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 Educators Sharpen Skills at WRITE Institute

About 50 educators from throughout the state were at the San Diego County Office of Education this week to learn how to improve writing lessons and inspire students in their schools and districts.

The Writing Reform and Innovation for Teaching Excellence (WRITE) Summer Leadership Institute ran four days from July 30 to Aug. 2, drawing participants from Alameda, Santa Clara, Yolo, Tulare, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

The lessons are intended to help teachers transform how they teach writing, said Julie Goldman, who has helped coordinate the annual summer institute for the past 13 years.

"It's really about academic equality, and it's about closing the achievement gap," she said. "If we're teaching kids to write, in that process, we're teaching them to think, we're teaching them academic language, we're teaching them everything about language."

Once the participants go back to their home districts and start training teachers, the information will help tens of thousands of students across the state, Goldman said.

In addition to the four days of training at the County Office, participants also will take part in online follow-up sessions and have access to online curriculum, training resources, networking, and support.

A group of teachers in the San Dieguito Union High School District started the WRITE Institute in 1989 to help older English-learner students with their writing and reading skills. It was originally known as Project Write and became part of the San Diego County Office of Education in 2002.

Since then, the program has evolved to include all grade levels as well as social studies and science teachers.

"People are realizing that writing is a school-wide responsibility," said Laurie Nesrala, lead coordinator for the institute.

Over the years, the program also has received awards and recognition from the U.S. Department of Education, National School Boards Association, California Department of Education, California School Boards Association, and California Association for Bilingual Education.

"It's not just about teaching students writing skills," Nesrala said. "It's about honoring them as authors. It's about empowering students to find their voice or nurturing that voice."

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Photo: Kristen Blake, WRITE Institute coordinator, works with a group of educators Thursday as part of the four-day program at the SDCOE main campus.