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WVU English professor develops year-long poetry workshop for high school students

Thanks to another generous donation from the Bolton family, local high school teachers have the opportunity to immerse their students in poetry through a workshop developed by Mary Ann Samyn, professor of English and director of the MFA program in creative writing at West Virginia University.

The Bolton Workshop for Writing Teachers is a year-long workshop focused on emphasizing reading and writing poetry in high schools. 

After working with students in the residence halls on campus, Samyn said she developed the idea for a workshop for public school students after Bolton reached out to the WVU Foundation with interests in supporting a program.

Graduate students in the English department and Samyn worked with teachers from Morgantown High School, University High School and Fairmont Senior High School during the Fall 2015 semester. During their meetings, they shared teaching experiences, reading recommendations, activities and approaches that would be most beneficial to their students.

“Our aim is, first and foremost, to give students a positive experience with poetry,” Samyn said.

This Spring, Samyn and her graduate students will visit classrooms to show students the process behind writing poetry. Shana Karnes, a 12th grade English teacher at Morgantown High School, said that she believes that this experience will help her students grow into more confident writers.

“While I currently try to integrate a great deal of poetry into my lesson plans, I learned about a great deal of new poets whose work I’m excited to introduce to my students,” Karnes said.

Funding for the workshop will also help purchase poetry books for the teachers to use in their classes. Bolton and her husband made considerable contributions to the University during their lifetime.

“We couldn’t be more appreciative of the Bolton family’s philanthropic support. Their investment in reading and writing education for high school students through our exceptional English faculty will inspire a new generation to share in Ruth Bolton’s legacy of dedication to the fine arts,” Anna Justice, Eberly College Assistant Dean for Development, said.

“Mrs. Bolton passed away recently, so this project is even more valued as part of the Boltons’ legacy at WVU,” Samyn said. “The Boltons were such supporters of WVU, and especially of writing, and I feel very lucky to have gotten to know them and to do outreach work via their generosity.”