  • Surveys: A week or so before the semester starts, I send students a survey. I ask about their technology access and comfort, including some lists with choices of specific tools. Since I teach writing, I ask about their experiences and views with writing in their lives. I leave some open questions so they can share concerns or ask me questions. This semester, I’m asking how they would prefer to receive weekly updates: in announcements, in email, on our website, in an app like GroupMe. I’ll post updates in most of these places, but also create personalized ways to share information (a small group who chooses GroupMe and a group who chooses email, for example). I see this as a simple copy and paste issue that may make their life easier: they can opt-in to how they want to communicate. I send surveys about once a month to see how things are going in our class: I ask what is working, what is not, suggestions for adjustments, all anonymously.
  • Videos: I record weekly videos to supplement the announcements. I try to do these outside, borrowing from Mike Wesch. He has a great YouTube series here you can subscribe to. I plan to level up this semester by trying out his “mixed tape” idea for weekly updates.
  • First week and its importance: I see the first few weeks as crucial to community building. I start with the obvious: introductions.
    • I use Currents (formerly G+ Communities) since students do not need a separate log-in; they can use our campus log-in since we have Google Suites. Since many of my students are future k-12 teachers, introducing them to the Google Suite of apps is important since most school districts use this platform. Everything we use is something they can try out to use in their own classrooms. For the introductions, I give them some choice of format: video, short writing, audio, a series of images. I model an introduction too.
    • I comment as quickly as their introductions appear in the Currents community and make connections on their posts, often sharing a link to a book, a film, something connected to their interests that also connects to the ideas in our class.
    • I email/communicate immediately on the first week and establish the weekly routines.
    • I offer reading/writing activities and respond within days on that first week. They will keep doing fabulous work when they know someone is reading it and engaging with it. We think so much about student engagement, but do we demonstrate our own engagement with their ideas? Even in a face to face class, I never go over the syllabus on the first day: I use the first day to model the ways we will work all semester. If I hope they’ll talk to each other, read things, write things, make things, then we need to do that on day one; if I go over the syllabus, then that’s what I’ve just modeled as the most important thing. Go over the highlights of the syllabus another day or week. They can read it. The same goes for online: do the things the first week that you hope you’ll do together all semester .

Noticing and celebrating student work

  • Review board: I’ve written about the use of a review board previously in articles about large course design. This passage from “Epic Learning…”students

As an example of one structure that supports, and more importantly, makes noticeable, the scholarly work of students, I ask students to participate in a “Review Board.” Each workshop team sends a representative to meet with me for an hour outside of class time each week. The Review Board is responsible for reading the work of their peers and nominating a writer to be featured in class. We end up with nine featured writers — one from each workshop — and we pick a few to talk about in the large class. The review board’s job — back in the large class — is to present the writing, talk about why they think it represents some of the best thinking that week, pose questions to the featured writer about her choices, and celebrate their peers. I am always impressed by this small Review Board team: without prompting they will often ask “what was the purpose of the writing this week?” Or they will say, “we featured her work last week; we should make sure someone else is featured.” The students recognize that the writing is intentional and that we value the ideas from as many students as possible in our class. Each week, a new batch of scholars emerge and are highlighted in our space — and over time — we build a community where the students are noticed.

  • Featured curators: In a few of my classes, I ask students to be responsible for noticing great ideas from our class and their peers. Everyone has a chance to curate ideas once: they are invited to review the work our class has produced that week and write a blog that highlights the work. You can see an example here. And again, since most of my students are future teachers, noticing interesting thinking from students is a practice I hope they try out. 
  • Ongoing amplification: I always use the weekly updates and reminders to amplify student ideas. I often mention students and their ideas/questions in the weekly videos. I include short passages from their work, awesome questions someone asked, “golden lines,” which are favorite sentences from each students’ writing that week. Sometimes I ask them to highlight a favorite sentence from a peer or from their own writing; they send these to me and I include them in the update.

A note about synchronous and asynchronous approaches to community: One response to a fear about the loss of community is an attempt to duplicate community through platforms like Zoom. If a course is discussion heavy, it is challenging to imagine ways to redesign without class discussions. Students want connection too: in surveys from spring, they asked for more connection to their peers and faculty. We all miss each other. In the many years I’ve taught online, I’ve never used Zoom or a synchronous model of teaching. I have found that asking students to write, read, make, share, celebrate can stand in for “talk” in class. They may not be asking for a synchronous approach, per se; they’re asking to be seen and heard. An asynchronous approach, with routine deadlines, gives them flexibility in their busy lives. Amplifying their work, asking them to notice each other’s work, helps all of us to feel seen and heard.

