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JoAnn Portalupi likes to introduce herself as a mother, teacher, writer, and artist. Each of these roles informs the work she does in the field of teaching writing.
She began her career in education as a fourth-grade teacher in Epsom, New Hampshire. "I was bit by the writing bug my second year of teaching, when I was lucky enough to attend the University of New Hampshire's first Institute on Teaching Writing, where I met and worked with Tom Newkirk, Lucy Calkins, Donald Murray, and Donald Graves. In that summer I discovered a pedagogy that resonated with my own belief about teaching and learning: that a strong teacher–student relationship lies at the heart of both." Since then she has worked in education as a classroom teacher, a staff developer at Teachers College Writing Project, a university professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and most recently as an independent consultant. JoAnn is also the coauthor with her husband, Ralph Fletcher, of numerous professional books and videos.
Her four sons have given JoAnn plenty of opportunity to refine her thinking about teaching writing. "Raising school age boys gave me a panoramic view of teaching. Engaging as a parent at home continually challenges me to think about the responsibility of teaching another parent's child. Discovering up close the four distinct personalities in my own children is a constant reminder of the diversity of each and every learner."
After years of traveling to work with teachers, JoAnn prefers putting her time into two new endeavors that continue to inform her thinking about education. She currently serves on the Oyster River Cooperative School Board. "My experience as a board member allows me to work with a fine group of administrators, teachers, and staff in the exciting and complex task of building and maintaining an excellent school district."
Her newest classroom is her own artist's studio. "After years of wanting to learn to paint, I finally took myself seriously. I built a studio, found a teacher, and have been painting for the last seven years. Standing in front of a blank canvas reminds me of all the excitement and frustration of being a novice and has ushered in new insights about what it means to be a learner. Maybe these ideas will make their way into a book someday, but for now I'm just trying to keep my brushes wet."