Since April 14, 2020, we have mourned the loss of Dr. Jonathan Lovell, Professor Emeritus from San José State University, where he was director of the San Jose Area Writing Project and co-director of the English Education Program. In 1988, Dr. Lovell founded SJAWP, and he was still our director upon his passing.
SJAWP Teacher Consultant Andrew Waddell writes, “Dr. Lovell could have sat comfortably in the ivory tower, but he preferred life in the trenches with us lowly public school teachers. He seemed to know every education guru as a personal friend, but he treated suburban kindergarten teachers and folks trying to get junior high kids to quit shooting spitwads with exactly as much esteem.”
A relentless advocate, his passion was “tilting my lance against the so-called ‘educational reform movement,’ a movement that threatens to undermine public confidence in our public schools.”
Dr. Lovell will be missed most especially because he was a generous mentor, revered colleague, and compassionate friend. We will continue to work to support students and teachers in his honor.
Founder Jim Gray organized the first summer institute at UC Berkeley in 1974, believing that successful classroom teachers are the best teachers of other teachers—and that teachers of writing should write. Jim brought together 25 talented Bay Area teachers to share their knowledge about the teaching of writing and founded the Bay Area Writing Project. This was the beginning of a professional development model for teachers that grew into the National Writing Project, with 195 university-based sites in fifty states.
Jim Gray’s trust for teacher agency and respect for teacher knowledge changed the landscape of professional development. Now, teachers teaching teachers is the norm for many successful educational groups who provide professional training in literacy, technology, or other disciplines. SJAWP’s former director, Jonathan Lovell, was one of those early participants in the Bay Area Writing Project, attending its Invitational Institute in summer of 1984.
Jonathan was selected for a faculty position in the English Department in 1987, with the explicit charge of bringing the Bay Area Writing Project model to San José State University. Jonathan asked East Side’s Subject Area Coordinator in English, Charlene Delfino, to share responsibility with him as university and school-based co-directors of the project, and the program began with an Invitational Summer Institute in 1988. Successful classroom teachers shared from kindergarten through college, and the San Jose Area Writing Project was launched.
Until recently, SJAWP’s invitational institutes met every summer. Each year, 20 or more teachers shared their expertise in writing instruction with one another. These teacher consultants offered workshops for other teachers during open programs, on Saturdays and at district in-service events. Independent research data, collected nationally by Inverness Research Associates, showed the efficacy of the summer institutes. They brought good writing instruction to students and developed teacher expertise and leadership.
Our ISI was intensive and transformative, and rewarded the time that teachers were willing to devote to this sustained summer program in both writing and the teaching of writing. Summer after summer, our ISIs were rated by participants as “the best professional development” they had ever experienced.