I use Zoom (or Google Hangouts or Skype) to collaborate with colleagues, so I understand the affordance. But, the way we’re using Zoom in classrooms does not look like the ways I use it to collaborate with my peers. When I use these platforms with students, I invite them to use the platform like I do with colleagues: webinars, virtual writing retreats, consultation sessions. In fact, the virtual writing retreats have been quite successful. We meet to check in, we work offline, then come back together for feedback. I can imagine building, making, playing with all kinds of ideas in this simple structure: check in, go do a thing, come back and get feedback on that thing. An opportunity we have in this moment is to connect students to colleagues in other places, students at other campuses who are researching similar ideas. We can invite an author to talk to our class about a reading on Zoom. I’m hopeful that we can all continue to imagine intentional ways to use video platforms.

What I dream about for the future of higher education in particular is that we support faculty and students as they figure out how to use the web and digital tools, like, for real. We need support in thinking about copyright, surveillance and privacy, accessibility, access, and equity. We should have spent the last 10 years inviting people to learn about the web, to really know how to navigate and make decisions about tools and platforms. Instead, we invited people to work in sandboxes behind schooled walls in the name of being safer or more accessible. Unfortunately, using a campus tool does not make it any more accessible: faculty who upload a reading as a jpeg instead of a pdf into the LMS did not make the reading accessible, for example. Faculty who upload all their student photos with email addresses without student permission are not making the space safer. Moving forward, we have an opportunity to use this moment to learn more about digital practices that live beyond any one tool. We have an opportunity to learn about the affordances and constraints of the web.


If you’re interested in resisting EdTech and need support, here are current resources you can point to:

Resources for accessibility in course design:

California Writing Project Black Lives Matter

California Writing Project Black Lives Matter

We, the directors of the 15 California Writing Project sites, stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. We are saddened and horrified by the murders of the past few weeks—the latest manifestation of the racism that began 400 years ago with the colonizing of what is now the United States.

This is who we are and what we see
The CWP is a community of educators dedicated to collaborating with teachers K-University to improve student writing. Now, more than ever, we are seeing the power of words, in speech and in writing, as an energy that can transform individual lives and break down oppressive systems. We are encouraged by this time of collective raised awareness, and by the growing number of people who have found the words that capture meaning for themselves and for others.

The moment has given us pause to reflect on our work. We have not been explicit enough in communicating our vision of the future–a world where all students have the capacity to write powerfully towards the purposes they most care about. As teachers, we work within a system that continually perpetuates inequities. We seek to be a partner in the humanizing revolution that abolishes these injustices, making use of our positions and the particular power each of us has. This revolution must include all of us, of all ethnicities and races, working alongside those who have borne the brunt of our country’s most racist beliefs and systems.

This is our pledge
While a social justice stance has been the backdrop of our work these past 40 years, we pledge to intensify our efforts.  We will dedicate ourselves to nurturing a community that comes together through writing and teaching to address anti-Blackness and other forms of racism in our society and our schools.

We will encourage students, teachers, and organizations to use the written word to elevate the voices of those repeatedly marginalized and threatened.  The ability to respond to the world with the written word is one of the greatest tools we can offer. We will use this tool to disrupt the status quo, to shed light on injustices and effect change.

Further, we commit to creating safe spaces for teachers to listen loudly and engage in difficult conversations about matters of race, to sitting with the discomfort that allows self-examination and growth.

We must all break the silence.

In solidarity, California Writing Project Directors –
Tim Dewar, CWP Executive Director and South Coast Writing Project
Nicolette Amann, Redwood Writing Project
Louann Baker, Central California Writing Project
Martin Brandt, San Jose Area Writing Project
Kim Douillard, San Diego Area Writing Project
Kate Flowers-Rossner, San Jose Area Writing Project
Lauren Godfrey, UC Irvine Writing Project
Kim Jaxon, Northern California Writing Project
Peter Kittle, CWP Statewide Office
Agnes Mazur, Inland Area Writing Project
Carol Minner, Great Valley Writing Project
Katie Nguyen-Lake, CWP Statewide Office
Faye Peitzman, UCLA Writing Project
Karen Smith, Area 3 Writing Project
Katherine Suyeyasu, Bay Area Writing Project
Laurie Stowell, San Marcos Writing Project
Juliet Wahleithner, San Joaquin Valley Writing Project
Jenn Wolfe, Cal State Northridge Writing Project

Applications open for our 2020 Summer Institute! (Postponed)

Applications open for our 2020 Summer Institute! (Postponed)

Like many programs across the globe, we are sad to say that we will be postponing our 2020 Summer Institute until summer 2021. We are, however, working on some alternative formats for supporting teachers. More information coming soon.

