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Rekindling Creativity

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UMD's Lake Superior Writing Project
UMD alumna Patricia Isbell (second from left) shares her writing with (l-r) Clarissa Severin, 8th grade English, Superior Middle School, Superior, Wisc.; Nora Twite, instructor, Department of Communication, UMD; and Jill Clennon, 8-12 grade English, Eveleth-Gilbert Senior High, Eveleth/Gilbert, Minn.

Those Who Can, Continue Learning
UMD Alumni Explore Writing to Improve Their Teaching Practices

Self-discovery, group therapy, and rekindling creative outlets is what four University of Minnesota Duluth alumni experienced during their week in the Lake Superior Writing Project Mini-Institute. This weeklong program is filled with writing exercises, group presentations, teaching demonstrations, and homework for participants. The Lake Superior Writing Project (LSWP) has been giving teachers and instructors in the Duluth community and surrounding areas the opportunity to better their writing since 2010. UMD’s College of Liberal Arts and Department of Education host the LSWP while UMD professors Jean Stevenson and Susan Perala-Dewey, also a fellow UMD alumna, front the program. LSWP helps these teachers find new ways to teach writing to their students and help the teachers themselves get back into writing.

Alumni Experience
Graduating in fall of 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Pat Isbell went on to teach in the Duluth Public School district for the past 14 years. She currently teaches first grade at Lester Park Elementary School. Isbell learned about the project through Perala-Dewey when it first started, but she hasn’t had the time to join until now. “I’m making it a point to put my focus back into the classroom and renew the passion for writing,” stated Isbell. Her experience with the writing project showed her again how much fun writing can be. “The project reminded me how it is to be a student again. During this project, you find a lot about yourself, and in that you find more about your students.” Isbell will take strategies shared during the program along with writing prompts back to her classroom.

John Rudolph first graduated from UMD with degrees in biology and chemistry in 1979; he came back and received his second degree in teaching in 1999. Rudolph has been teaching 10th grade biology at East High School for four years, and he loves his job. Even as a science teacher, Rudolph strongly believes in writing. “The success in your career is mirrored by your success in writing,” he said. This belief is what led him to the project. He’s looking for ways to create more writing opportunities in his curriculum. “The Lake Superior Writing Project was an interesting experience. I’ve never taken on the role of creative writing. Incorporating this style of writing into science will help reach students of different learning styles,” Rudolph said. He hopes to generate a greater interest in science with his students through writing.

Communication Instructor Nora Twite graduated from UMD in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in journalism. She has been working in the communication department at UMD for seven years. She teaches interpersonal communication, public speaking, and seminar classes. Twite makes writing a key part of her courses, but has been troubled by the lack of writing skills with her students. She wasn’t sure she wanted to be a part of the LSWP, but Stevenson told her she needed to do this. Twite is glad she signed up for the program. “It’s been cathartic,” said Twite, “I’ve found a voice that was always in my head, and I’ve finally let it out.” She will continue to apply writing in her coursework and help students to find their voice in writing as she has.

Jill Magnuson is a 1998 graduate with degrees in education and Spanish. She’s been working at Dover-Eyota Elementary School for 15 years and for the past year has been the school’s K-5 reading interventionist. As someone who’s always loved working with kids, she wants to offer a reading-writing recess for children in her school. Giving her students more writing opportunities is what made Magnuson travel back to Duluth to join the project. “It’s been wonderful. It’s made me think about myself as a writer and how to encourage all kids they can be writers,” she said. For Magnuson, the biggest things she took away from the LSWP was the need for sharing your writing with others, having multiple writing opportunities, and creating a safe writing environment for her students.

Additional Information
For more information about the Lake Superior Writing Project and their next institute or for information about the Minnesota Writing Project, contact Susan Perala-Dewey at or visit

UMD Lake Superior Writing Project
l-r: Jill Magnuson, K-5, Dover-Eyota Elementary, Dover, Minn.; John Rudolph, 9-12 grade science, Duluth East High School, Duluth, Minn.; Patricia Isbell, first grade, Lester Park Elementary, Duluth, Minn.; Nora Twite, instructor, Department of Communication, UMD; Jill Clennon, 8-12 grade English, Eveleth-Gilbert Senior High, Eveleth/Gilbert, Minn.; Clarissa Severin, 8th grade English, Superior Middle School, Superior, Wisc.; Susan Perala-Dewey, instructor, Department of Writing Studies, UMD; Jean Stevenson, associate professor, Department of Education, UMD; and Billie Anderson, kindergarten, Lester Park Elementary, Duluth, Minn.


UMD Those Who Can Duluth

Written by Jessica Noor, July 2013

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