Writing coaches win with words

Visits to area classrooms benefit elementary students, future teachers

| Author: ​Jeff Johnston

"If something doesn't make sense, he helps us fix it." That's how 10-year-old Tanner White explains Central Michigan University student Tom McNeilly's role in his Mount Pleasant classroom.

Tanner is a fifth grader in Jeanne Fidler's classroom at Fancher Elementary School, and McNeilly is a CMU elementary education major and one of 75-100 writing coaches CMU's English language and literature department sends into mid-Michigan elementary schools each semester to work with teachers and students.

The arrangement is mutually beneficial: Tanner and his classmates become better writers, and McNeilly and his fellow coaches gain real-world experience in preparation for student teaching and educational careers.

The writing coach program is part of English 315: Teaching Writing in Elementary and Middle Schools.

English faculty member Amy Carpenter Ford coordinates clinical experiences for CMU's aspiring elementary and secondary teachers. In fall 2019, she and colleague Kristin Sovis placed 100 students in Clare, Shepherd, Alma and Mount Pleasant schools to work with students in grades K-5.

"Teachers in the schools rave about the program, saying they couldn't reach so many students without our writing coaches," Ford said. "Students say this is the most memorable part of their teacher preparation so far, and they are learning a ton from it."

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