Stay safe everyone and thank you for everything you’re doing for students!


We hope you will join us or recommend a colleague for the 2020 Summer Institute! This summer, we are looking for teachers from across grade levels and disciplines who are in their first five years of teaching. Our goal: support our new, rural educators and connect them with other peers in the area who think about the teaching of writing.

Deadlines, dates and location?

  • Friday, March 15: Applications due.
  • Saturday, April 25: Pre-Institute gathering on the Chico State campus (lunch provided)
  • Summer Institute takes place 9:00-3:00 each day on the Chico State campus on the following days:
    • Monday to Thursday: June 15-18
    • Monday to Thursday: June 22-25
    • Monday-Tuesday: June 29-30.
      • Participants must be able to attend all days including the pre-institute gathering


Meet the NCWP Summer 2019 Fellows!

Meet the NCWP Summer 2019 Fellows!

This summer we are hosting our Summer Invitational Institute with a bit of a twist: we invited some incredible new teachers–teachers who are in their first five years of teaching–to join us for our Beginning Teacher Design Institute. These fellows will work together in June to share teaching practices and reflect on the teaching of writing in their classrooms, which span kindergarten to college. We believe these educators will offer new insights to our summer institute and new ideas to support local teachers. The fellows will imagine and design professional development for other new teachers in our service area.

Meet the 2019 Fellows!

Haley Hansen
Haley Hansen
Los Molinos Elementary
Sarah Darling
Sarah Darling
Shasta High School
Anthony Miranda
Anthony Miranda
Sierra Vista K-8
Jessica Bruce-McNeely
Jessica Bruce-McNeely
Alta Mesa Elementary School
John LaPine
John LaPine
Butte Community College
Samantha Brooks
Samantha Brooks
Colusa High School
Taylor Erickson
Taylor Erickson
Enterprise High School
Sam Roy
Sam Roy
John McManus Elementary
Katie Gorman
Katie Gorman
Buckeye School of the Arts
Abby Ott
Abby Ott
Willows High School
Kendall Enns
Kendall Enns
Willows High School
Joe Willis
Joe Willis
Feather River College
Sarah Morrison
Sarah Morrison
Boulder Creek Elementary
Samantha Brooks

Samantha Brooks teaches 9th grade ELA in the rural town of Colusa, California. Before entering her fourth year in teaching, she looks forward to beginning a graduate program through Arkansas State University online in Adolescent Literacy. She is also thrilled to be collaborating with fellow new teachers in the Northern California Writing Project. Samantha earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development from the University of California, Davis, which is close to the tiny town of Esparto, where she grew up. She enjoys the small-school atmosphere, but also appreciates the “professional distance” between her workplace and the town she lives in now: right here in Chico. Aside from teaching, planning, yearbook-editing, and student-supporting, Samantha has a newfound (or, found-again) love of reading for pleasure. She has incorporated a significant amount of choice-reading into her curriculum, and is often found at local thrift stores, scouring the book section for contemporary young adult novels. She is always accepting donations to her classroom library 😉 One of her goals is to get students to write more about what they read, and more easily see the connection between reading, writing, and agency in this world.

Jessica Bruce-McNeely

Jessica Bruce-McNeely is a 4th and 5th grade combo teacher at Alta Mesa Elementary School in Redding California. She is interested in technology, World History, and outdoor education. In her spare time Jessica spends the majority of her time outside exploring with her husband.

