Pat Stoddart calls herself a coach. But she doesn't do her coaching on the football field or basketball court. The Logan High teacher coaches English students.
The English teacher says she encourages her students as much as an athletic coach would because of a new approach to teaching composition, called process writing, that is aided by a computer. For her efforts, Stoddart was named Utah representative in the US WEST Outstanding Teacher Program Monday.With process writing, Stoddart no longer must spend her days circling words on student compositions with red ink. She helps students work and rework compositions with the aid of computers. The computer lets the students rearrange their texts as much as they'd like, and there is even computer software that can point out writing flaws such as too many passive verbs.
Started four years ago at Logan High, computer-assisted writing has been embraced by more than 20 other Utah high schools.
"I knew we had to do something about student writing. What we'd done for the last 15 years wasn't working," Stoddart said, explaining why she turned to computer-assisted writing.
After investigating UCLA research on computer-assisted writing, Stoddart decided that the computer could do for English classes what it had done for other subjects. In traditional composition classes, moving the student beyond the first draft frustrated student and teacher alike, but the computer makes revisions easy, she said.
With the obstacles to revisions removed, students focus more on the content of their compositions, she said. "Even if they never become writers, the students become better thinkers in the process."
As the Utah winner, Stoddart will receive $5,000 and will compete against finalists from 13 other US WEST states in Denver May 4-6. The three winners selected in Denver will receive a year's paid sabbatical to further their educational development.
If selected, Stoddart plans to explore more ways technology can enhance English instruction and manage student progress.
US WEST, parent company of Mountain Bell, Northwestern Bell and Pacific Northwest Bell, initiated its Outstanding Teacher Program in January in its 14-state territory.
Eve Mary Verde, Utah contributions coordinator for Mountain Bell, said US WEST will spend $20 million on education in the next five years. Besides the teacher program, the firm will give grants to educational institutions.