Category: Community Programs

Book Study: Above Ground & Counting Descent by Clint Smith

Book Study: Above Ground & Counting Descent by Clint Smith

Join NCWP Co-Director and creative writing professor, Sarah Pape, for an exploration of author, poet, and educator, Clint Smith’s two poetry collections, Counting Descent and Above Ground. We’ll read and discuss the books, as well as write our own poems in response to Smith’s work. The book study will culminate with Clint Smith’s poetry reading on Chico State campus. Upon registration we will mail you both books. Register here.

Zoom Discussions: March 27th, 4:00-5:00 pm, April 3rd, 4:00-5:00 pm, April 10th, 4:00-5:00 pm

Readings (optional): Clint Smith will be reading on the Chico State campus twice on April 11th: 3:00 pm (poetry), 7:30 pm (Book In Common)

Contact Sarah Pape with any questions at



We are excited to introduce the invited fellows for the NCWP Invitational Design Institute! This summer, we are offering our Invitational Design Institute in a new, extended format to allow for deeper engagement and community support as we navigate exciting and challenging ideas together. Please welcome the new cohort to the network of National Writing Project teachers! We are so excited to bring this group together to read new professional texts, write together, share problems of practice, and create the kinds of support they want as educators. 

Deanna Davis is an Ohio native who earned her credential and has been living in good ol’ Chico for the past 14 years. Being centrally located in NorCal with an abundance of outdoor destinations in any direction is the attraction. She enjoys being in nature as much as possible, nourishing the mind and body. She has taught middle school for the past 7 years and with that, has gained great insight into our public school system. Soon Deanna will be going back to school herself, something in leadership, with the goal of an even clearer lens into education. But the best thing that she has accomplished thus far is her son, Atlas. He is a ham and she adores him. He’s new, under a year, but Deanna doubts the newness with ever wear off! She is over the moon obsessed; he’s sparked a new craving for adventure and possibility for their family. This brings Deanna full circle, focusing on absorbing as much goodness and education as she can to pass that knowledge to him.

Carolyn Diskin teaches High School English at Redding School of the Arts and is currently in her 8th year of teaching English in Redding. During her teaching tenure she has completed a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction at Chico State and holds English and Multiple Subject credentials from Cal Poly Humboldt. Carolyn has always had a passion for learning. Growing up, her mother was a teacher (therefore her desire to be a teacher blossomed at a young age), and Carolyn herself is a frequent library book connoisseur. Now in her own classroom, her passion for helping others learn and love to read drives her teaching practices. Carolyn aspires to continue pursuing her own education further and is always looking for opportunities to help her colleagues and those around her. She is best described as a smiling, happy presence who is solution driven and constantly motivated to better herself. Her favorite part of being a teacher is the wonderful relationship building it offers and the creative outlet of curriculum creation. Outside of her classroom, you would find her reading in her backyard or chasing around her two sons.

Lukas Harrison grew up in the small town of Colfax, California. This experience has guided his professional and personal passions for serving small, underserved communities. Lukas is finishing his last student teaching semester at Hamilton Elementary in Hamilton City, California. Lukas, a first-generation college graduate, takes pride in fostering relationships with all students and implementing UDL and ELD strategies in the classroom that ensure equitable reading, writing, and speaking opportunities for all students. Outside of the classroom, Lukas enjoys spending time outdoors, exploring new breweries and restaurants, attending professional development sessions, and watching and coaching sports.

Settle in, settle down, get to reading/writing” is projected every day a student walks into her room, as Simone Hobbs welcomes every class, often with a song of the day blaring. Her sixth grade students at C.K. Price Middle school in Orland, California often hate reading and writing in the beginning of the year, but she has a way of getting them to come around, nudging them with humor, patience, a little goading, and perseverance. One of her favorite quotes is from a student who said, “Reading is just not for me, but Mrs. Hobbs, you make reading better.” Having taught in classrooms for about twenty years as a K-6th grade public and private school teacher, Simone constantly shares her joy of reading and writing by giving her students multiple opportunities and engagement activities to create a culture of kindness and compassion, as well as a love of learning. Teaching active listening and collaboration skills, engaging conversations called “table talk”, and encouraging students, along with building her students’ passion for ELA, is just all in a day’s work. “Keep the pencil moving” if using a journal, and “flying fingers” if typing a Dear Mrs. Hobbs weekly letter, are just a few of her favorite sayings.

