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.

As you may know, the UC Merced Writing Project has been in a transition since the recent retirement of its long-standing director, Pauline Sahakian. The National Writing Project (at both the state and federal level) plays an essential role in supporting literacy initiatives, teacher preparation, and writing across the curriculum from kindergarten through community college. For Merced, this project is often our community’s first sense of the university and inspires a college-bound culture; for example, the Young Bobcat Academy brings hundreds of local children and teachers to our campus over the summer. Perhaps most importantly the project plays an essential role in developing teacher leaders and supporting writing curricula across content areas and levels.

We are very pleased to be directing this renewed phase of this important project and write to update you on recent strategic planning and anticipated activities for the upcoming year (an article about this transition is included here). During the summer, the UCMWP hosted an advanced summer institute, which brought together Merced teacher leaders from across levels and sites with Merced County of Education Office and UC Merced Writing faculty. The goal of this institute was to renew priorities for the upcoming year and plan a governance structure. The following highlights are important to share:

- The UCMWP has started an Advisory Council of teacher leaders and other literacy experts to provide guidance and input on the direction and focus of this project;
- An Un-Conference is scheduled on Thursday, January 30th, 2020 from 4-6pm to provide a networking segment for teachers interested in writing. There will be light refreshments. More information to follow;
- The UCMWP plans to offer a summer institute and Young Writers Academy in 2020;
- Our developing website (https://writingproject.ucmerced.edu/) will highlight lectures and seminars specific to writing that will be
available on-campus as well as downtown;
- For more information – Google Form or contact Heather Devrick, Managing Director

Our group would welcome suggestions on any special projects that UCMWP can co-sponsor or support. Past activities such as book clubs and writing events, when led by local teachers, play an important role in growing a community and culture around writing. Part of our goal is to support those kinds of projects with feedback and partnership. All are welcome to contact us, even with initial ideas, for dialogue.

Please feel encouraged to share this letter and associated information with your colleagues. If you are interested in supporting and/partnering with the UCMWP, just let us know! This group will thrive with community participation, and we appreciate your involvement and support of writing. More soon with events and continued planning; we look forward to working with Merced’s K-14 community on writing initiatives as part of growing professional development and leadership opportunities.


Anne Zanzucchi,
Co-director UCMWP

Paul Gibbons,
Co-director UCMWP

Heather Devrick,
Managing Director UCMWP

UCMWP Advisory Council Members

Chelsea Arnold, PhD
CalTeach Program Director
Asst. Project Scientist-Environmental Soil Physics
School of Natural Sciences
University of California, Merced

Cynthia Cassady
Second Grade Teacher,
McSwain Union Elementary
UCMWP Teacher Reader and Bobcat Young Writers Academy Instructor

Sean Epstein-Corbin, Ph.D.
Professor of English, Merced College

Alyssa Castro
YLI Program Coordinator
We’Ced Youth Media
Community Teacher Leader

Audry Garza, Ed.D.
Coordinator ELA & HSS, Merced County Office of Education
Areas of Interest: Language Arts, History and Assessment

Julie LaFollette
Teacher On Special Assignment
Hilmar Unified School District

Helen Sandoval
Lecturer, UC Merced
Areas of Interest: Rhetoric and Composition, First-generation/Undocumented student ally

Tina Spurlock
Teacher Consultant,
English Teacher for Merced Union High School District, and Adjunct instructor at Merced College