An extreme emphasis on test preparation, combined with limited teacher support and inadequate funding, challenge US public education. Perhaps the greatest toll on students, teachers, and schools are felt in those communities with the largest disadvantaged populations, like Lawrence, MA.
Andover Bread Loaf responds to this crisis by creating a supplemental educational program and teaching approach that enriches the education that school systems provide. In the past several years, ABL has created a process for transforming whole schools through a powerful writing program.
Andover Bread Loaf’s mission is to transform students, teachers, schools, and communities by igniting a passion for learning through written self-expression. Founded by its director, Lou Bernieri, former English Department Chair and current instructor in English at the Academy, ABL demonstrates the school’s historic “Non Sibi” mission to serve in the public interest.
ABL started in 1987 as a member of the Bread Loaf Teacher Network (BLTN), a professional development network established by Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. The first ABL program was launched twenty-eight years ago in Lawrence, Massachusetts. This successful literacy education program is now the anchor for ABL—and the model for similar initiatives in other cities across the country and around the world. Last year ABL once again increased the number of programs for students, families and teachers in Lawrence, and the activities in 2015-16 continue to grow. ABL’s network of collaborating agencies and organizations continues to expand as well.
Andover Bread Loaf’s reach and impact in Lawrence is evident by the huge number of students and young people who attend conferences and workshops or go to El Taller for poetry readings; by the continuing increase in the number of Family Literacy Nights that take place at schools and community organizations. ABL penetrates Lawrence students in grades 1 through 12— as well as teachers and parents across the same broad swath of grades.
Lawrence Student Writers Workshop (LSWW)
The Lawrence Student Writers Workshop (LSWW) is ABL’s flagship student program. The LSWW is a summer writing and arts program offered at Phillips Academy, where teachers and students can practice the ABL approach to learning with an intensity not afforded in their regular school regimen. The 2015 summer workshop enrolled 75 Lawrence Public School students of all academic abilities in grades 8-10 and 25 high school and college Writing Leaders (to serve as role models and mentors). At the heart of the program is ABL’s emphasis on the joy of learning and its focus on young people’s natural gifts as writers and artists.
LSWW is a three-week program that takes place on the campus of Phillips Academy and offers students an active and intense involvement with writing and creative arts, five days per week from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm. Students engage in various forms of writing, including journals, poetry, narrative and memoirs, with regular opportunities to share their work with others. They also participate in workshops on topics such as photojournalism, multi-media production, Internet research, spoken word poetry projects, music, sculpture, theatre and dance. Workshops are given by teachers, students, writers, poets, artists, actors and university professors—all of whom are members of the national Bread Loaf Teachers Network.
Every student works throughout the three weeks with the ultimate goal of producing an original product to be presented on the final day in a public exhibition attended by family members and friends. In July 2016, the final event was held at Kemper Auditorium at Phillips Academy; every single student read something she/he wrote during the summer.
Bread Loaf “Slice”
An off-shoot of LSWW is the Bread Loaf “Slice” for primary school students that took place for the fourth year this past summer at the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence. Under the directorship of Kristine Ennis, a former Lawrence Public School Teacher, ABL enrolled 35 students in grades K-4 and 11 high school and college writing leaders. Modeled on LSWW, the program utilizes teen Writing Leaders from the Boys and Girls Club, who work with the children and quickly become their role models and mentors.
Middle School Program: Rising Loaves
In 2015, ABL initiated a three-week middle school writing workshop for students in grades 5 through 7. Thirty middle school students participated in this program that was be conducted at the Lawrence Historical Society and directed by Mary Guerrero, a former Lawrence Public School Teacher.
Along with learning to write, share, and express themselves the Andover Bread Loaf way, the class took advantage of the fact that they were surrounded by history. They learned about the history of the mills, the Bread and Roses Strike, and the immigrant workers who built the city. The program was so successful that it will be offered again next summer; an academic year project is now underway.
Impact of Writing Leaders
The summer workshops cultivate a powerful group of high school and college educators, the Writing Leaders, who form the backbone of a great deal of Andover Bread Loaf’s work. Writing Leaders are trained as teachers and workshop facilitators in the summer workshops, where they are responsible for mentoring groups of younger students. This training equips them with the capacity to assist teachers in running programs and even to run their own programs. During the 2015-16 year, ABL trained approximately 125 Writing Leaders who ran numerous programs in Lawrence during the school year and assisted teachers in many others. Although the Writing Leader program is not a college retention program per se, in the 28 years of its existence, every Writing Leader we have tracked has graduated from college, an astonishing statistic given their backgrounds.