Sarah Darling

Sarah Darling is in her first year of teaching English in an American high school and is currently at Shasta High School. She teaches CP English II, Basic English II, Yearbook, and Literacy Lab. Before teaching at Shasta, she was living and teaching English in South Korea for two and a half years. She went to teach English in South Korea because she wasn’t sure she wanted to be a teacher when she originally started the credential back in 2011. She decided to teach English in South Korea to find out if she liked it or not. She LOVED teaching. She had to come back and finish her credential. Literally, had to come back to finish it: the deadline to complete it was approaching. American high school is vastly different, but she is glad to be here. Each of her students brings something different to the classroom. Each of them is a new world that she wants to help open up for the world to see and for them to experience the world. Sarah has no awards or accolades. On her wall in the classroom, she has various student drawings and random things the students have found and given to her, proving that even a teenager really is a child at heart.

Hannah Duran

Hannah Duran grew up in small town Cottonwood before moving to Chico in order to attend Chico State University. She received her BA in English Studies with a minor in Linguistics and she currently teaches freshman composition while attending graduate school. Upon completion of her MA this spring 2019, Hannah plans on pursuing her Ph.D. in order to one day teach at a 4-year university. Some of her current research interests include rhetoric, composition, literacy, and linguistics. When she is not willfully indulging in her studies, she enjoys coffee and reading, watching movies with her husband, being outside, and spending time with her family and friends. She works closely with first generation students in EOP through the Summer Bridge program and in FYC.

Kendall Enns

Kendall Enns is a high school English teacher and Herff Jones yearbook adviser at Willows High School. She completed her Master’s in Education with an option in Curriculum and Instruction through the Residency in Secondary Education (RiSE) Program at Chico State in 2017. Prior to that, she was an English tutor to Burmese refugees in Chiang Mai while studying abroad in Thailand as a Gilman International Scholarship recipient. The travel bug has since then inspired her adventures throughout Southeast Asia and Australia. Next January, she and her fiancé will be married on the island of Koh Tao joined by close friends. Normally she spends her summers teaching for Upward Bound, helping students write personal statements for college admission, but she wanted some time off for professional development. In her spare time, she enjoys plotting her next adventure, training for her first half-marathon, and studying Vedic meditation with some yoga in between.

Taylor Erickson

Born a southern Californian, Taylor Erickson moved to Redding in July 2018 and is thrilled to be on the north side of her native state where there is less traffic. She currently teaches 9th and 10th grade English at Enterprise High School in Redding. Last year, she spent her first-year teaching high school in Santa Ynez, California working mostly with mild to moderate special needs students. Though she never saw herself as a teacher after graduating from UCLA, she is glad to have directed her focus on public service. The best part of teaching is when a group of 30 teenagers actually listen and follow directions. The second best part is when they debate each other using academic language. The third best part is when that troublesome student admits that they actually missed you when you were absent. In her free time, she enjoys high-intensity exercising, organic plant-based food and brainstorming book ideas (which are gestating in her mind, waiting to be birthed into actual books).

Katie Gorman

Katie Gorman graduated in 2009 with a Masters Degree in Education from Simpson University with a Preliminary Administration Service Credential. She is a Kindergarten teacher at Buckeye School of the Arts. It is her first year at Buckeye. She loves teaching kindergarten because she can help kids see their potential and develop a love of learning. She is married and has three wonderful children. Her hobbies are mostly whatever sports her children play. Katie and her husband volunteer to run a Flag Football League every spring, with over 200 participants this year. Last Christmas, she organized a toy drive for Children’s First Foster Families and raised over 400 toys for foster youth.

Haley Hansen

Haley Hansen is an English teacher at Los Molinos Elementary. She teaches 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. Los Molinos is a small farming community 25 minutes north of Chico. With the entire school K-8 only having about 300 students enrolled, Haley teaches all of the middle school students at the school. In addition to being a classroom teacher, Haley is one of two English Language Development site coordinators in her district and focuses her work on Los Molinos Elementary. As the site coordinator, Haley ensures all ELPAC testing is completed, trains teachers in ELD methods and strategies, and collects and analyzes data regarding the English Language Learners (ELLs) at her site. Haley was awarded the English Department’s student of the year at California State University, Chico in 2016 where she majored in English Education and minored in Linguistics. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Haley continued her education and was accepted into the RiSE program. Here, she obtained her California single subject teaching credential in English and her Master’s in Education. Her professional interests include culturally relevant teaching, language preservation, and self-reflection as a teaching and learning strategy. Her personal interests include spending time with her dogs, lifting weights, hunting, fishing, and all things crafty.

