Coldwater Middle School Coach Erica Oh knows that young authors thrive when readers appreciate their work. Erica has made it her mission to give thoughtful attention to every writer’s efforts, whether it’s a student on her own team or a contestant from another school at a Power of the Pen tournament.
As a 10-year Power of the Pen coach, Erica serves as a judge at Power of the Pen competitions in the Northwest Region. Erica has learned from her own students that they crave specific guidance on their writing at tournaments. While judges do not evaluate the work of their own students in competition, Erica takes her responsibilities to young writers from other schools seriously, knowing how much the judges’ comments mean to them.
“I make it my goal to give encouraging, quality, helpful feedback to each student,” Erica says. “I try to point out to the writers the specific skills they demonstrated well and specific areas that need more work … I want them to go away with a clear plan for improvement in future writings.”
Erica applies the same careful attention to her own writers as they meet to support and encourage one another in developing their creative writing talents. As a Power of the Pen alum herself, Erica understands the importance of making connections with readers.
“I'll never forget once making my coach cry in practice with one of my stories,” Erica says. “It's something special being able to evoke emotion within your reader; coaching allows me to encourage a new generation in that art.”
Erica strives to make practices a supportive environment where writers can take creative risks while talking over new ways of thinking about writing. “I love seeing my students' excitement about their stories and their creativity in coming up with unique approaches to the prompts,” she says. “We have lively conversations surrounding their ideas and writings.”
The Thrill of Competition
Tournaments provide an extra incentive for students to keep exploring techniques to polish their writing. “I loved to write stories as a kid and loved having an authentic outlet to do so through Power of the Pen,” Erica says. “I still remember the excitement of awaiting the results at competitions and the sense of accomplishment coming home with stories for my family to read.”
In everything she does as a coach, Erica inspires a new generation to share their own unique stories with readers.