For the last three years students at Skyline High School looking for assistance in writing have been able to turn to a team of tutors made up of fellow students. The Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber is recognizing the Skyline Writing Center as the winner of a 2015 Exemplary Educational Endeavor Award.
The awards are presented to programs in area schools that provide enhanced educational opportunities inside and outside of classrooms, increase community involvement in schools, prepare students to enter the workforce and develop lifelong learning skills, and improve the quality of area public schools.
The chamber’s Donna DeButts says Ann Arbor Public Schools had six great candidates to win an E3 award this year. She says the Skyline Writing Center won because students, parents, and teachers say the program is helping across all areas of curriculum. She says improving writing skills help students throughout their lives. “There isn’t any job they can ever have that isn’t going to involve some kind of writing,” DeButts says.
Skyline English teacher Jeff Austin is the Writing Center’s director. Austin says the award is great validation for the nearly 70 students that have volunteered time to serve as tutors over the last three years. It’s also recognition for educators and administrators that have supported the program.
Austin is excited that the Writing Center has received 100 percent positive feedback this year while serving a diverse group of students. “Anybody can get assistance, whether it’s a student that’s really struggling academically or whether it’s your highest achieving AP student. Everybody can come and benefit from the writing center, and our data shows that everybody actually does come to the writing center and benefits from it,” Austin says.
He says the Skyline juniors and seniors that are serving as tutors benefit from the program as well. He says the program often proves the old adage that the teacher learns more than the student. “When you have to teach somebody about something as complex as the writing process, and you have to communicate with them, and collaborate with them you have to learn. There’s no choice,” Austin says.
Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber officials say one of the goals of the E3 awards is for successful programs like the Skyline Writing Center being replicated in other schools to improve public education throughout the area. Austin supports this idea. “We’d love to collaborate with other schools and other districts who want to get a writing center started in their schools. We’re always on the lookout to share and collaborate,” Austin says.
The E3 Awards come with a $1,000 prize this year. Austin says the funds will be used to buy necessary supplies for the Writing Center. The money will also help cover the cost of publishing the literary magazine Teen Spirit, which has been recognized by the National Council of Teachers of English as a top literary magazine in Michigan.
The chamber has awarded E3 prizes for 17 years as a way for the business community to highlight positive programs in area schools. Previous Ann Arbor Public Schools E3 award winners include the Counseling Department, the Student Building and Industry Program, the High School Health Services Program, and Portfolio Day at Scarlett Middle School.
The award will officially be presented at the chamber’s Early Edition breakfast Wednesday morning at Washtenaw Community College. This month’s meeting is focused on education. In addition to honoring E3 winners, the event will include recognition for the chamber’s business education honor roll. These are businesses that have donated money or allowed employees to volunteer at schools.