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Writing Samples (DOC)


									Writing Samples

                              Table of Contents
Web link for excerpts from Hey, Back Off!                       pg. 3

Web link for excerpts from Hey, Get a Job!                      pg. 4

Article for Boys' Life Magazine                                 pg. 5

Essay, "Letters of Recommendation"                              pgs. 6-9

Press release                                                   pg. 10

Written magazine interview                                      pgs. 11-13

Web link for articles on                           pg. 14

*More writing samples can be requested by email:

Excerpts from Hey, Back Off! -

Excerpts from Hey, Get a Job! -

                                   Article for Boys' Life Magazine

                                     Tips for Job-Seeking Teens
                                           Jennie Withers
                author of Hey, Get a Job! A Teen Guide for Getting and Keeping a Job

        Landing a job is possible, even in a tough economy. You need two things if you expect
to gain employment: preparation and perfection. The following will help as you prepare to
look for openings and fill out applications.

      Know what you can legally do. Go to: for youth
       labor laws in your state.
      Think about your priorities, likes and dislikes. What are your future goals that have
       priority? Are you a people person, good with kids, like working with food, like to be
       inside or outside? Do you have time restrictions due to school and extracurricular
      Use a variety of sources to find openings:
           o The Job Service
           o Connections - we all have them, discover yours
           o Internet - stick to company websites, sites specifically for teens
           o Take a walk and ask for applications
           o Be your own boss and start a business
           o Volunteer - things that start as volunteer positions can often turn into paid ones,
                and volunteering looks great on future applications
      Prove your maturity and independence by picking up applications alone.
      Create a master application. A prepared, perfect application that contains all the
       necessary information is a must.

Source: Hey, Get a Job! A Teen Guide for Getting and Keeping a Job (

                                       Letters of Recommendation

                                            By Jennie Withers

        Jessica was a student any teacher would love to have in class. She was in my Senior English class,
on the basketball team I coached, and involved with many community service organizations. I was only
in my second year of teaching, but I knew Jessica was going to be one of my all time favorites. When
she asked me to write a letter of recommendation for her, I answered quickly, easily, “Absolutely!”

        After Jessica left, I sat at my desk paralyzed with fear. It wasn’t long ago that I was the student
requesting letters of recommendation from my teachers. I wanted to write the best letter of
recommendation known to any college review board for Jessica. But I didn’t know how. Where should I
even begin? I thought Jessica’s future rested on my ability to put words in some sort of order that
would make her sound amazing.

        After I got over my initial panic, I did what any novice teacher should do. I went to a veteran
teacher for help. The first thing this veteran asked me was, “Do you want to do it?” It didn’t occur to
me I had a choice. Luckily Jessica was a student I wanted to help.

        The advice I received and the tips I've developed will help writing letters of recommendations
for students a much less daunting task.

First things first, how do you feel about this kid?

         Just because they ask, doesn’t mean you have to yes. In fact, you could do more harm than
good if your heart’s not in it. Some teachers set up a time in the near future to meet with the student
to discuss the possibility. I didn’t necessarily do this, but I did ask them, “Why me?” If a student
couldn’t answer this, then I couldn’t feel good about writing a letter of recommendation.

         There were several other rules I had when deciding to write a letter for a student. One, if my
gut reaction was no, I can’t do it then I turned the student down. Two, if it would compromise my ethics
as a teacher to write the letter then the answer was no. For example, if a student is a discipline problem
then I cannot write a glowing (as they need to be) letter of recommendation honestly. Three, the
student can’t think of anything for me to write about.

        If the answer is no, there is a responsibility for you to explain why you are refusing. I told a
number of students I couldn’t do it, and although they were not happy about it, after I gently explained
they understood my letter would do more harm than good. It also helps if you can help them
brainstorm other, better options. Just remember this is not a time to lecture a student about times
they’ve misbehaved, it’s a time to help them move in a different direction. As teachers, we should want
them to succeed.

