Reflections on CAPTA’s First Annual Directors’ Retreat

On Saturday, January 10, 2015, current and prospective directors of high school and community writing center programs gathered at Albemarle (Va) High School.  Twenty-one educators from four states (Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina) made the journey to Charlottesville to share their challenges, successes, and best practices.

The event was hosted by Hannah Baran of Albemarle High School and sponsored by the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association.  CAPTA is a newly-formed non-profit organization whose mission is to “build community among secondary school writing and learning center directors, tutors, and partners; promote advocacy for peer-driven programs that transform schools by empowering student leaders; and support development and sharing of local resources for new and existing centers.”

Retreat attendees also heard a keynote from Dr. Pam Moran, Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools.  Dr. Moran emphasized that writing centers can assist students in learning to communicate in a broad range of genres, from tweets to research papers.  She spoke of the positive impact she has seen “writing across the curriculum” and writing to learn programs have on student learning, independence, and creativity.  She also exhorted the directors to consider how their work exists at the intersection of communication and technology, sharing a quote from Troy Hicks, Director of the Chippewa Writing Project in Michigan and author of Crafting Digital Writing: “There is not a writer in our classrooms today who will not be producing something with a digital writing tool in her or his lifetime.”

The directors in attendance hailed from diverse educational settings including a private K-12 school, a small rural public school, an inner-city vocational school, and a program that sends university student tutors to high school classrooms.  Nevertheless, everyone walked away with new ideas for establishing or strengthening their programs.  Amber Jensen, founder of the writing center at Edison High School and president of CAPTA, said “I loved having the chance to connect with directors at so many different places in the process of creating a writing center. As a director of an established writing center, I was very energized by the momentum and ideas of those who are just at the beginning of the journey. I am very enthusiastic about what they bring to our community.”  Barbara Musselman of Broad Run High School agreed: “Great to catch the enthusiasm among the other writing center instructors! Each presenter had some concrete ideas that would be good to try at our school.”

For more information about this event and high school peer tutoring programs, please visit captawritingcenters.org or contact Kate Gillen, CAPTA Communications Chair at kkgillen@fcps.edu or Hannah Baran at hbaran@k12albemarle.org.

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