Keaton Kirkpatrick

Keaton Kirkpatrick teaches first year composition at CSU, Chico. He recently earned his MA in English in the Language and Literacy Pattern with plans to pursue his Ph.D. in Literacy Studies. He researches mentorship, classroom management, and digital communities relating to composition and literacy. He also works closely with students in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at Chico State as both a mentor and an instructor.

John LaPine

John LaPine earned his MA in creative writing & pedagogy from Northern Michigan University (NMU), where he worked as a part-time teaching assistant for two years, while volunteering as an associate editor of creative nonfiction & poetry for the literary journal Passages North. He is also a poet, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in: The Rising Phoenix ReviewHot Metal BridgeThe /Temz/ ReviewGlass: A Journal of PoetryUnder the Gum Tree, Rhythm & BonesMidwestern Gothic, & elsewhere. John is currently in his first full-time year teaching English at Butte College, focusing on literature, poetry, creative writing, first-year composition, and critical thinking. He is on the committee that organizes WordSpring, an annual creative writing conference at Butte, and recently worked as editor for After/Ashes: A Camp Fire Anthology, a compilation of creative work about the Camp Fire, as a way to raise funds for fire-affected WordSpring attendees. John is also (slowly!) working on producing a podcast called Queer Americans, which seeks to document and project the voices of queer-identified Midwesterners. You can find more information on his website or follow him on Twitter @JohnLaPine

Anthony Miranda is a 7th grade English teacher at Sierra Vista K-8 in Vacaville. His interests are in exploring ways of using language and literacy that enable students to recognize and navigate schooling as a complex institution, in designing connections between content and civic participation, and in ongoing, critical reflection of how teachers negotiate the tension between schooling, as an instrument of oppression, and education, as an emancipatory practice. Prior to teaching only English, he taught 7th and 8th grade English and History. He participated in the UC, Berkeley History-Social Science Project’s Teacher Research Group that focused on making explicit to students the historical thinking skills necessary for evaluating and more fully understanding historical narratives. He is also interested in exploring and evaluating language and literacy initiatives that support students from non-dominant backgrounds. As a Curriculum Support Provider for ELA/ELD, and through participation in site-based teams and committees, he has explored how organizational theories of change and models of implementation can leverage teacher expertise and include their voice in the process of change. Outside of the classroom, he can be found with his wife at museums and art galleries, hiking and biking, or making the rounds to the local breweries.

Sarah Morrison

Sarah Morrison is a first grade teacher at Boulder Creek Elementary School in Redding — a school filled with mentor teachers who are willing to answer 20 (million) questions in order to help her survive and thrive in a classroom filled with 6 year olds.  When she’s not tying shoes and thinking about unicorns and the floss and all other relevant first grade things, she’s out being an aunt looking for baby dinosaurs with her nephew, exploring the coast of California, visiting family, biking with her German Shepherd, scheming her next international adventure, and decorating and redecorating her house.

Abby Ott

Abby Ott teaches English Language Arts at Willows High School, where she is about to begin her third year. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English Education from California State University, Chico, and she earned her single subject teaching credential and a masters degree in Education through CSU Chico’s RiSE program in 2017. Her favorite thing about teaching is getting to spend all day with teenagers, who she thinks are some of the best people in the world. Abby is a lifelong northern California native, and a proud connoisseur of local hiking trails and campsites. When she’s not teaching, lesson planning, grading, or directing the school play, she spends every possible minute adventuring outdoors with her husband, Ben, and her dog, Remi. She is an avid hiker, backpacker, and traveler, and hopes to check summiting Mount Shasta and visiting Asia off her bucket list this year.

Sam Roy

Sam Roy is the Reset/Onsite Suspension Teacher for Chico Unified School District at John McManus Elementary School. His classroom roster regularly consists of kindergarteners through fifth grade where he uses mindfulness and restorative justice techniques in the classroom with each student. Prior to the Reset role, Sam worked in the tech industry for five years as a training manager, using educational techniques he learned at the University of San Francisco with adults in tech. Sam attended seminars and conferences led by Brene Brown and Simon Sinek and applied their methods of leadership and vulnerability in the tech sector workplace. He also wrote grants for training tech with the Employment Training Panel with the State of California during his tenure as a manager. Before his life in the tech sector, Sam received his Master of Arts in Teaching and his California Teaching Credential from the University of San Francisco, with his thesis centered on project based learning focused on social studies material surrounding feudal Japan. Sam taught fifth through ninth grade in the Bay Area, ranging in topics from homeroom to civics to world cultures to American history. While in the Bay Area, he was the site leader for the Washington D.C. 8th grade trip and he also coached Jr. High boys and girls soccer and baseball. Sam resides in Chico with his wife, his daughter and son, and their dog. He enjoys lots of things, like comic books, roleplaying games, Magic The Gathering, and drawing.

