Student-Teacher Spotlight

Posted May 5, 2014 & filed under Classroom Reflections, WITS People.

Teacher Student PhotoWriters in the Schools (WITS) depends on the enthusiasm and energy of many wonderful partners.

Today we recognize one teacher and one student in our Student-Teacher Spotlight.

Mrs. Borrego and 2nd grade student Livni Hernandez both participate in the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program at Eugene Field Elementary.

Below they answer a few questions about their WITS experience:

Why is writing important for 2nd graders?

Mrs. Borrego: Writing is an important skill for 2nd graders because it helps them to develop their critical thinking skills, creativity, and communication. I always say, “Writing says a lot about my students,” meaning that I can see the growth they have made throughout the year just by looking at their beginning, middle, and end-of-year writing.

What are you most proud of about your student writers this year?

Mrs. Borrego: I am proud of the imagination that my students have put into their writing and the usage of words. They have made tremendous growth, from not being able to write a complete sentence to writing whole passages.

How has WITS helped you to accomplish your writing goals?

Mrs. Borrego: WITS has taught me how to bring creativity into the classroom by bringing in prompts, reading books, and providing students with a word bank.

What do you like best about creative writing?

Livni: What I like best is thinking about everything you like and writing about it. The hardest part is that sometimes you have so many ideas that they can’t fit onto one page.

If you could publish a book about any topic you wanted, what would the title be?

Livni: The title of my book would be “The Broken Heart” because it will tell you a sad story and make your heart break.

What was your favorite WITS lesson this year?

Livni: My favorite lesson was writing about a pair of high-heeled shoes because I got to imagine being those sparkly shoes for a day.

My Life as a Pair of High-Heeled Shoes

     I am a pair of high-heeled shoes that are as glittery as diamonds on a pretty costume. I am as beautiful as a mother’s face and as smooth as dolphin’s skin. I shine like silver on a shield.

One day a girl wore me to a party with lots of beautiful lights. Then she wore me to a wedding with love. I looked perfect on her.

Then, on the way home, it was so late. My owner fell. One of my tall heels broke off into the street. Oh, no! The girl didn’t fix me. She just put me in the dumpster, and I never saw the world again.

Congratulations to Helms Elementary Students!

Posted January 17, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Three Writers in the Schools (WITS) students at Helms Elementary (HISD) will have their winning poems published in the Young Writers of America Annual Students Anthology!

Congratulations to 3rd graders Joshua Martinez, Bella Corona, and Emily De Leon, who are students in Ms. Jennifer Martinez’s class and work weekly with Writers in the Schools (WITS) writer Yolanda Schulte-Ladbeck.

Here is Bella’s poem:
What I Learned from my Uncle

I learned from my Uncle how to be funny.  I know how to make my Mom and Dad laugh.
I learned from my Uncle how to communicate in sign language.  I can teach my friends now.
I learned from my Uncle how to look for pictures in the sky.  I can find me riding horses in clouds.
I learned from my Uncle how to say kind words.  I don’t say bad words and I stay away from strangers.
I learned from my Uncle how to decorate my room.  I have stars in my room that glow.

To read the other winning poems, please visit Helms Elementary website.  Go, students!Writer at work 259/355

Photo by immsm via Flickr

It’s a Guy Thing Too: Books and Boys

Posted January 22, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

Studies regularly indicate that girls score higher in reading and writing than boys by a statistically significant amount. Travis Elementary School in the Heights is working hard to change that. The PTA pays for Writers in the Schools (WITS) to help create a rich environment for boys (and girls) to grow as readers and writers. In January Travis librarian Amy Cole Barile (the beloved Ms. B!) started a special after-school club for boys, dads, and others called Books & Boys. The hard work is paying off! Below are three outstanding poems by 4th grade boys at Travis:


A six-legged


burrows into the





into a



By Ralph
[photo by Shutter Moments via flickr]


Bone Yard in the Clouds

I was rushing
to the bone yard
in the clouds
searching for the
happiness that
had spread all
across the world
when dripping
from the sky came
a drop of rain
clashing down
against the
beside a

By Max
[photo by freg via flickr]


glistening in the falling smoke


a contest of money


steals the sparkle out of every child’s eye




that block of gold.

By Kelly

[photo by Claire Médaisko via flickr]

Remembering Karen Owen, WITS Board Treasurer

Posted May 6, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

Writers in the Schools (WITS) Board Treasurer Karen Owen passed away on May 1st, 2009. Karen joined the WITS Board in 2006 and was beloved by both board and staff. The WITS Board plans to create a scholarship fund in her honor.


Houston Chronicle Obituary for Karen Owen
By Ericka Mellon

Karen Owen, the leader of the Houston school districts alternative
training program for aspiring teachers, died Friday. She was 57.

Owen began her career in the Houston Independent School District in
1983 as a teacher and then became dean of instruction at Westbury High
School, where her father, Kenneth Gupton, previously served as

Owen later turned her attention to training teachers and was tapped to
run HISDs alternative certification program, which trains
college-educated professionals from other fields to be teachers.

The program, the oldest in Texas, enrolls several hundred people a
year, helping the school district fill a void, particularly for math,
science and bilingual teachers.

She realized that we have such a high demand in the district for
teachers, and she saw the resource out in the community and in the
business world, said Sharon Koonce, HISD’s assistant superintendent of
professional and leadership development.

She realized she could change the experience that kids were having by
recruiting those people and then getting them into the classroom well
prepared, Koonce added. There’s hardly a school in the district that
has not hired somebody at some point that has come through alternative

In 2007, Owen launched a similar alternative certification program for
principals, making HISD the first school district in the state to have
such a program.

Owens mother, Rosa Kathryn Gupton, also was a teacher, at the
University of Houston. The daughter of educators, Owen emphasized the
importance of lifelong learning with her own children, Jennifer
Owen-White, 29, of Rockport, and Kristen Owen, 24, of Wyoming.

She loved reading and loved learning, and that’s what she taught us,
Owen-White said.

The sisters recall their mom staying up late and waking up early to
read — educational texts, mysteries, adventures books. She also enjoyed
the outdoors, taking her children camping and traveling to national
parks with her husband, Paul David Owen, who works for HISD’s
maintenance department.

We weren’t really the family that went to Disney World, Owen-White
said. We were the family that had educational vacations.

Owen earned a bachelors degree in English and math from Texas Tech
University and two masters degrees from the University of Houston, one
in philosophy and the other in education.

Our mom taught us to be strong, independent, intelligent women,
Owen-White said, but also to be kind and giving and loving.

Owen died after complications from surgery. In lieu of flowers, the
family asks that donations be made to the Houston nonprofit Writers in the Schools.