Andover Bread Loaf Programs for Teachers
The Andover Bread Loaf Writing Workshop (ABLWW) is an intensive two-week graduate level professional development program that uses the LSWW as its pedagogical laboratory. This workshop is the engine that drives ABL and its projects in various cities. For over 20 years more than 500 teachers have attended Andover Bread Loaf’s summer workshop and have testified that their ABL experience is the force that propels them to return to their schools not only to change what they do in their classrooms, but to work with other teachers and students in developing programs that will affect an ever widening circle of students and teachers. Approximately 17 teachers from Lawrence and other cities and countries participate in the Workshop last summer, and we expect 20 in 2015.
Graduate School Fellowship Program
Andover Bread Loaf has sent over 50 graduates of its teacher workshop to the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College in Vermont to pursue their master’s degree in English. The majority of these teachers were awarded fellowships by Bread Loaf to fund their studies. ABL is deeply grateful to the Stevens Foundations for providing scholarships for two Lawrence teachers, who attended Bread Loaf in the summer of 2013. ABL believes strongly in the professional development of the teachers in its network, and is determined to champion as many as possible to study at Middlebury. These teachers are the future leaders of Andover Bread Loaf—they can implement Andover Bread Loaf philosophy and practices in their classrooms and schools, and teach others to do the same. Strong grounding in pedagogy is essential to preparing the next generation of educational leaders.
Lawrence continues to be the main site for ABL’s work, the place where programs are developed in schools and community organizations and then shared with the international network. Twelve different ABL after-school programs ran in Lawrence during the 2014-15 school year, serving hundreds of K-12 students. In addition, ABL offered two city-wide Saturday writing conferences, attracting almost 300 youth in total. ABL organized Lawrence High School's Day of Poetry, where over 800 students participated in workshops conducted by eight different poets during the school day, culminating in an Open Mic at the end of the day that drew over 400 students. We anticipate continuing these same activities at these same levels in 2015-16.
Family Literacy Nights (FLN’s)
ABL’s outreach to parents and families is dramatically expanding in Lawrence. While most schools complain about the difficulty in getting parents into the schools, the schools that offer FLN’s can hardly find enough room to accommodate the crowds that attend. In 2014-15 there were six Family Literacy Nights (FLN) that drew a total of over 1,000 people. For this academic year, we expect to serve approximately the same number of people.
Collaboration with Community Organizations
ABL has deep roots in Lawrence. Partnerships with local community organizations, notably the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, Movement City, El Taller, the Mayor’s Health Task Force, the Lawrence Historical Society, the Lawrence Dreamers Network and The Common Sage make it possible to create learning opportunities that take place outside the traditional school day, thus building and reinforcing a supplementary educational system. ABL and host organizations also provide college mentoring, leadership training, and academic tutoring. Through this work ABL has an impact on education in Lawrence throughout the year and beyond traditional school walls.
Collaborative activities range from one day to three weeks in length, and are either workshops or conferences. These events attract from 50-300 students and convey the joy of writing and learning.
One of ABL’s most vibrant partners is The Common Sage, a community-based writing program housed at El Taller. The Common Sage serves youth, adults and families—offering writing programs, field trips, publishing opportunities, and a literary community. Common Sage was founded and is directed by Jessica Valentin, ABLWW 2014.
The ABL/Bread Loaf Teacher Network: Teacher-to-Teacher Professional Development
The Bread Loaf Teacher Network, of which ABL is a major hub, is a professional network that depends on teachers working together to improve their teaching. ABL/BLTN provides teachers with year-round support, ongoing professional development, and an organization with the capacity to run conferences and workshops. It is a voluntary, self-perpetuating, and dynamic group of people.
The ABL Teacher Network started in Lawrence. ABL has been able to be most engaged with this network due to the proximity of the City of Lawrence to Phillips Academy. Formally launched in 1999, the Andover Bread Loaf Lawrence Teacher Network has become the central agent of ABL's work in Lawrence. The Network reaches teachers from all disciplines and is especially designed for English and language arts teachers who are engaged in literacy and writing programs throughout the Lawrence Public Schools, K-12. Energized by Lawrence teachers with experience in ABL, the Network is primarily led by those who have received full funding for three summers of graduate degree work at Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. Currently 14 Lawrence teachers have received their master’s degrees from Bread Loaf, and three are currently at work on their degrees. The teachers who have their degrees and those still working towards completion have attended the Master’s program on full fellowships from a few generous sources, including the Stevens Foundations. The Network’s city-wide professional development is designed to promote new successful practices in literacy education, and takes place at/through conferences at the community organizations mentioned above.