Project Write Now is excited to announce our 4th annual Writing on the River: A Spring Retreat for Teachers, which will be held Sunday, March 29, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Oyster Point Hotel in Red Bank.
The past three retreats were an incredible success, as teachers representing various schools and grades from all over Monmouth County came together to write, share their stories, and reflect on their teaching practice.
This year, our guest speaker is award-winning author, educator, and professional coach Jamie Sussel Turner. Jamie has been featured in The New York Times, received an ATHENA Leadership Award nomination, and served as a speaker curator for TEDxAsburyPark. Before becoming a professional coach, Jamie served as a public school educator, including 12 years as a school principal. She holds master’s degrees in both Educational Leadership and Elementary Education. Jamie lives with her husband at the Jersey Shore where lessons from three cancer diagnoses have led to a more peaceful life. Ever grateful for magnificent sunset views over the water, she is passionate about her grandchildren, working out, reading, traveling, and her daily dose of dark chocolate.
Our education director, Colleen Doogan, recently interviewed Jamie so we could learn more about her before she speaks at our retreat.
Colleen: Why do you write? What is your writing process?
Jamie: I am a teacher at heart. As a teacher, I’m eager to share what I’m learning. So, nonfiction writing has long been my calling. When I write what I’m learning, my lessons become magnified, deepen, and tend to stay with me. I don’t write to a schedule or at a particular time of day. My process is to start with a memory, experience, question, or observation. Then I add my thoughts over several weeks’ time. Usually it’s about 10 drafts in when I realize what I’m trying to say and why it means so much to me.
Colleen: What motivated you to focus on and write a book about helping people deal with stress?
Jamie: Stress has been a serious concern in my life. As an extremely shy child, I would hide behind my mother and blush bright red when called on in class. As a teacher, I would sweat buckets on Back-to-School Night or break out in a rash from the stress of writing report card narratives. Then when I became a principal, my stress overtook my well being. My workaholic tendencies were out of control. I had few tools for having difficult conversations, abandoned my workout routine, and survived on junk food. Then in 2001, a diagnosis of breast cancer got my attention and I vowed to change how I was handling stress. Since then I‘ve created my Less Stress Life Method, and I’ve been on a mission to help others learn how they too can live with more peace than they might imagine is possible.
Colleen: What does a day look like when you are not working?
Jamie: Some form of movement is usually part of every day: biking, walking, hiking, yoga, or the gym. Getting outside daily, in nearly all kinds of weather, makes my heart sing and results in a great night’s sleep. Breakfast or lunch out with a friend helps me feel connected and adds some laughs to my day. And, of course, time to curl up with a good book is a must. When my grandkids are visiting, they come first and reading aloud to them is joyful.
Colleen: Can you describe a moment in teaching that you will never forget?
Jamie: In my 12 years as a primary school principal, I was in the lunchroom every day. I came to see the lunchroom as my classroom and often did read alouds toward the end of each lunch period. The kids who had finished eating would gather by my feet while the others listened in. We also had little talent shows at the end of lunch, and I’ll always remember the day one of our special ed students played the drums along with a Beatles record and dressed just like Ringo Starr, haircut at all. It wasn’t just his fabulous performance that made this memory so special but also how the other students viewed him differently from that day on.
Colleen: What is a favorite book from your childhood?
Jamie: Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White. Charlotte’s Web taught me my earliest lessons about loyalty, friendship, and loss. I revisited Wilbur, Charlotte, and their friends as I read this classic tale aloud to every class I taught as well as to my own two sons.
Colleen: What is a quote you live by?
Jamie: “I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.” —Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Colleen: What would be one word that you would use to describe yourself?
Jamie: Voracious learner. (Sorry! I know that’s two words!)