A student’s nightmare, or dream, came true when approximately 230 educators gathered around tables with their thinking caps on and listening to Tom Romano, author of five books.
On Monday, Jan. 26, in the Occhiato University Center at Colorado State University-Pueblo, the Southern Colorado Writing Project held a large conference for educators to learn about teaching writing.
There were drinks and snacks in an open-style buffet in the corner of the room. The attendants mingled back and forth every now and then to appease their appetites.
They traveled from many schools and towns in Colorado including Pikes Peak Community College, Fountain, Walsenburg, Crowley County, Fort Carson and Cotopaxi to attend the SCWP Professional Development Day, said CSU-Pueblo’s Katherine Frank, department chair of English and Foreign Languages.
“The best teachers of writing are writers themselves,” said Frank, who established the SCWP approximately six years ago. The SCWP is a part of the National Writing Project.
As Romano, professor of education at Miami University, spoke, all the participants listened. They were the best students, intent on learning and eager to please. They were ready with their pens and participated in expressive writing exercises willingly.
All eyes looked down, fixated on their notepads while they pursued their thoughts. It was as if they were to look up, if even for a moment, their creative juices would be a fleeting memory.
Romano, who said he generally speaks a couple of times per semester, invited the teachers to share their experiences with the room.
After writing for about three minutes, a few hands went up and he chose someone for all to listen to. The room respectfully heard the pieces of writing shared with the greatest of interest.
In their writing, the educators reminisced about their first day as teachers. One science teacher expressed his concern for a student who dressed in black and had special needs.
Another teacher spoke of how her class of small children didn’t understand where their other teachers went and explained to the kids that all would be OK, and how she was there to love them now.
Educators came from both of the school districts in Pueblo. The districts were large contributors to the event. They also came from Pueblo Community College and CSU-Pueblo, Frank said.
The SCWP is designed to teach educators across all fields of study, whether they teach kindergarten or post-secondary schools in math, science or english. It is even designed to teach administrators in education fields, Frank said.
The project’s goal is to encourage teachers to inspire children to find their voices, not just be technical, Romano said. In the exercises the teachers practiced defining their voices.
Romano said he likes being recognized by other professionals in the same field and enjoys being surrounded by others with same interests he has. He attended his first seminar while he was a teacher, and now he is leading others to writing enlightenment.
Romano sat calmly and comfortably in the lounge chair with his legs crossed neatly in front of him, to explain why he loved writing.
“I figured out that I could send my voice out for someone else to hear,” said Romano as he was picturing being young again.
It was in the seventh grade that Romano realized he loved writing. Back then he said he was more into writing about blood, guts and gore. Now he focuses on other tools of the trade.
“I love revising something I have already written,” Romano said. “It feels like having a row boat.”
His fifth book published is his memoir called “Zig Zag” and took about four months to write, but after many years of collecting clippings. He is planning to take a leave of absence to write the sequel soon.
Romano, 59, has been a teacher for 30 years and said sometimes he thinks about retirement.