Jane Schaffer earned her degree in French and English at UCLA in 1968 and her secondary teaching credential from San Diego State College in 1969 and started teaching English, French, and Latin later that year. Since then, her quest has always been to find a way to teach all students how to write. She developed her writing program for students at all levels from special education and ELL through honors, Pre-AP, and AP.
She taught at Santana High School in Santee, California, for eighteen years. In 1987, she and a colleague worked with others to open West Hills High School in Santee, a new school in the same district. The English department was given the opportunity to begin teaching the Jane Schaffer method to freshmen. The program led their students at all grade levels to the #1 spot (of ten comprehensive high schools) on the annual district writing assessment, a place held for many years.
Like many of her peers, Jane didn’t learn the process of writing when she was a student in high school and did poorly as a college freshman. Her college professors made comments such as “It’s obvious you can’t write.” She met many teachers who were treated similarly. To borrow from William Faulkner, they all not only endured; they prevailed. Jane’s mission became clear: “We wanted to spare our students the same embarrassment and humiliation that we as youngsters felt when our essays earned random C’s and D’s.”
Jane developed her first of eleven Non-Negotiables: ALL STUDENTS CAN THINK, AND ALL STUDENTS CAN WRITE.
The goal of this program is to demystify the blank page and enable every student to master the elements of composition. Students often think that writing is a mystery, and only the teacher has the solution. It isn’t a secret; it’s just hard work. Teaching writing is teaching thinking. Our goal is to break the process into digestible steps that all students can follow.
Over the years, we have conducted many workshops in many states to share our writing program and continue to do so. We started offering workshops in Advanced Placement Literature and Composition in 1984 in San Diego and have branched out since then to include Program Improvement districts, schools with 900 API, and grades ranging from elementary to college. Before Jane passed away in 2010, she and her team were updating the Jane Schaffer Writing Program and Workshops to include Color Coding, Weaving Techniques, and Jane’s newest innovation Webbing-off-the Word™ and Webbing-off-the-Topic Sentence™. Wherever we go, whatever we do, Jane’s words and advice resonate with us.