Wishing teaching consultant Shari Vandervelde well in her retirement from CWP

ShariShari Vandervelde has been a part of the Colorado Writing Project since 1998. We’ve been lucky to be a part of her decades-long career as an educator, which  included classroom teaching, supervising student teachers for Colorado Mesa University, working as a consultant, and running a business coaching and tutoring students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

She is retiring from CWP to take on new life adventures, and we will miss her dearly:

CWP is sad to say good-bye to one of our teacher/consultants, Shari Vandervelde.  I met Shari more than 20 years ago when she took Colorado Writing Project with me in Grand Junction, the district she taught in for 34 years.  She came back for more and took CWP II with Stevi Quate. We were smart enough to ask her to train and join our group. Shari has been teaching with CWP for over 20 years and has helped so many teachers across Colorado become better teachers of writing and better writers. She made the trek from Grand Junction for our retreats and to present at conferences every year.  Her dedication to CWP and to the teachers of Colorado is an inspiration. She will be with us in spirit and only a phone call away when we need her smart advice! Thank you for everything you have given to CWP over the years, Shari. I value your friendship. Love you!

—Karen Hartman

Dear Shari,

Thank you so much for all that you’ve given over the years to the Colorado Writing Project and to the thousands of teachers and students whose lives you have touched and indeed changed.

You are not only an exemplary instructional leader, but you are also a resilient, thoughtful educator who always strives for the very best when it comes to helping teachers and students learn. I’m reminded of all the times during CWP retreats when you fearlessly asked key questions or made insightful observations which always pushed my thinking on the way I’d look at our ever-changing curriculum. I know that your Colorado Writing Projects were always of the highest quality when it came to professional development, and I’m confident that your impact on teachers and their students will resonate for many, many years to come.

I’m also reminded of all the miles you drove from Grand Junction in order to connect with our CWP team and keep us informed about what was happening on the western slope. You were always on time, ready to work hard, and prepared to dig into the most current research on writing and literacy. You have truly been our “road warrior”, and I deeply appreciate your commitment to CWP.

On a personal note, I’ve loved our conversations about New Zealand, about traveling to far off places, and about pursuing adventures that add some thrill to our day to day lives. In the last few years I’ve come to appreciate you as a friend whose compassion, honesty, and thoughtful listening have helped me through some tough times. For this, as well as many other things, I thank you with all my heart. 

I wish you all the best, Shari, as you explore new passions and continue to grow as an amazing human being. I’m confident that you have many new adventures ahead and that you’ll continue to push the envelope as a teacher and educator whose vitality for learning is boundless. More than anything, I hope we can stay connected as friends and keep in touch across the miles. 

Thank you, Shari, for all the hours in Colorado Writing Project that you spent reading, writing, assessing, evaluating, preparing,conferring, guiding, and collaborating with colleagues, teachers, administrators, and students. You are the best of the best in CWP! Your legacy will live on in the work! And you will be deeply missed…

Respectfully and with great appreciation,

Tim Hillmer

Shari is an advocate by nature.  I am more aware of life on the western slope because of Shari.  At our once a year CWP retreats, Shari taught me to consider the implications of decisions on our rural schools and the educators who must drive hours to Denver for their professional development.  She shared ideas about working with our youngest writers and she kept our CWP consultant group grounded in research. Her voice was one of reason and softness. Perhaps most important, she also kept Karen sane by helping her get things ready and things cleaned up for our retreats.

I will miss our walks and talks and Shari’s laughter and joyful energy.

—Sheila Kaehny

From the moment I first met Shari Vandervelde I was impressed and in awe of her professionalism. It seems like only yesterday when Shari was in my writing project in Grand Junction. As an avid learner, she asked deep, provocative questions and was eager to learn more about how to create a dynamic, rich literacy classroom. In the classroom she was a marvel, and her students thrived. I remember clearly how Shari’s students performed exceedingly well on the state’s first standards-based assessment, CSAP. Shari was adamant that it was not “test prep” that prepared them, but it was plain, old-fashioned good instruction. When Shari joined CWP as a teacher-consultant, I was thrilled.  She could bring her rich understanding of writing workshop to the teachers she worked with in CWP. Her insights, patience, and passion for literacy were always in the forefront of whatever she did. She has made a difference for students and for teachers alike. Darn! We will miss her.

—Stevi Quate

Shari Vandervelde is an iconic name in our shared, Colorado western slope home.  From classroom teachers to college professors, everyone seems to have a connection with Shari and lauds her accomplishments as an educator and as a person.  I was lucky to have Shari as my mentor as I embarked on my journey as a CWP facilitator.  From our first meeting, Shari was the idyllic guide: simultaneously supportive and inspiring, steadfast in feedback and encouragement.  Despite being her mentee, Shari viewed me as her equal, and knew that I could “do it,” far before I did.  This belief in students, whether in her classroom or professional tutelage, is the mark of a truly special educator.   Despite Shari’s CWP retirement, her influence will persevere indefinitely in the hearts of the children and colleagues she has touched.

