The University of Massachusetts Amherst

WMWP Mission


The mission of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project, is to create a professional community where teachers and other educators feel welcomed to come together to deepen individual and collective experiences as writers and our understanding of teaching and learning in order to challenge and transform our practice. Our aim is to improve learning in our schools – urban, rural and suburban.

Professional development provided by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project values reflection and inquiry and is built on teacher knowledge, expertise, and leadership.

Central to our mission is the development of programs and opportunities that are accessible and relevant to teachers, students, and their families from diverse backgrounds, paying attention to issues of race, gender, language, class and culture and how these are linked to teaching and learning.

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Teacher workshop

WMWP Leadership Team

The WMWP Leadership Team includes the site director, the professional development coordinator, and six co-directors. The positions, leaders, and terms are listed below.  All of the co-directors lead teams of teacher-consultants.  If you would like to serve on a team, write

Site Director: Anna Rita Napoleone
Responsible for overall site management and coordination, budget, grants, development, university relations, and support for other members of leadership team.

Professional Development Coordinator: Jane Baer-Leighton (through 2022)
Responsible for contracting and organizing professional development programs with schools districts and other sponsors and for coaching and supporting the teacher-consultants who lead these programs.

Certificate in the Teaching of Writing Coordinator: Bruce M. Penniman
Responsible for planning and monitoring certificate program courses and candidates' progress.

Co-Director for Teacher Programs: Emily Lent Hemingway (through 2020)
Responsible for planning and implementing the annual Best Practices conference, Spring Symposium, and other summer or school-year teacher programs.

Co-Director for Youth and Family Programs: Jenn Murphy (through 2021)
Responsible for developing and organizing high-quality, low-cost summer and school-year writing programs for youth and families.

Co-Director for Summer Leadership Institute: Chris Rea (through 2020)
Responsible for planning, recruitment, implementation, and evaluation of the Summer Leadership Institute and school-year follow-up, assisted by a team of teacher-consultants.

Co-Director for Outreach: Sam Briggs (through 2021)
Responsible for publishing the WMWP newsletter, coordinating the Daily Hampshire Gazette Chalktalk columns written by teacher-consultants, and WMWP’s social media presence.

Co-Director for Language, Culture, and Diversity​: Momodou Sarr (through 2019)
Responsible for assisting program leaders with inclusion of insights and teaching practices from language, diversity, and culture theory and research and for developing ELL, special education, multicultural education, and/or social justice programs.

Co-Director for Technology: Tom Fanning (through 2021)
Responsible for assisting program leaders with inclusion of insights and teaching practices from educational technology theory and research and for developing programs focused on classroom uses of technology.


Executive Board

In addition to the Leadership Team, the WMWP Executive Board includes the following members. All WMWP teacher-consultants are invited to participate in Executive Board meetings.

UMass College of Humanities and Fine Arts Liaison: Donna LeCourt
UMass Department of English Liaison: Rebecca Lorimer Leonard
UMass College of Education Liaisons: Ysaaca Axelrod, Maria Jose Botelho, and Keisha Green
Project Manager: Diana Roy
Westfield State University Liaison: Jen DiGrazia
Springfield Public Schools Liaison: Declan O'Connor
Summer Institute 2020 Liaison: 
Retired Teachers Liaison: Joanne Wisniewski
Past Co-Directors: Karen Miele, Wilma Ortiz, Karen Diaz, Diana Callahan
Members at Large: Samantha Briggs, Jenny Speck-Sherson


The Western Massachusetts Writing Project was founded in 1993. The site grew out of an established professional development program begun 20 years earlier by University of Massachusetts English Department faculty and initially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. This pre–Writing Project program included faculty members working with teachers from Springfield, our largest urban school district, on developing writing programs consistent with emerging writing process theory and research. We grew into an informal regional network, hosted as one of the Five College Partnership programs until becoming an National Writing Project site. Now, as the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, we are one of approximately NWP 200 sites, with the Department of English and College of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst as our home base. We appreciate the generous support we receive from both UMass and NWP. 

Since our founding as an NWP site, we have grown to become a network of hundreds of pre-K through college teachers serving the urban, rural, and suburban areas of Western Massachusetts from the Berkshires to Worcester through professional development programs for area schools, advanced institutes and conferences, and contracted programs through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Annually, over a thousand teachers participated in our programs. We are also linked to the Boston Writing Project and the Buzzards Bay Writing Project through the Massachusetts Writing Project state network.

More information on our history is available in The Challenge of Change: Growth Through Inquiry at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project (National Writing Project 2008) at

The Pat Hunter Award for Outstanding Teacher Leadership

The Pat Hunter Award for Outstanding Teacher Leadership is given annually in memory of Pat Hunter, one of the founding co-directors of WMWP, who died in 1999.  A teacher and professional development leader in the Springfield Public Schools, she was an outstanding teacher and teacher leader. Pat was a fierce advocate for teachers and students, recognizing them as the best hope for improving education. As she wrote in "Writing Teachers, Schools, Access, and Change," 1998, "... if given the most modest of opportunities, students and teachers can themselves be agents of change: by initiating change in their own situations, they can begin the work of institutional change."

While also being prescient about the coming impact of technology on learning, Pat also stressed that teachers should drive that change: "Much has been written about how technology will revolutionize education. Our experience suggests that technology will indeed revolutionize education, but that the principal agents of change will and should be teachers."

To honor Pat Hunter, this award recognizes a member of the WMWP community who has contributed substantially to the work of WMWP and who best exemplifies the values that Pat embodied in her work with teachers and writers.


  • Karen Diaz (2019)
  • Alicia Lopez (2018)
  • Jane Baer-Leighton (2017)
  • Karen Miele (2016)
  • Leslie Skantz-Hodgson (2015)
  • Anne Herrington (2014)
  • Jack Czajkowski (2013)
  • Dawn Fontaine (2012)
  • Susan Connell Biggs (2011)
  • Bruce Penniman (2010)
  • Kevin Hodgson (2009)
  • Charles Moran (2008)
  • Charlotte Lak (2007)
  • Pam Howes (2006)
  • Wilma Ortiz (2005)
  • Karen Sumaryono (2004)
  • Diana Callahan (2003)
  • Joanne Wisniewski (2002)
  • Bonnie Moriarty (2001)
  • Mary-Ann DeVita Palmieri (2000)

The Charles Moran Teacher Leadership Fellowship

The late Charlie Moran, founding director of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, was a remarkable scholar and teacher who had a profound impact on the teaching of writing – and on the teaching of all content in all subject areas through writing – at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in K-12 schools throughout Massachusetts, and nationally. He was also a tireless advocate and promoter of teacher leadership. Throughout his career and especially during his 15-year tenure as WMWP site director, Charlie invited scores of teachers into leadership roles and mentored them as they developed the confidence and the capacity to share their expertise with colleagues, enacting the National Writing Project motto “teachers teaching teachers.”

To honor Charlie Moran, this fellowship awards a stipend to a WMWP teacher-consultant to develop and implement a professional growth opportunity for teachers in the region and thus increase WMWP's leadership capacity.


  • Kelly Norris (2019)
  • Heather Brown (2017)
  • Will Bangs (2016) 

Professional development provided by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project values reflection and inquiry and is built on teacher knowledge, expertise, and leadership.
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