Megan Johnson is an Education Specialist teaching RSP English, Reading Intervention and RSP STEM at Corning Union High School in Corning, California.  After completing her BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2010, she went on to pursue her Education Specialist Credential through the Rural Teacher Residency program. Megan is currently in her eleventh year of teaching, four of those years at Corning High School, and she enjoys helping students find their voices through self-advocacy and guiding students as they grow in their reading and writing. In addition to teaching in the classroom, she is also a Special Education Case Manager and serves as the Special Education Department Chair. When she is not teaching, Megan enjoys spending quality time with her husband and son, camping, exploring the outdoors, and crafting. 

Toni Lawson teaches English 9-12 at Oroville High School, changing courses midstream after being hired to originally teach History and Geography there, and embracing her passion for writing and literature. Originally from England, she moved to California with her family as a child and spent summers back in England. Navigating the US education system as a first generation immigrant helped her develop a strong skill for inquiry and a critical eye to the need for decolonizing and diversifying curriculum, which she eventually turned into an undergraduate degree in History from UCSB and a Masters in Secondary Education from Stanford University. After teaching in a humanities based program in the Bay Area, she became a curriculum writer for an ed nonprofit supporting 500 schools across the US. Seeing the need for teachers and increased social emotional support in the classroom during the pandemic prompted her to move back to the classroom where her passions for supporting students directly and creating change at a local level have allowed her to engage deeply this school year. Outside of the classroom she enjoys partner dancing, photography, gardening, cooking, and devouring YA novels while snuggling her monster pup: Toast.

Erin Lizardo is an artist and art educator from Northern California. She holds a BA in Sculpture, Ceramics, and Art History, a single-subject credential in art, and currently is a candidate for a multiple-subject teaching credential. She recently received her MA in Curriculum and Instruction in May, 2023. Erin transitioned away from full-time teaching to complete her MA and now enjoys staying active in the classroom as a substitute teacher while working on curriculum development projects. Erin is passionate about art education, accessibility, and integration. She has lived in Chico since 2003 and is active in the local arts and music community. Erin is married and has two sons, ages 11 and 14.

Liz Lurie is a recent California transplant from Austin, TX. Her teaching experience consists mainly of high school and middle school ELD, several years in K-12 Resource, and a few teaching stints in Spain and Turkey. Liz works as the ELD Consultant at the Tehama County Department of Education, where she supports educators in serving multilingual learners. She is excited to be part of the writing project and spread the word on equity-based writing instruction. Liz loves speaking Spanish, gardening, cooking, exploring all of the beauty that the North state has to offer, reading, and of course, writing!

Cheryl McBryde started her teaching journey by earning a degree in English Education from Chico State and then her teaching credential from the Chico State School of Education. Currently she teaches English at Pioneer Continuation High School in the beautiful town of Redding, California. Cheryl loves making a difference in the lives of her students by helping them reach their potential and inspiring them through literature, especially poetry. When she’s not teaching, she loves to spend time with her family, reading, writing, and enjoying the great outdoors.

Zack O’Neill has worked in Yuba College’s English department for six years. He has taught at community colleges and universities in California, Nevada, Texas, and South Carolina. He has a BA in English from UC Santa Barbara, a Masters in English from Sacramento State, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of South Carolina, where he was the recipient of the James Dickey Fellowship and editor of Yemassee, the school’s literary journal. He also had a writing fellowship at the University of Houston, where he worked as a visiting assistant professor. He lives in Sacramento and enjoys baseball, reading nonfiction, blogging at, and attending to various houseplants.

Dana Paz received her BA in Social Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005. She lived and worked in her native Guatemala as a grant writer for international development projects for 12 years. She relocated back to California with her family and received her Masters in Education at Chico State in 2019. She is in her fourth year of teaching English Language Arts to 7th and 8th graders at CK Price Intermediate School in Orland, CA. As an immigrant from Guatemala who found academic success relatively late in life, Dana strives to build her students’ confidence in finding their voice. For her, the best part is the immense variety of what students share and the moments of genius that come through. When she’s not teaching, writing or reading, Dana enjoys long bike rides, hiking, yoga and spending time with her husband and son. 

Alex Rainey has been in education for over 15 years and she currently teaches 4th grade at Chico Country Day Elementary in Chico, CA. She holds close to her heart the importance of creating a safe and inclusive learning environment that grants all her learners the space and grace to be seen as who they truly are and can have their voice heard and amplified. As an advocate for equitable and liberatory practices in education, Alex works to ensure students have access to the same opportunities and resources. She is committed to addressing systemic inequalities and creating a more inclusive educational system. Outside of the classroom, Alex loves spending time with her two boys, traveling the world, and immersing herself into new experiences. 