Joe Willis

Joe Willis: Ever since early childhood, I have been exploring forbidden zones in garages and back yards to figure out how things work. Targets of my inquiries ranged from mechanical things like power tools, toasters and radios to insects and flowers, especially insect-flower codependency. This led eventually to discovering literature that brought a science perspective to imaginary themes in poetry, fiction, and the essay. Writers such as Steinbeck, Thoreau, Twain, and Shakespeare were studied superficially in high school. Strange as it may seem, I was first led to deeper appreciation of such writers through conversations in bars with my biology professors. I suppose the seeds were being sown all along for a career that would shift slowly but steadily from teaching science and math in conventional ways, to curriculum writing with interdisciplinary approaches that sometimes got me into trouble, to my current love which is living in the Sierra (which is a singular noun, by the way) and teaching writing and literature classes at Feather River College.



Hello from the New NCWP Director!

Hello from the New NCWP Director!

Kim Jaxon, the new NCWP Director, with students from her first year writing course at Chico State

Hello fellow educators and welcome (or welcome back) to the NCWP site!

We’ve recently updated our website in order to highlight a couple new projects we are excited about: A Beginning Teacher Design Institute and, starting in February, local teacher featured blogs. The blogs will give you insights into area teachers’ classrooms and ideas they have for teaching writing across grade level and contexts.

Beginning Teacher Design InstituteNew teachers are perfectly positioned to know the particular challenges that can be part of the first few years. This summer (June 2019) we are launching an institute specific to the needs of early career teachers. Fifteen teachers–kindergarten to college in their first five years of teaching–will be invited to design writing support for other new, area teachers. We will alternate this institute every other summer with our traditional invitational institute. Please share the application with the fabulous early career teachers you know: LINK to application HERE.

NCWP Teachers WriteOn: In February, we begin our bi-weekly blog series featuring local teachers. These blogs highlight insights into best practices and ideas for teaching writing across the disciplines. We will offer the option to sign up for our monthly newsletter so you do not miss these blogs. If you are a local teacher who has participated in a Summer Institute in the past, and are interested in writing about your teaching, please apply to our Saturday session led by local writer Sarah Pape. The workshop will be held Feb 23, 9:00-3:00, on the Chico State campus. More information and application here: LINK  Applications due Feb 15.

In addition to our new projects, we have a lot of activity in the NCWP at the moment. Carla Truttman, an amazing high school teacher from Yreka, leads our College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP). Currently, Carla and other local teachers–Shawni McBride from Corning High School, Robbin Jack from Shasta Unified, and Tracy Dickinson from Etna– are working with teachers at Maxwell and Princeton High Schools to think about research, argument, and claim driven writing practices. The team will meet with other teachers from around the United States in Atlanta in February to share insights into the C3WP program.

Amanda Von Kleist and Lindsey Nemec are currently leading a year long professional development series with Fair View, AFC, Cal, and Oakdale educators to support writing across a variety of disciplines. Robbin Jack is currently designing a summer civics writing camp for youth in Siskiyou County that will be held in July on the College of the Siskiyous campus. And, we recently completed curriculum design work with the National Parks that will be made available to local teachers.

I am thrilled to be taking on the challenge of directing the NCWP. My own adult children are 7th generation in this area: my ties to this community run deep. Recently, I’ve focused attention on supporting local teachers who were impacted by the fire. With two local elementary educators, Monica Brown and Amy Niess, we’ve started Color a Classroom with Love.

(Jason Halley/University Photographer/CSU Chico)

We are connecting teachers with support networks through a Facebook group and a website: LINK HERE. My future teachers at Chico State are working with me: we are in awe of the incredible work these teachers are doing to support their students. If you have not watched the documentary about Paradise Intermediate Schools efforts to relocate to the former OSH building, you can find the video on our Color a Classroom site. There is also a For Donors page if you are interested in supporting local teachers who were impacted by the Campfire.

We are grateful to all our teachers and the incredible work you do every day to support students. WriteOn.


Kim Jaxon, Director NCWP

Follow on Twitter: @drjaxon

Kim’s website