The student must help you

         If the answer is yes, the student must do some things for you. My first mistake with Jessica was
that I didn’t let her help me. It’s not enough to like a student when it comes to writing letters of
recommendation. Nobody is going to think much of a letter that says: I really like Jessica. She’s a cool
kid. The student needs to provide some things in order to help you get started.

           -   Resume It will tell you what the student’s accomplishments and involvements are. If they
               don't have one, send them to the internet for resume templates. There are free resume
               templates that were designed specifically for teens at, and there
               many other sources for them as well.

           -   Audience Where is this letter going, what is its purpose? I have written three kinds of
               letters of recommendation, college entrance, scholarship and job. Although they are the
               same in a lot of respects, there are some subtle differences.

           -   Reasons Why do they want to attend this college, apply for this scholarship or get this job?

           -   Reminisce Students who want you to write a letter of recommendation asked because they
               believe they did positive things for you and because of you. Ask them what those things
               are. This conversation should also include their weaknesses, and if they made significant
               improvement in some area. Bounce ideas off each other.

           -   Time This not only means a deadline, but the time needed to create a masterpiece. I tell
               my students I need at least a month. I didn’t write letters for the last minute flyby askers. I
               responded, “I don’t have time to write a letter that does you justice.”

           -   Envelope I’ll use school stationary, but I will not provide an envelope, the address of where
               it’s to be sent, or the stamp.

Getting Started

         Written in proper business letter format, the letter should open with the name of the student
you’re writing for, how you know them (including the extent of your relationship and the length of
time), and what the student is applying to. The most important aspect of the opening paragraph is
setting the tone. It’s like a thesis statement, it states why you chose to write the letter for the student.

To Whom it May Concern,

I am pleased to write to you on behalf of Jessica Johnson, who is applying for admission to Best
University. I have known Jessica for two years. She was a player on my JV basketball team, and is now in
my Senior English class. Jessica is a gifted student and athlete, but perhaps more importantly, she is an
outstanding citizen.

Prove It

        This is the portion of the letter where you have to show, not tell, the readers the student is as
great as you think they are. Vague praise or neutrality is avoided through examples and anecdotes that
are glowingly positive. These should illustrate one or more of the following:

       Scholarship

       Citizenship

       Leadership

       Community and School Service

       Unusual Circumstance – something about the student’s life that makes them extraordinary

Jessica has been an honor student as well as an athlete throughout her high school career. For most
students, this is a difficult balance. But for Jessica, it wasn’t enough. She became a volunteer at our
local nursing home during her sophomore year. This year, after a unit on oral history, she came to my
English class to help her begin a program called ‘adopt a grandparent’ which pairs a student with a
resident at the nursing home. Jessica’s peers respect her immensely, so it was no surprise that my class
enthusiastically helped her. It is because of Jessica that every resident receives a visit from someone on a
regular basis.

Wrap It Up

        To end, summarize why you are recommending the student. Also, make it clear to what extent
you recommend them. There is a difference between recommend and highly recommend. The
committee will probably pick up on this in your letter anyway, so the honest thing to do is state it.

Jessica displays intelligence and leadership abilities that are well beyond her seventeen years. I highly
recommend Jessica for entrance into Best University. She is a student that will be an invaluable asset to
your institution.

What’s Left

         Your letter is typed in business format and you are happy with it. Now, let somebody else read
it, proof it and then do another draft. It will reflect poorly on the student if there are errors, typos,
grammar mistakes, or it’s not coming across clearly.

         After the final polish, save it and print two copies, one to send and one for you. I printed a copy
for me for two reasons. The first not all teachers do. I showed a copy of the letter the student I was
writing it for before I sent the other. I let them grade me for a change. I wanted to make sure I was
saying what they needed me to. The second, I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel. Of course, all of
my letters of recommendation were different because students are different, but there was always
something I could use from one letter to the other.

        The last thing I highly recommend is pat yourself on the back. Being asked to write a letter of
recommendation is an honor. It means you are a good teacher, and it means you have a good rapport
with students.

