Courtesy of Emma Richardson
Home to many talented students and faculty, MSMS is a place where great minds meet. Often those connections extend well beyond the two years on campus and into the professional world. Such is the case for retired MSMS English teacher Emma Richardson and her former student Hayley Hill, both of whose teaching practices were recently documented in “Writing to Make an Impact: Expanding the Vision of Writing in the Secondary Classroom,” written by Sandra Murphy and Mary Ann Smith and published in April by Columbia University’s Teachers College Press.
Richardson, one of the founding teachers of MSMS, taught English in North Carolina and Mississippi for over four decades. Hill, also an English teacher, formed her love for writing because of Richardson.
“To see what English class could be, yes, that had a huge impact on me. It was like, ‘Oh, this is what people do in English class, and even the writing classes,’” Hill said. “I had never taken a creative writing class before until I had Mrs. Richardson, and I didn’t know that your teachers could give you feedback or they could give each other feedback.”
Both teachers became involved in the project thanks to Dr. Sherry Swain, a director for the Mississippi Writing/Thinking Project. The project is connected to the National Writing Project, a network of writing teachers across the U.S. designed for teachers to collaborate and help each other in the classroom. Hill met Smith and Swain at an annual meeting of the National Writing Project.
“We just all got to talking, and they learned about my work with my students doing newspaper writing for Relay for Life,” Hill said. “They said ‘We’re writing a book and we would really like to put some of that in there.’ So I said ‘sure, give me a call.’ The rest was history.”
Richardson was introduced to Murphy and Smith through Swain, who admired Richardson’s work and the quality of her students’ writing.
“She became familiarized with the kind of writing our MSMS students do and asked if she could give my name and email address to Sandra Murphy and Mary Ann Smith,” Richardson said.
“Writing to Make an Impact: Expanding the Vision of Writing in the Secondary Classroom” contains the ideas and practices of 12 teachers across the country. Its purpose is to serve as a guidebook for others to teach different forms of writing. The book also features writing from MSMS alums Aidan Dunkelberg, Rachel Jones, Makayla Raby and Wrishija Roy.
Richardson feels the book will be able to help a lot of teachers find the best ways to teach writing.
“Writing to Make an Impact: Expanding the Vision of Writing in the Secondary Classroom” is imminently readable and free from jargon. It offers practical, accessible suggestions for helping students with writing,” Richardson said.
In Richardson’s eyes, the number of techniques and perspectives in the book will teach any English teacher or writer how to maximize their skills and positively impact their students.
“The more opportunities writing teachers have to experience diverse and proven approaches to writing instruction, the better their students’ writing will be,” Richardson said. “I wish I had had access to ‘Writing to Make an Impact: Expanding the Vision of Writing in the Secondary Classroom’ during my years of teaching so that I could have gleaned the excellent approaches to writing instruction from the other eleven writing teachers.”