My IEW Journey: Becoming a Successful IEW Classroom Writing Teacher

Oct 30, 2018 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


As a child, I wanted to become a second-grade teacher. In college, though, my parents pushed me to study business instead. Poor grades followed, and a degree change became imperative. I switched paths and earned a master’s degree in Special Education: Deaf Education. I then began my twenty-plus year teaching career, none of which ironically has been spent as a second-grade classroom teacher.

A few years after I received my master’s, I married. While I supported my husband in his studies, we moved numerous times so that he could acquire his degrees. Living in Ohio, our little family grew but our funds dwindled. Because someone heard I knew American Sign Language (ASL), I was offered an interpreting job for a weekend conference, which was the beginning of a whole new career path. Soon after that event, I found myself teaching ASL classes at two local community colleges.

Later, we moved to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia where once again I found myself teaching ASL at the college level. The community college where I taught had a large body of deaf students who took classes, and these students needed interpreters. I became one of those interpreters. I found myself interpreting many remedial English classes for these students. English is hard enough for a hearing person to learn, but having the inability to hear creates unimaginable difficulties for deaf students. Interpreting eventually led to tutoring. Unfortunately, at that time my writing skills weren’t strong enough to help the students with their compositions. Their college professors were also unequal to the task. Thus began my journey of learning how to teach writing.

Back when I was in college, I could find methods classes for teachers on math and reading, but I could find none dedicated to writing. So I spoke to many professors, delved through MLA formatting books, and became a good friend of the OWL Purdue website. This still wasn’t enough. Sure, my students were turning in much improved papers, but their compositions were still lacking in some areas. I was in a quandary as to how to help my students further with improving their writing style and use of structure.

After my husband received his final degree, we were off to Southern Louisiana, where he was offered a teaching position at a K–12 Catholic classical school. I found a middle school language arts teaching position at another Catholic school. Grabbing the middle school grammar book, I was ecstatic to find diagramming in each lesson and in the student workbooks. I loved sentence diagramming. I thought, This is going to be a fun year! What I quickly discovered was that my while students could diagram most sentences I threw at them, they couldn’t write a cohesive paragraph or paper. I was perplexed.

In our second year in Louisiana, I was offered a position teaching English language arts to the fifth and sixth grade classes in the same school where my husband taught and my children attended. There I was handed the IEW course, Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, and was instructed to watch the DVDs over the summer and begin implementing IEW in my classroom when school began in August. They sat on my desk all summer, untouched. I was too intimidated to start. While I later learned how truly informative and useful the DVD course is for teachers new to IEW's methodology, back then I instead ended up venturing over to the IEW website where I found a live training option in Chicago. That sounded promising! I attended it, and within the first thirty minutes of the two-day course, I knew my life as a teacher was going to change. All the gaps I had in the way I was teaching writing were filled in. Hope in my abilities to teach writing finally formed.

The school year began a few short weeks later. Teaching a new methodology so quickly after learning it was a bit difficult, but I persevered. What I quickly noticed was my students actually enjoyed writing. My classroom was quiet with the focused attention of students assiduously composing. Visiting teachers and administrators complimented me on my great classroom management. Sure, I had that, but this studious silence reigned because the children were excited to write. After all, they had tools that empowered them! Their Student Reference Handbooks were always out and available to help them find that perfect word.

I shared their Student Writing Portfolios with their parents, other teachers, administrators, and even prospective parents considering enrolling in our little school. The headmaster witnessed everyone’s excitement and decided to train the entire faculty in the IEW methodology. About this time I joined the IEW Educational Consultant team. I just couldn’t keep this writing method to myself. I wanted to shout about it from the rooftops. I wanted every teacher to learn about this valuable method so they would not have to suffer as I did.

So here I am in Oklahoma, working full-time as an IEW Educational Consultant. This past year we reached more schools than ever! We often receive emails from teachers and administrators expressing how IEW is changing their schools. These brighten my day! Teachers feel much more comfortable teaching writing, and students are producing papers that reflect a cohesive structure and creative use of style. Are you in a similar situation as I was? Contact us! We are here to help. You can even order a free Examination Packet. I would love to have you join me on this IEW journey!


Beth O’Connor, holding an M.A. in Special Education: Deaf Education, comes to the Institute for Excellence in Writing with a diverse teaching background. Having lived and taught in Colorado, Illinois, California, Ohio, Virginia, and Louisiana, she has taught a variety of students, both deaf and hearing. After 20 years of teaching students in kindergarten through the university level, she noticed a common challenge when it came to writing: students struggled with writing, and many teachers felt they didn't know how to help them. She attended a live IEW training, implemented the methodology immediately with her students, and discovered she had finally found a writing program that truly worked. The best part was her students loved every aspect of IEW and couldn’t wait to learn what was in the next lesson. Beth brings her classroom experience and desire for teachers to enjoy the same results to her role as an educational consultant.

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