Grant will focus on teacher leadership with a focus on literacy
Aimee LaBrie

the grant will support two cohorts of K-12 educators who will focus on creating stronger educators.

Rider University’s Department of Teacher Education in the School of Education was awarded a $20,000 focus grant in March from the National Writing Project. Disseminated over the next two years, the grant will support two cohorts of K-12 educators who will focus on creating stronger educators and leaders of literary programming for K-12 teachers in the community.   

Dr. Heather Casey, associate professor of Literacy Education and director of the National Writing Project at Rider, contextualizes the significance of this grant. “When NWP was first established, the idea was to fund teacher development embedded in research-based practices. This particular grant is focused on developing teacher leadership to cultivate new literacy leaders in the classroom and in their schools over the next two years who will positively engage youth and adolescent readers and writers.” 

Since 2000, Rider has been affiliated with the National Writing project under the leadership of Professor Emeritus Dr. Carol Brown. The mission of the project is to support leadership among teachers and to provide them with the tools and the community support they need to create excellent literacy programs for their students. With the additional funding provided by this grant, Rider will be able to directly impact that core goal by offering instructional opportunities to New Jersey K-12 educators.  

These two programs will offer in-depth analysis and guidance from experienced teachers, literacy coaches and administrators. Perhaps most importantly, the programs will offer opportunities to study and implement teaching methods that are shown to be most effective in supporting children’s literacy learning. “Research on professional development suggests that if we want to support teachers in the classroom, there needs to be opportunities for in-depth study of key topics over time and focused support throughout,” Casey says. “Research shows us that then, you have a greater likelihood of having a higher impact with your students and sustaining new practice.” 

The proposal that lead to the grant focused on developing teacher leaders through the NWP model. “The hope is to offer mentorship opportunities for 8 to 10 participant from September to June of next year,” explains Casey. “The group will meet monthly and maintain electronic communications to develop particular literacy projects that will then be implemented in the classroom or school.” At the completion of the project, the participants will receive a stipend for participating, and will also be asked to share the results of their work at a conference or sessions. The 2014-2015 project will have a similar goal, and also involve at least ten educators or more.  

The grant project is just part of NWP at Rider’s commitment to providing resources for local teachers on an ongoing basis. In late March, [email protected] offered a night of literacy learning and round table conversations in collaboration with the Rider TLC community. They also hold after school continuity workshops sessions for local teachers focused on particular topics; a recent session discussed how to best use digital tools in the readers and writers’ workshop. The next one, open to all, will be held on May 20 at Rider. During the summer, teachers can take part in professional development programming that focusing on everything from classroom management to how to build a community of readers. Registration is currently open. 

For more information about [email protected] opportunities or the upcoming project, visit the website at or contact Dr. Casey at [email protected].