The idea for the UAB Red Mountain Writing Project (RMWP) arose in 2003 when Dr. Maryann Manning (Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Alabama at Birmingham) recognized a need in north-central Alabama. Dr. Manning believed that students in this region were not learning to write as well as they could because there were few opportunities for their teachers to learn the most recent methods for writing instruction. Dr. Manning became interested in the National Writing Project, a federal granting agency that funded "sites" devoted to improving writing instruction in their regions, and she soon recruited Dr. Bruce McComiskey (Department of English, University of Alabama at Birmingham) to help write a grant to fund what would soon become RMWP. The grant was funded, and with this seed money, RMWP planned its first Summer Institute for the summer of 2004.
That first summer, Drs. Manning and McComiskey worked with twenty dedicated teachers from across the disciplines to improve their own writing and their writing instruction. These teachers wrote extensively, both personal and professional texts, they researched best practices for writing instruction, and they each demonstrated a classroom lesson related to an aspect of writing. Many of the teachers from RMWP's 2004 Summer Institute are now leaders in RMWP and in their schools.
Since that first Summer Institute in 2004, RMWP has worked each summer with about twenty new teachers, improving their writing, their teaching, and training them to provide writing-related professional development for other teachers. In 2008, Dr. Manning retired from her position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and she and Dr. McComiskey recruited Dr. Tonya Perry to continue working with Dr. McComiskey to administer the site. Dr. Perry brought a wealth of new ideas (and a good bit of energy) to RMWP, and in the past few years of her leadership, RMWP has grown exponentially.
Since Dr. Perry's arrival on the leadership team, in addition to the annual Summer institute, RMWP has also organized and funded many other programs: summer writing camps for elementary, middle, and high school children; a conference called 21st Century Literacies, which is attended by around 300 teachers each year; workshops on pressing topics such as Common Core State Standards and response to intervention; a writing retreat for College of Arts and Sciences faculty at UAB; writing contests and programs honoring outstanding student writers; and many others.
Since 2004, over 150 teachers have been trained in RMWP's Summer Institute, and these teachers do the work of the site, organizing and implementing the programs listed above. As we continue to move ahead, we look forward to meeting the challenge of improving writing instruction.