As co-founder/author and CEO of Empowering Writers, Dea Paoletta Auray is, first and foremost, an educator. She began her career in the classroom at Mill Hill School in Fairfield, CT where, responding to the issues faced by teachers every day, she and her grade level partner developed their highly innovative writing program. Over a five-year period of teaching together they fine tuned their methodology to meet the many challenges of writing instruction – such as consistency, assured experiences, and manageability in classrooms with students working at different levels. A seasoned presenter and author of more than 20 books on writing, Dea is an educator, trainer, coach, creator of professional development and resources, and entrepreneur. She has presented to thousands of teachers across North America.
Empowering Writers is an educational company that focuses on professional development and developing comprehensive resources for educators that teach the practical skills necessary for students to become proficient writers and strategic readers. We have been in business for 22 years and work with schools across the country. Empowering Writers was born out of a need in our own classrooms. Teaching the writing process to a classroom full of students was challenging at best. To be able to meet the range of needs of our students and maximize instructional time we developed an innovative approach and methodology that allowed us to deliver lessons in a meaningful and manageable way. Too often students are asked to write whole pieces without understanding the foundational work that goes into creating that whole piece. With our approach, writing is broken down into discrete skills and students are taught these skills in isolation, making the writing process something everyone of all abilities can successfully engage in. And as students learn the writing skills, seamless connections are made to reading. These connections make text accessible for all.
Our instructional approach to teaching writing is ideally suited for the special education market. Through our whole-class methodology and the practice of breaking writing into discrete skills we create a learning environment for all ability levels. Through a dynamic modeling process the teacher encourages all students to participate in the lesson. The teacher “talks” out loud the thought process of the author as a written model is created using student input. In effect, the teacher translates student responses into fluid language, sentence by sentence. This whole class approach builds confidence and language experiences for all students. When the lesson moves to “guided practice” students can be successful with their own writing having just participated in a modeling segment.
Our origins are in professional development. When we first took Empowering Writers to market, our objective was to empower teachers in “how” to teach writing. That was 22 years ago and a lot has changed in the education industry since then. One big change we have seen is the amount of release time teachers have for professional development and the reality that long term change goes far beyond the one-day workshop. In an effort to keep up with teacher needs and support their instruction when they need it most, we created the HUB. The HUB is our online resource that marries the great content of our print resources with digital components to inform and enhance the instruction for both teachers and students. Access to the HUB allows teachers to tap into coaching videos, modeled lessons, power points and direct to content in real time. Thus, bringing professional development directly to them.
In terms of challenges in education, if we turn our focus toward curriculum and instruction I think one of the greatest challenges teachers have is how to meet all the demands of the curriculum. There is no question our teachers are pressed for time. One of the ways we support our educators is to instruct and reinforce the idea that the traditional “writing block” has changed. The best way to make the most of our limited instructional time is to show teachers how the foundational work we do in writing is related to reading and the work we do in all content areas. Understanding author’s craft is critical work for comprehension, analyzing and synthesizing text. This recursive nature of instruction reinforces learning and makes valuable connections for students of all abilities.
We know that you can’t be good at everything, so at Empowering Writers, we work to be great at what we know best. We can take a subject that is challenging to teach and make it both manageable and doable for all teachers. We create high quality content that is effective and standards aligned. Through fidelity and consistency of instruction our methodology makes it possible for all students to succeed. We partner with our districts, listen to what they need, understand their challenges, and develop a plan that will deliver the results they are hoping to see. The fact that we do all of this really well makes me proud to be part of a company that has changed instructional practices for the better.