Grammy Winner John Legend Takes the Stage with Writing Project Fellow
Megan Zabilansky, a Fellow in Fairfield University’s Connecticut Writing Project (CWP) was a featured speaker at the recent launch in New York City of Reimagine Learning, an initiative supported by the Oscar and Grammy Award-winning singer John Legend.
Designed to support schools and communities in creating learning environments that unleash individual promise and creativity in all children, Reimagine Learning has a similar mission to Legend’s “Show Me” Campaign.
With Zabilansky at his side on stage, Legend spoke of her as an example of many teachers who “shine light” on students through innovative practices. “The goal is to create more student-centered environments that help young people not just do better in school but also discover what they love,” the musician said. “While tonight is the formal launch, the effort is already well underway.”
“'Let every light shine',” Zabilansky told attendees. “That phrase so fully captures why I became a teacher, and why so many of my colleagues became teachers. And we are ready...to take up the challenge, ready to reimagine our schools and classrooms, to give all students the time and space they need to pursue their individual passions, elevate their voices, and achieve their greater ambitions… With support from the National Writing Project, the MacArthur Foundation and LRNG, I am so proud to take on this challenge and uplift the next generation of learners.”
Zabilansky, an English teacher at Joel Barlow High School in Redding, participated with CWP-Fairfield during the 2014 Invitational Summer Institute.
CWP-Fairfield was invited to the Reimagine Learning event as a ‘LRNG’ grant recipient. LRNG invests in forward-thinking schools, programs and teachers that design projects to take advantage of new technology in support of students’ creativity and innovations. The partnership took root in December when CWP-Fairfield was one of just 14 programs nationwide to be awarded a $20,000 competitive LRNG Innovation Challenge Grant from the National Writing Project (NWP), an honor sponsored in partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Legend’s Show Me Campaign.
Also a part of the festivities was Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions and the director of CWP-Fairfield. “The event was inspirational,” noted Crandall. “I am honored by the commitment of John Legend and also applaud Daymond John, the entrepreneur and investor from ABC’s Shark Tank, who presented the ways he is fighting to do more for young people in our schools. The event also afforded me a chance to work more closely with Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, the executive director of the National Writing Project, as well. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
CWP, a member of the National Writing Project, works to focus the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of K-16 educators. Using the model of teachers teaching teachers, CWP-Fairfield has trained more than 250 educators of kindergarten through college in southern Connecticut and eastern New York. Thanks to the highly competitive LRNG grant, CWP is currently carrying forth exciting digital learning projects across six urban, rural, and suburban schools: Staples High School (Westport), Joel Barlow High School (Redding), Central and Bassick high schools (Bridgeport), Darien High School (Darien), and the Center for Global Studies at Brien McMahon High School (Norwalk).
Ultimately, LRNG is an investment in teachers who are expanding time and space so that youth have more opportunities to create, explore, and follow their passions. “These teachers are paving the way for tomorrow’s innovators,” said Dr. Crandall. “The LRNG award is a reminder of what is possible when we invest in the passion and professionalism of classroom teachers.”
The launch of Reimagine Learning was held at a Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week event hosted by New Profit, a pioneering nonprofit venture philanthropy fund, and WME/IMG, the world’s leading talent and literary agency, among other education advocates.
IMAGE: CWP-Fairfield Fellow Megan Zabilansky with singer-songwriter John Legend.