Leadership Team


The work of the writing project is conducted by the Leadership Council, comprised of the following members who meet regularly to plan and execute professional development programs for our region:

Director, Dr. Pauline Sahakian

Pauline is the founding director of the UC Merced Writing Project (August 2000). She comes from a strong background in National Writing Project philosophy, having served as Associate Director of the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project at CSU Fresno for 18 years. Her professional background includes 33 years in Clovis Unified School District, where she worked as a high school English teacher, district writing resource teacher, and high school literacy coach. She also served on the first statewide CAP scoring team. In the evening, Pauline taught for 12 years as an adjunct professor at CSU Fresno in both the English Department and the School of Education, teaching freshman composition and a content literacy course for single-subject credential candidates. Her honors include being selected as 1994 Fresno County Teacher of the Year and California Teacher of the Year Finalist. The California Association of Teachers of English honored her with the Outstanding Teacher Award. Pauline’s credentials include a B.A. and M.A. in English with emphasis in composition, a CLAD Certificate, and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the UC Davis/CSU Fresno Joint Doctoral Program. Her dissertation involved case studies of the writing development of four Hmong high school boys over a four-year period. Pauline has published articles in Every Piece Fits (San Joaquin Valley Writing Project, 1989); Educational Leadership (ASCD, Mar. 1996); CLIPs (CRLP, Spring 1997); The Whole Story: Teachers Talk About Portfolios (NWP, 2001); The Quarterly (NWP, Winter 2002), The Voice (NWP, Sept. 2002); API What Works (CSU Fresno, 2002); Leadership (ACSA, Jan. 2003); Critical Cultural Conversations (Hampton Press, 2004); API Specific Strategies (CSU Fresno, 2004); and Fifty Ways to Develop Strategic Writers (Pearson, 2005). Pauline can be reached at psahakian@ucmerced.edu

Co-Director, John Hundley

John Hundley has lived in the San Joaquin Valley most of his life. Though now a proud and longtime resident of Atwater, he grew up in Bakersfield, which he refers to as the “land of enchantment” where there was lots of open space to capture the imagination of a young boy. John earned his B.A. in general literature from UC San Diego and teaching credentials in English/language arts and history/social studies from UC Santa Barbara. After teaching eighth-graders in Atwater Elementary School District for 15 years, he returned to college to earn an M.A. in creative writing from Prescott College. His master's thesis included a novel about a Christian who finds his faith challenged during an extended trip into the backcountry of Sequoia National Park. He has adapted other pieces of his master's work into a series of multiple genre stories thematically connected to the 1863 massacre of 35Tubatulabal natives in the Southern Sierra Nevada. John has been teaching composition courses as a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program since UC Merced admitted its first students in 2005. In his spare time, John enjoys reading, writing, and exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Co-Director, Teresa Pitta

A retired teacher in Merced City Elementary School District, Teresa worked as an elementary educator for almost 40 years. She also served as a school librarian, compensatory education resource teacher, and teacher on special assignment in language arts. Teresa holds a B.A. in English from CSU Chico and an M.A. in Education with emphasis in reading from Fresno Pacific University. She earned both a Reading Specialist Credential and a CLAD Certificate. Teresa’s professional experience included a teaching position at Chapman College in the Teacher Education Credential Program. Her professional development work includes Fellowships in the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project (CSU Fresno, 1983) and California Literature Project (UCLA, 1985). Teresa’s expertise was honored by the California State Department of Education when she was invited to join the CLAS Development Team. She served as Head Trainer for the elementary Reading/Writing state-wide scoring sessions. Her professional affiliations include the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.

Associate Director, Lynn Kahn Parker

Lynn has served as Associate Director of the Writing Project since its inception in 2001. In addition to a B.A. from CSU Stanislaus, Lynn has a Multiple Subject teaching credential and a CLAD certificate. Her experience with the California Writing Project began when she was invited to be a Fellow in the Great Valley Writing Project at CSU Stanislaus. Currently, Lynn teaches middle school in Merced City School District. In her years as an educator, she also has experience teaching in elementary school. Lynn continues to serve as the UCMWP Saturday Outreach Series Coordinator (SOS). In this capacity, she coaches our presenters and organizes the monthly program throughout the year. Lynn has a reputation as being an outstanding teacher-coach for our new presenters. Her other professional involvement includes being past president of the Merced Area Reading Association.

Assistant Director, Rayborg (Rae) Owens

Rae was a Fellow in our first Invitational Summer Institute in 2001. She holds the title of Assistant Director for secondary programs. Rae organizes and facilitates teacher workshops, collaboration sessions, and Advanced Institutes for various programs such as Improving Students Analytical Writing (ISAW) programs; Teaching to the Common Core State Standards, the California Writing Assessment requirements; Migrant Education Young Writers Summer Academies; CELDT Academies. She have participated in the CWP Statewide initiative for Improving Student Analytical Writing (ISAW) since 2001 and have been a CATE Pre-Convention presenter many times. Rae has been an educator for 40+ years, teaching all levels of high school English from remedial to honors and freshman to seniors. She also worked as a District Program Specialist, guiding English, Social Studies, GATE, and Career Technical Education teachers. Later, she served as the Merced Regional Coordinator for Cal-PASS, facilitating professional learning councils in Math, English Language Arts, and English Language Learners. Other professional experiences include: Coordinator for the Merced Union High School District Writing Assessment; CAHSEE Item Review Committee; AWPE Scoring; NWP Scoring Conference; ISAW Scoring; Facilitator for GEAR UP Vertical teams in the Atwater Area; and BTSA Mentor to name a few. She continues to be active in the Merced County educational community and is an advocate for improved writing instruction at the secondary level.

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