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National Writing Project attracts 200 teachers

March 10, 2009

KALAMAZOO--More than 200 teachers from across the country are expected flock to Kalamazoo for the Rural Sites Network Conference Friday and Saturday, March 13-14, hosted by Western Michigan University's National Writing Project site, the Third Coast Writing Project.

WMU's Third Coast Writing Project, an offshoot of the National Writing Project, was selected as the host site for the conference after a NWP leadership team conducted an onsite visit to WMU last year.

The conference, at the Radisson Plaza Hotel, will highlight WMU and the communities in and around Kalamazoo. The Rural Sites Network Conference is held every other year and brings together teachers at rural and semi-rural districts to share best practices in education.

The conference begins with a dinner Friday, March 13, featuring Michigan historian and storyteller Larry Massie. Gold Company II, part of WMU's nationally prominent vocal music program, will offer the evening's entertainment. The conference continues Saturday, March 14, with 20 to 30 concurrent sessions addressing themes and issues important to educators nationwide.

There are also several pre-conference events, highlighting education in Kalamazoo, including a tour of a local elementary school, the Washington Writers' Academy, a Digital Storytelling Institute, and a "writing marathon" in downtown Kalamazoo, during which participants tour key cultural and social spots and produce creative writing pieces in response.

Dr. Karen Vocke, WMU assistant professor of English, will be the keynote speaker that day. She is an authority on English language learners and migrant education issues and author of "Where Do I Go from Here? Meeting the Unique Educational Needs of Migrant Students."

The conference also will feature a lunch presentation by the husband-and-wife team of Dr. Steve Feffer, WMU assistant professor of English, and Laura Feffer, a teacher at Allegan Alternative High School, along with more than 25 concurrent sessions on writing, teaching and rural education issues led by teacher presenters from 32 NWP sites representing 21 states.

This is the first time the conference has been held in Kalamazoo. The NWP chose to hold it here because of the work being done through the Third Coast Writing Project, WMU's steadily growing National Writing Project site.

"We're thrilled to have the conference in Kalamazoo," says NWP Rural Sites co-chair Joyce Sheehey. "Kalamazoo is an amazing town, and the Third Coast Writing Project is well-known in our network for their outstanding programs."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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