Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Teachers, we’re endlessly grateful for you here at 826 National, and we’re committed to supporting your crucial work with young writers. It’s why we launched 826 Digital, our pay-what-you-wish online platform that delivers teaching resources from the 826 Network to over 2,000 educators—ultimately reaching over 60,000 students!

To celebrate, we’re delighted to introduce you to our first 826 Digital Spotlight Educator, Matt Malyon. Matt is a Director at Underground Writing where he teaches migrant, incarcerated, and at-risk learners. Discover why Matt believes in the transformative and healing power of the written word.

Pssst. Do you know a teacher doing astonishing things with young writers?
Find out how to nominate them (or yourself!) to become an 826 Digital Spotlight Educator.

Why is writing important to you?

Writing is a confrontation with others, and it’s a confrontation with oneself. As one of my incarcerated adult students…said recently: “I’ve been inside for four to five months now and have been distracting myself pretty well. This writing class is the first time I’ve engaged with the real issues I’m facing.”

Writing is also an act of discovery rather than the packaging of previous knowledge…and I love to discover what I don’t yet know.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching writing?

I get to talk about what I love—reading and writing. I get to introduce students to good literature. I get to write with students. I get to affirm students—their writing, their insights, their personhood.

I often wonder how I can quantify—much less convey—the joy and honor I feel at being able to participate in the lives of our students through teaching writing. I can’t, but I will keep trying. This work is a gift. I’m forever grateful.

Do you have a favorite line of writing from a student work? We’d love to hear it!

I’m not sure I can choose an absolute favorite. There are so many. However, one that comes quickly to mind is by Heather. Heather wrote a poem entitled, “Potential.” In it she takes an object as her initial focus—a remote control. She describes it as worn, nearly forgotten, left on the couch. She wonders aloud what it has overheard, why it’s so broken. Clicking the buttons, she realizes it still works. And then, near the end of the poem, there’s a turn. Here are the poem’s final three lines:

Maybe it’s not so
broken. It has

Maybe I’m not so

Such beautiful lineation here. Such great use of space. And on that note—that space between “potential” and “Maybe” . . . that space! That’s the space I aim for as a writing teacher.

Thank you for your remarkable work, Matt, and congratulations from all of us at 826 National!  

And to all teachers, everywhere — thank you for building inclusive spaces for writers. Thank you for the late nights and early mornings. Thank you for inspiring students to find strength in their voice and power in a pen. We couldn’t do this work without you.

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