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Summer Institute Offers Benefits for Teachers


A summer program housed at SUNY Cortland invites talented local teachers who double as leaders.

The Seven Valleys Writing Project Summer Institute is accepting applications from teachers at all grade levels in all content areas. The three-week program, which takes place from Monday, July 7, to Friday, July 25, offers up to six graduate credits, more than 80 professional development credit hours and a limited number of $1,000 stipends to offset graduate school expenses.

The application deadline is Saturday, May 31, and space is limited to 20 teachers. The program is open to mid-career teachers as well as graduate students who are entering the teaching profession and retired teachers.

“This is not an English program; it’s a leadership program,” said David Franke, a SUNY Cortland professor who leads the Summer Institute. “Writing is a way to learn and explore, and we make a supportive space for teachers to take risks.”

The big picture goal of the program is to provide teachers of all subjects the tools they need to innovate and reflect.

“We might have a kindergarten teacher, an 11th grade social studies teacher, a physical education teacher, an English teacher and a seventh grade math teacher, all working on their own writing as well as writing lessons that will have their students understanding the subject matter more deeply,” Franke said.

Summer Institute days typically span a normal workday and allow time for lesson plan development, research, personal writing and discussion. A math teacher, for instance, might lead a sample lesson where students — played by other Summer Institute participants — are asked to describe their thought process in words. The teacher is able to understand the most effective or ineffective parts of a lesson and the student is trained to articulate an idea.

“It’s not about being a published writer,” Franke said. “Summer Institute is an opportunity for teachers to return to what got them in this business in the first place.”

“The folks we invite to join us tend to be highly motivated, creative and practical. They work very closely together for a period of three weeks.”

In addition to refined lesson plans and polished pieces of personal writing, one of the Summer Institute’s key takeaways is a group of close colleagues to consult with in the future, Franke said.

“One of the side effects of this is that it creates a community of teacher-learners,” he said. “And that’s what people report back as one of the most powerful effects.”

Creativity and confidence are common words that appear in participant feedback evaluations.

“I have come to realize how little I have used writing,” a former Summer Institute graduate wrote. “I knew it was missing, but after being here, I have so many ways to sneak it back into my classroom.”

“I’m reminded to take risks and that if I don't think writing is interesting, no one in my class will,” another past participant reported.

The Seven Valleys Writing Project offers a limited number of $1,000 stipends to those who desire graduate credit. Accepted applicants can use the Summer Institute to obtain three or six graduate credits.

Participants who wish to earn professional development credit can apply for tuition payment through their local school district by registering through My Learning Plan at Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES.

Complete registration information for the 2014 Summer Institute can be found on the Seven Valleys Writing Project website. For more information about tuition, payment or credit, contact Franke.