Western Massachusetts Writing Project Hosts Best Practices in Teaching Writing Conference

May 29, 2024
Dr. Jennifer DiGrazia and Joe Courchesne, from the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. They stand side by side and smile.

Dr. Jennifer DiGrazia and Joe Courchesne from the 2023 WMWP AI Workshop. Courchesne was also one of the presenters for this year's Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing conference.

From the 2024 WMWP's Best Practices for Teachers conference. a speaker stands before rows of participants as she explains their agenda.

The Western Massachusetts Writing Project (WMWP), a branch of the National Writing Project (NWP), is one of 184 sites nationwide committed to empowering K-16 educators through reflective scholarship and teachers teaching teachers. The NWP operates under three main tenets, which maintain that teachers are the best teachers for other teachers, teachers should be leaders, and teachers should engage with reflective scholarship in their own classes. Currently, the WMWP is housed within the Office for Teacher Licensure, Accreditation, and Outreach at Westfield State University, supervised by Dr. Megan Kennedy and co-located at UMass Amherst.

On April 27, WMWP held its Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing conference, providing a platform for teachers to present research initiated during the 2023 Summer Leadership Institute. Throughout the past year, educators gathered data on projects ranging from fostering classroom discussions to implementing mindfulness strategies and more. The conference also featured a keynote address by Dr. Anne Elrod Whitney from Penn State College of Education. One participant wrote, “Anne Elrod Whitney was tremendous. She offered perspectives I've never thought about, particularly the way she transformed annoyance with those who tell her what and how to teach into a beautiful learning experience for her students. Thanks for a great conference!”

“We think about how we create meaningful transfer from kindergarten and up through graduation from college around writing instruction,” Dr. Jennifer DiGrazia, Professor of English and site director for the WMWP said. “How do we facilitate that? It’s amazing what happens when you get teachers talking to one another.”

From the 2024 WMWP's Best Practices for Teachers conference. A woman presents her research before two rows of participants. Two projector screens are on the wall as she presents.

The event also highlighted presentations from University alumni, reflecting Westfield State’s commitment to excellence and ongoing success. Presenters included Joe Courchesne, Spencer Van Tassel, Simone LaPlant, and alum Kevin Hodgson, a sixth-grade teacher at Norris Elementary School. Kevin, along with Leslie Skantz-Hodgson, are recent recipients of a MacArthur Grant through the NWP, which will take place this upcoming year.

As part of Dr. DiGrazia’s upper level writing pedagogy class, she required her students to attend this WMWP conference so they are exposed to the realities of teaching as well as the joy which comes from being part of a supportive community of teachers.

“It was the first time we’ve come together since COVID-19 in person,” she said. “The last three conferences have been online, and we had over 50 people, which is a pretty good turnout for a local conference. I think it went great. The energy was good.” Attendees earn professional development points toward recertification.

Dr. DiGrazia also emphasized the networking opportunities WMWP conferences provide. “The students in my class appreciated it too, because it’s an opportunity for them to network with teachers in the area and find out more about what it’s really like to teach,” she added. “I think they get a particular view of it while they’re still kind of separate from the school systems, so it’s a chance to talk to real people doing what they’re eventually going to do.”

English Professor Wyatt Hermansen noted, “We're so lucky to host WMWP on our campus. I look forward to more events like today's conference.” Looking ahead, the WMWP will host the second Summer Institute Leadership conference 2024 in July, a staple event leading to next year's presentations. For more information on the conference, readers can visit and register here.

For more information about the WMWP, visit their website for additional details.