Laura Talley has been teaching English in all forms at local community colleges since 2016. She became interested in teaching English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama after completing her BA in English in San Diego. Afterwards, she returned to complete her MA in Teaching International Languages as well as Certificates in TESOL and Teaching Composition at Chico State. When not teaching a variety of ESL or composition classes, she spends time with her family and at the occasional West Coast Swing dance.

Ann Van De Water is originally from Rochester, NY and moved to CA in ’94.  She decided to become an English teacher when she was in 9th grade and never looked back! After graduating from Vassar College, Ann taught middle school English for a few years. She moved to CA, got married, and taught high school English. Ann earned her MA in English from Middlebury College, including one wonderful summer in Oxford, England. She is in her 19th year of teaching and currently works at Cristo Rey High School in Sacramento. Ann and her husband have two daughters in college. Her hobbies include reading memoirs and fiction, walking her dog, getting her butt to the gym a couple times a week, and hiking.

Sarah Peterson Young is a sixth grade language arts and history teacher at Chico Country Day School, a K-8 charter school in northern California. She graduated from the Political Science department at Chico State and received her teaching credential from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. This is her twenty-fifth year teaching and her second time participating in the Northern California Writing Project (but her first time participating as a middle school teacher!) She is an avid reader and writer: she’s written curriculum for various institutions including the Smithsonian and CyArk, authored a monthly North State Voices column in the local Enterprise Record newspaper, and is a staff writer for the online publication Outdoor Education for All. She’s currently trying to write The Great American Novel.  When found in the wild she’ll be camping with her family or working in her garden.

Maria “Rocio” Zamudio-Perez was born and lived in Mexico up until the age of eight. She graduated from Shasta High School and then continued with her studies at Shasta College. Upon completing her prerequisites at Shasta College, she transferred to Chico State. She graduated with a bachelors in Liberal Studies and a BCLAD Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. She then went onto work in the Early Childhood Field for a number of years. She is currently teaching kindergarten at Gerber Elementary, which she greatly enjoys. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with her son, mother, siblings and her dog.

“Rebuilding The Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation” Awarded Pandemic Recovery Grant

“Rebuilding The Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation” Awarded Pandemic Recovery Grant

The Northern California Writing Project announces a grant in partnership with Quartz Valley Indian Reservation the awarding of a grant through the National Writing Project’s Building a More Perfect Union, a grant program for humanities organizations across the United States to assist in recovering from interruptions to operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking for Organizations at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Building a More Perfect Union program funds organizations to develop programming in anticipation of the upcoming 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States.

 Working with the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation in designing and developing an online presence that captures and reflects the essence of their tribal community has been a real honor for OBSIDIAN to be a part of. We are truly humbled by the depth of cultural knowledge that they share and to witness how it fosters an environment of mutual respect among community members has been a real treat to experience. All to say we have enjoyed the mutual working relationship we have garnered as we’ve come to establish a productive collaborative process with the QVIR youth and leadership. We’re very excited and hopeful for what’s to come!

Rocky Tano, President/CEO, OBSIDIAN, Inc.

This year our project Rebuilding the Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation is working to increase the visibility and accessibility of the reservation’s history, culture, and language. To do so, we seek to engage tribal members, community members, and high school and community college students in creating a comprehensive history of the reservation, an online resource for teaching, a renewal of the reservation’s Culture Camp, and an enhanced website for the public.

The awarded projects, selected through a competitive, peer-reviewed application process, are located at local, regional, or cross-regional organizations such as nonprofits, museums, libraries and archives, historic sites, and public-facing humanities centers at colleges and universities across the country. This funding will help such entities restore post-pandemic programming and engage or deepen collaborations with stakeholders and communities that will expand their reach.

“Each project contributes to a shared national conversation in important ways,” said Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Executive Director of the National Writing Project. “Building a More Perfect Union recognizes the unique role that local, regional, and cross-regional humanities organizations play in understanding and making visible fuller stories of our national experience.”

Awardees plan to “build a more perfect union” through expanding access and raising the visibility of lesser-known stories and histories in regions and communities, engaging communities through participatory public humanities events and opportunities, and developing institutes and curricula with teachers and students to support K12 classrooms.

“The National Endowment for the Humanities is grateful to the National Writing Project for administering American Rescue Plan funding to help local and regional humanities organizations recover from the pandemic,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo). “These ARP awards will allow archives, libraries, museums, historic sites, and other institutions around the country to restore and expand public programs that preserve and share the stories of the communities they serve.”

To learn more about Rebuilding The Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation’s Building a More Perfect Union grant, please visit the National Writing Project website.