Shawn DeNight, an English and journalism teacher at Miami Senior High, says the Zelda Glazer and Eveleen Lorton Writing Institute (GLWI) is the best professional development program in South Florida. “I’ve been coming here for 26 years, and I always get new ideas and fresh inspiration to take back to my students.”
A longtime institute facilitator, DeNight, was among the 150 teachers taking part in the 36th annual GLWI institute, which was held June 17-28 at Zelda Glazer Middle School, and organized by the University of Miami’s School of Education and Human Development (SEHD) in partnership with the Miami-Dade County Public School District. The institute’s leaders include Lorton, now professor emerita, and co-directors Nanette Raska, University of Miami, and Joanie Cobo, assistant principal, Vineland K-8 Center, M-DCPS.
“When we held our first session on June 18, 1984, Zelda and I agreed on three principles for the institute: student writing can be improved by the teaching of writing, teachers of writing must write themselves, and teachers of writing must listen to each other,” said Lorton. “Through the years, that sense of collaboration has provided a foundation for our institute.”
SEHD Dean Laura Kohn-Wood and M-DCPS School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho addressed the GLWI participants at the opening luncheon for the institute, whose theme is “The world comes alive through writing.”
Each year, the summer institute attracts a notable guest faculty, and the 2019 instructors included author Jennifer Jacobson, author Carol Jago, writing consultant Jeff Anderson, Stanford University professor Dr. Alice Kawazoe, and Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco.
Listening to their suggestions, trading ideas with the peers and practicing their own writing gave Miami-Dade teachers plenty of practical strategies to take back to their classrooms. “For me, one of the takeaways was giving my students a choice of writing topics,” said Heather Lockerbie, a sixth-grade teacher at W. R. Thomas Middle School. “That helps them take ownership of their writing.”
At the institute’s closing breakfast, Miami-Dade County School Board members Larry Feldman and Mari Tere Rojas thanked the teachers for their dedication. “You are our heroes,” said Rojas. “As a former teacher myself, I know the importance of giving you the support you need to succeed in the classroom.”
Rojas invited Lorton, Raska, Cobo and Winston Warrior, SEHD executive director of strategic communications and marketing, to the stage, where she led a rousing impromptu sing-along to “We Are Family” with attendees dancing and clapping by their tables.
After everyone sat down, Feldman said, “This is the way a classroom should be – full of energy with everyone having a great day. This writing institute is so important because it frees your spirit and allows you to be you. There is nothing better in this world than seeing that light bulb go off in the minds of your students.”
Winston also thanked the teachers for their commitment to learning. “My mother taught English literature in Atlanta, so I know the impact that teachers can have on their students,” he said. “As a communications professor myself, I am glad that our school can be a partner in this great writing program.”