                                           Press Release

For Immediate Release

Authors: Jennie Withers with Phyllis Hendrickson, M. Ed.
Contact: Jennie Withers
Phone: 208-272-0414

Hey, Back Off! Tips for Stopping Teen Harassment by Jennie Withers with Phyllis Hendrickson, M. Ed
(New Horizon Press, September 2011) offers parents, teens and educators the first book of effective
tools for combating the growing epidemic of harassment among teens. Written in clear, easy-to-read,
teen-friendly style, this powerful read uses narrative real-life examples and stories that are relatable to
teens, while incorporating strategies and coping tips not only for teens, but also parents and educators.

Hey, Back Off! Tips for Stopping Teen Harassment is set for national release from New Horizon Press
Books September 1st, 2011, but is currently available online at and
More information on the book can be found at as well as . The authors are available for interviews and review copies and media kits
can be sent upon request.


Jennie Withers ( is a graduate of Boise State University, Boise, Idaho. She
taught Technical Reading and Writing and Creative Writing the past 7 years at West Junior High School
in Boise, Idaho. The previous nine years she spent teaching Language Arts at Kuna High School in Kuna,
Idaho. Jennie is the author of Hey, Get a Job! A Teen Guide for Getting and Keeping a Job. She has also
published or contributed to articles in The Ultimate Teacher from HCI Publishing, TWIST magazine, Boy's
Life magazine, Family Circle magazine as well as other national and local publications. Jennie lives in
Meridian, Idaho, with her husband and two daughters.

Phyllis Hendrickson, M. Ed, received her B.A. degree in English/Education from Idaho State University
and her M. Ed in School Counseling from College of Idaho. Phyllis spent a number of years teaching in
the Blaine County School District and the last 14 years of her career before retirement was spent as a
school counselor at Burley High School in Burley, Idaho. She lives in Twin Falls, Idaho, with her husband.

Hey, Back Off! Tips for Stopping Teen Harassment
By Jennie Withers with Phyllis Hendrickson, M. Ed.
New Horizon Press
September 2011
Self Help/Family/Relationships/$14.95 pb
ISBN 13: 978-0-88282-365-2

                                       Magazine Interview
                              Linked In, Counseling Magazine
1.) What is cyber bullying? How common is it?

Cyberbullying is the use of cell phones, the internet or other digital devices to send messages or images
that are intended to embarrass, slander or harm another person. The harassing behavior takes place in

Unfortunately, cyberbullying is extremely common. It is an epidemic because it is harassment made
easy. The National Crime Prevention Council surveyed American teens and found that cyberbullying
affected almost 50% of teens.

Teens will do things on the internet or cell phone they would never do in person. The reason may be
the bully is not in the physical vicinity of the victim. The harasser doesn't see the victim's reaction,
therefore any feeling of remorse or guilt is far removed. Cyberbullies also do not experience immediate
consequences like they may in school. Nobody is there to haul them to the principal's office, arrest
them or even provide a good butt chewing. Because it's easy, cyberbullying is the ultimate act of

2.) What are some ways to help students cope with cyber bullying, especially since it's been so prevalent
in the media?

Answers to cyberbullying are more difficult due to the fact that it is so subversive. Case in point, the
National Crime Prevention Council found that of the 50% of teens affected by cyberbulling, only 15% of
them were getting help. This statistic should alert counselors that they need to educate their student
population and its parents about what cyberbullying is and what they can do to protect themselves from
it, or what kinds of consequences they can expect if they are the bully in cyberspace.

