Hillsboro educator publishes writing instruction books
Hillsboro, W.Va. – Hillsboro resident Janet McNeel has been a teacher her entire adult life. She retired after more than 40 years of teaching in schools and continued working as an educational consultant, member of the Pocahontas County Board of Education – and now, as an author. McNeel recently published a six-volume set of writing instruction books for grades K through five called Getting To The Core Of Writing.
The retired teacher shared some of her writing lessons with a national educational consultant and soon, she was invited to Florida to talk about publishing the materials.
“I set up some staff development for Pocahontas County and Dr. Richard Gentry, who is a national educational consultant, I brought him in as a speaker for our county teacher’s academy,” McNeel said. “I guess in 2009 I sent him just a little blurp of some of the writing lessons that I had used with the kids that I had worked with across the state. So, as a result, it just kind of mushroomed and kind of rolled along.
“I sent to California to Shell Education some of the test results that I was getting from the schools that I worked with and, so they said, ‘can you meet me in Orlando?’ When she saw how the schools had moved from the bottom quartile, up, in terms of the high stakes tests, she wanted to have a further conversation.”
McNeel traveled overseas to learn about successful teaching techniques.
“One of the highlights was a visit that I made, back in 1991, to New Zealand, which at the time was number one in the world in reading and writing,” she said. “I wanted to know what it was that they were doing that we were not doing. So, I worked at Bayfield Primary School in New Zealand and at Auckland University and things that I learned and observed in the classroom there – I tried to implement in my classroom at Marlinton Elementary.”
The lesson plans are current with new educational standards.
“These are lesson plans that I developed while I was teaching,” she said. “There are lesson plans and activities and it actually is matched to the new common core standards. So, it’s cutting edge, in terms of writing. It’s an open up the book and ready to go. It has a pacing chart in the front, so that it shows the teachers, if they want more support, they can follow the pacing chart. They can go right straight down through – these are the lesson plans that you do in September – this is what you do in October. So, it provides support and yet, teachers can move away from it if they want to. It allows them the flexibility and the freedom, because not everyone needs a scripted program.”
McNeel says previous standards were disastrous for writing.
“No Child Left Behind is out,” she said. “It is now the Common Core. What No Child Left Behind did for 10 years is that they left the writing out. Okay- it was the five essential components and writing was not part of it. So, we have a whole generation of kids, many who are unable to write – many. Actually, with the new Common Core, it’s reading and writing connected.”
Educational publishing is a competitive business. McNeel says she’s not worried about the competition.
“Actually, I’m not worried about the competition,” she said. “I’m worried about making a difference in kids’ writing skills. That is basically my goal. That has been my goal for the last 12 years. It’s to show kids how to be competitive in a global society. It’s not really about the material aspect of this and what I’m going to get back as far as royalties. It’s about helping kids to be successful.”
McNeel plans to give copies to schools where she worked.
“I actually am planning to provide the books to the schools that I have worked with – that have been using this curriculum for the last five years, which includes the schools in this county,” she said. “Because I volunteered last year and tried out some of the lesson plans that were newer, ones I piloted. I experimented with those lessons. So, I have Fayette County, Upshur County – that I’ve been a full-time consultant for 12 years. So, those schools will get copies, as well as the schools that I worked with here in the county.”
The author is currently working on a seventh volume for sixth graders.