—Crystal Sabatke

Shari welcomed me into CWP with enthusiasm several years ago, and I could see immediately the impact she has had in her career as an educator. She is insightful, compassionate, and not afraid to ask the tough questions that reminded us to think differently about the CWP curriculum and our professional development offerings. She was our window into the needs of teachers on Western Slope. Her dedication to CWP sets the standard. We will miss her terribly in our discussions, and future teachers who take our workshops will miss out on the opportunity to learn with her. And I will miss the walks and talks I shared with her. Thank you, Shari—best of luck to you in your future adventures!

—Sarah M. Zerwin

CWP Teacher/Consultant, Karen Crawford, retires after 30 years with the Colorado Writing Project

Colorado Writing Project is sad to announce the retirement of our dear friend and colleague, Karen Crawford.  

Karen began working with CWP in 1987.  For those 30 years, she has touched the lives of teachers throughout Colorado.  Karen believes deeply in the power of writing and the importance of allowing students the freedom to write about what is important to them.  Karen wrote for our website, “CWP fills my summer months in the company of teachers as students and teachers of writing, who often for the first time realize the power of the writer within and how that can transform their lives, their teaching lives, and the lives of their students.”  Karen will be missed by all of her CWP colleagues and by the teachers she has worked with during her time as a CWP teacher/consultant.

Karen, I will especially miss your support, enthusiasm, and your positive vibes.  You were always able to help me work through problems and keep me looking at the big picture.  I know you will find lots of wonderful ways to fill up those summer months. Love you!

Karen Hartman

Karen Crawford was my mentor. We team-taught a CWP in Grand Junction one summer.  Karen was up-beat, found the positive asepcts of each participant and their written work, and was unfailingly cheerful, even after staying up late to respond to papers!  She was always thoughtful and deliberate in her written response to people’s writing and left the teachers with new energy for their work.  During our annual retreats and attendance at state conferences, Karen provided encouragement and enthusiasm every day. Along with all these other qualities, Karen exemplified kindness and spread it around freely.  She will be missed!!

Shari VanderVelde

Karen is a delightful, supportive colleague with a beautiful smile and a gentle wit. I loved teaching in Adams 12 with her one summer, and I marveled at her warm laughter, compassionate insights, and deep commitment to teaching writing as an authentic, relationship-based practice. When it comes to the best practices of writing instruction, she is a fierce defender of the true craft. I will miss seeing her at CWP retreats and at CLAS conferences, but I know she’ll be enjoying a joyful retirement life either traveling to beautiful places around the world or enjoying her lovely home in Colorado Springs with her beloved hummingbirds. I will miss you, Karen! Thanks for your amazing energy and caring, humane spirit!

Tim Hillmer  

I first met Karen Crawford when I was new to the profession.  We ended up on a team of 9th grade English teachers from across the state doing professional development, and I was immediately enamored of Karen’s sweetness and serene, earnest manner.  She was a natural leader of our group, and she made us laugh with her at her funny observations, while also keeping us on track. 

Years later, when I met Karen again, we were joined together by the Colorado Writing Project.​  Along with our amazing team of teacher consultants, Karen and I always shared a bunch of laughs as we planned our CWP workshops each spring.  I also team taught one summer at Cherry Creek with Karen, staying at the same hotel and getting coffee every morning and dinner every evening.  We reflected on our teaching and enjoyed planning and each other’s company.  I know my teaching was enhanced that summer by all the conversation and collaboration I shared with Karen.

Karen’s legacy for me, among many other things, is that she reminds me of the importance of the soft skills and the special touches – in teaching and in life.  From using pretty paper for responses to student writing to coffee mugs with special sayings to her tiny little home on her tiny little street, Karen Crawford has made a difference in my life.

Sheila Kaehny

I will miss Karen Crawford’s infectious energy. She leaves a considerable legacy through the Colorado Writing Project via all the teachers who were lucky to get to work with her.  Her absence at the table during our annual CWP planning retreats will be palpable. She has been a source of encouragement and support for me in my work with teaching colleagues through CWP and in my own writing endeavors (thank you for the mug with the inspirational words that I put in front of me as I write).  I’m sorry I never had the opportunity to co-teach a CWP workshop with Karen. I know it would have been memorable and that I would have learned so much from her. 

Sarah M. Zerwin

It’s hard to imagine CWP without Karen Crawford. From the very start, she was by my side, first as a participant where we learned from the brilliance of Judy Gilbert and then as a teacher consultant. Her love of teaching, of the students and teachers she taught, and of powerful writing instruction was contagious and inspiring. A comment from a teacher this summer about Karen captures the impact she had on others. This teacher told me that Karen was her teacher consultant for CWP 1 and that each day was a love fest: for the community of writers, for the writing itself, for each individual. At the end of each day, this teacher hugged Karen as she left and since she wasn’t a hugger, she knew it was Karen’s care that created that need. So as Karen transitions to other endeavors in her life, she’s leaving behind many hugs and memories that matter for our kids.

Karen, here’s a hug from all of us to you.

Stevi Quate