What counselors can do:

        Educate teens about what cyberbullying is and what the consequences are for victims and
         perpetrators. Teens are very black and white. Because of the intense media coverage, they
         believe that they are only victims of cyberbullying if they resort to violence against others or
         themselves. They need to realize that if something in cyberspace embarrasses, slanders or
         harms them in any way and creates a hostile environment at school, they are the victim of

        Teach teens how to be assertive. Passive personalities are victims, aggressive personalities are
         harassers. Teens are trying to be independent and we need to encourage their positive acts of
         independence. We cannot solve harassment issues for them, particularly something like
         cyberbullying which takes place in their online worlds. Counselors, parents, teachers,

    administrators and law enforcement are there to offer support and guidance to teens. They
    cannot solve issues for them. This is perhaps the most difficult part because teens are still kids
    and we want to take care of them, but they will always remain passive, always remain the
    victim, if we take over. Be sure to emphasize that when harassment of any kind becomes
    persistent, pervasive or severe, it is an assertive act to report to a trusted adult.

    Work to create a safe and secure environment within your school. If cyberbullying or any kind
     of harassment is prevalent in your school then there is a hostile environment. There are ways
     to turn this around. First, don't let the problem be a secret. Again, education about
     cyberbullying and assertiveness is key. Recruit those students and teachers you know to be
     assertive because those are the ones who will work with you to create a positive learning
     environment. Hostility is contagious, but positive behavior can also be catching. Do not fall
     prey to the easy solutions. Hanging posters in the hall, handing out pamphlets or having an
     assembly for an hour will not change a school environment for the better. Those things may be
     good tools or reminders, but real solutions take real work.

    Educate your teachers and parents about what the victims of cyberbullying may look like. For
     example, their behaviors or appearance may change. Victims may stop participating in usual
     activities and may miss a lot of school. Teens will leave clues that they need help. A counselor
     cannot possibly catch them all, and falling through the cracks when it comes to cyberbullying is

    Involve parents early and often. Counselors, educators in general, cannot solve the issue of
     cyberbullying on their own. Parents have to realize that their support is needed. Parents can
     monitor their teen's online and cell phone habits more effectively than the school. It is not
     snooping to check up on a teen, it is simply protecting them. Parents can recognize the effects
     of cyberbullying on a teen more readily than a school can because they should know their kids
     best. And, by law, a minor cannot be a victim in the eyes of the law without parental consent.
     If cyberbullying is made a school's problem, it will only get worse. Cyberbullying is too far
     reaching for any one entity to handle.

    Guide students to deal with cyberbullying effectively:

    What to say:
         o Nothing, unless you can say it in person!
    Face to face with an adult present:
         o I want you to stop …
         o I don’t like it when …
         o I feel like you’re trying to get a reaction out of me.
    What to do:

             o   Be assertive – remain calm, but be direct
             o   Report
             o   Make sure the who, when and where of a safety plan is in place
             o   Change your cell number, email address, lock the bully out of your social networks
                 (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter)
        Do not:
            o Post or send anything that you don’t want the world to see
            o Forward anything that could be offensive to or will hurt another person

If we truly want to help students deal with cyberbullying or any other type of harassment, it has to be a
team effort. Teens who are victimized by cyberbullies need to be not only in the game, they need to be
the star. Counselors are perhaps their most important supporters because they can educate and guide
teens (like a coach) as well as involve parents, administration, teachers and law enforcement.

3.) What are some things guidance counselors can do to cut back on trouble on Facebook and Twitter?

Facebook and Twitter are outside of a counselor's jurisdiction, but they can have an ancillary influence
on the problems taking place on social networks. Educating teens and their parents about what
constitutes cyberbullying and educate them about dealing with harassment assertively will help stop the

4.) Are there any best practice in place?

I would argue that there really is not any best practices in place yet because cyberbullying is too new.
None of us foresaw the severity and the rapid spread of cyberbullying. There has been attempts made
at best practices, but they most often are too little, too late because they don't focus on the teen's
personality or the necessity for adults to allow teens to be assertive instead of jumping in to solve issues
for them. The lack of a best practice is why my co-author, School Counselor Phyllis Hendrickson, M. Ed.,
and I wrote Hey, Back Off! We didn't write this book for educators. We wrote it for teens and we
included supplemental information for their parents. Counselors and their schools cannot solve the
problem of cyberbullying or other types of harassment on their own.

Parenting Teens Writer for
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