Author Biographies

Dr. Sharon Murchie teaches English at Okemos High School in Okemos, Michigan, and is a teacher consultant for Red Cedar Writing Project and Chippewa River Writing Project. She also blogs personally, politically, and academically. You can find her writing at mandatoryamusings.blogspot.com, sharonmurchie. wordpress.com, and murchie.org.

Benjamin K. Woodcock (@bnjmn_k_ wdcck) is a teacher, writer, reader, and researcher. He is also a husband, brother, uncle, and friend. He teaches English at Okemos High School in Okemos, Michigan. He maintains a blog on his thoughts on reading, writing, teaching, and life at benjaminkwoodcock.com.

Anthony Andrus teaches English at Okemos High School in Okemos, Michigan, and each day strives to promote student’s authentic selves in their writing. He obtained a Master’s degree in Teaching and Curriculum from Michigan State University, and is the Vice Chairperson of the Capital Area Literacy Coalition in Lansing, Michigan.

Pat Brennan teaches English at Okemos High School in Okemos, Michigan. He was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and previously worked in Cincinnati, Ohio as an English teacher, instructional coach, and spoken word poetry coach. He is passionate about building student voice and spicy foods from around the world.

Shelby Fletcher teaches English and is the National Honor Society advisor at Okemos High School in Okemos, Michigan. She is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Before coming to Michigan, she taught English in Southern Maryland for ten years.

Emily Solomon teaches English at Okemos High School in Okemos, MI where she also advises the school’s PRISM club. She is a teacher consultant with the Chippewa River Writers Project. She enjoys art in its many forms and works to encourage creativity and free expression for her students.

Dawn Reed is an English teacher at Okemos High School and Co-director of Red Cedar Writing Project at Michigan State University. She is co-author of Research Writing Rewired: Lessons that Ground Students’ Digital Learning and Real Writing: Modernizing the Old School Essay, and has published in journals, books, and websites.

Gina Farnelli teaches English at Okemos High School. She has also worked with alternative education and Trio Programs, and she served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine. In the summer, she continues to work with youth through various camp and extension opportunities. She enjoys hiking and spending time in nature.


Our district has long been heralded as a beacon school, one that delivers exceptional education in an exceptional community. Peeling back the layers, however, revealed a district that lurched towards the traditional, even with the hiring of DEI faculty and the step away from an historical indigenous mascot. In a time where teachers are exhausted and afraid of community backlash, our

English department dared to tear off the scabs of old wounds and united to push toward what is best for our changing community and students. Hard conversations, difficult topics, and months of legwork at last successfully provided the impetus to move our department forward.

As we dug into our curriculum and dug out of our individual comfort zones and passion projects, we realized that we had a long way to go to truly provide an education for our students that was representative of the students in the room and inclusive of all. Haltingly, we began to revamp our curriculum and unite in our goals. Along the way, we found ways to build bridges between old and new staff members, and ultimately joined together to write this article to submit for publication. This article unpacks our individual and collective journeys toward cohesion and inclusion, outlines our inquiry work to “stretch the field of literacy, language arts, and English” in our district, discusses the “tensions [that we] see in literacy education today,” and details our work to “best meet the needs of [our] students” (Language Arts Journal of Michigan, 2021).

The work has been and continues to be difficult, but it is critically important—and worth it.

Publication Date