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"Thank you for your guidance and support for our capstone students on this valuable project! I'm so proud of them and thank you again for the opportunity for them to work at Ruch Community School! They learned a lot and shared many precious stories. It was an exemplary capstone project!"
Younghee Kim,

Southern Oregon University

School of Education

“Abram, this is so impressive -- your commitment to the interns, the 8th graders, the 7th graders, and the process... it's impressive. I love being on the sidelines watching it all unfold. You did a fantastic job setting the tone and making it feel like a celebration of the students' work, and also honoring the work and growth of the interns. They too did a great job creating and maintaining a sharing space.” 
Margaret Perrow

Oregon Writing Project

"I'm so glad that you have included our students in this great work you've been doing for the past two years. I hope this work will continue and that our students will be able to be a part of it for years to come! Thanks for your great mentoring of our students. The work you do with them makes a difference in their lives as well."
Erin Wilder

Southern Oregon University

School of Education

“This is such a great project and the work of the young people involved is amazing. Thanks for doing this for the students and for SOU.”

David Humphrey

Oregon Center for the Arts

Abram Katz was the lead teacher for the Digital Storytelling Project at Ruch K-8 Community School in 2014-2015, jointly sponsored by the Oregon Writing Project at Southern Oregon University, and the Ruch School PTO. The project energized the middle-school students, motivating them to think and write about issues and challenges from a profoundly personal standpoint. Consequently, their engagement in the writing process was heightened, along with their self-awareness and self-confidence. Sharing their stories in the digital storytelling format meant that each student's voice was valued; as each student rehearsed and recorded their story, their sense of their own voice as a writer was strengthened.

The digital storytelling project also involved pre-service teachers from SOU, who gained hands-on classroom teaching experience from their work in the middle school. This experience provided a valuable, real-world experience for college students planning to become teachers, and connected SOU students with the K-12 community in a meaningful way.

Margaret Perrow della Santina

Director, Oregon Writing Project at SOU

I am so impressed with the work you are leading in our community. I attended the presentation at SOAR [Southern Oregon Arts & Research] where student teachers and Ruch Community K-8 School students explained their writing project. I was deeply touched hearing about the social-emotional learning that occurred among the participants. It was evident that the students at Ruch bonded with SOU student teachers, which is the greatest learning that ever can occur. As teacher educators, we emphasize the importance of relationship building, but until students can FEEL it in their body, mind, and spirit, it is abstract.


One of my students has been accompanying you to Chiloquin Elementary every Tuesday for the past five weeks. I can feel the effect this experience has had on her before she even verbally shares with me. After class on Wednesdays, she is bursting with details to share about her learning. Being involved in teaching and learning in Chiloquin has placed her in many situations we have been learning about in our textbook (course on Diversity). Because she is a beginning student teacher, she has not had the opportunities to implement best practices yet. Your leadership skills have helped her take risks and accept responsibility in these students' lives, which she embraces. She has learned so much from the project, but I think the social-emotional skills she has developed are truly remarkable. She has confidence to explore her role in students' lives as a listener and mirror, and truly reflect their stories, while writing her own.

Megan Farnsworth, Ph.D.
School of Education
Southern Oregon University

In spite of the fact that this is my largest class, my students are now exhibiting more openness and acceptance in lecture, discussion, and trying something new. They take turns well. They don’t interrupt or criticize as often. It’s as if the trust built in the project has had a carryover in their relationships to each other and to me. I find it so much easier to do things with this class, even when they may not initially understand the directions. They try now. We evaluate and adjust if needs, and try again.


Recently, Margaret (Oregon Writing Project Director at Southern Oregon University) and I have been having them revisit their DST stories and ‘re-sharing’ them in small groups. As a part of helping them develop the stories into argument for subsequent sharing on our website, she thought of having them develop personae that might have a contradicting point of view. They have had a great time stepping into this practice. Initially, they were a bit hesitant; but as they have practiced, they’ve fully immersed themselves in creation of counterargument. This week, we’ll be moving on to responding to those arguments.  They’ve continued to respond to each other openly and with respect—even with a playfulness borne of trust. 


As a teacher, I anticipated that the biggest outcomes of the Digital Storytelling Project would be in students’ comfort with technology and their ability to use technology independently for enhancing schoolwork and projects.  Nevertheless, the major benefits both years appear to be more on the interpersonal level: trust in others, acceptance of self, willingness to try.  I’ve offered one example of this above, but I’ve observed it in a variety of settings.


These gains, and the ones that won’t be known for quite some time, are the types of outcomes I so value as a teacher. The relationships our students build with Mr. Katz and the SOU interns, wrap them up in a blanket of “CAN.”  And “WILL” follows pretty naturally from there. 


Thank you all for your tremendous commitment of time, energy, and self in helping my students experience the power of story and its ability to change lives.

Cindy McDonald


Ruch Community K-8 School

This was an invaluable opportunity for me as a pre-service teacher. I got an incredible amount of knowledge from the experience. It took a lot of time and dedication to make the movies come together, but this [program] is something I will draw inspiration from for the rest of my career.


I realized that I am even more passionate about teaching and reaching my students than I thought. I am stronger and braver than I had been giving myself credit for too. I learned that teaching is, in fact, what I love to do. That gives me a [sense of] confidence that I have never found in myself before.


I learned so much about managing a classroom full of various personalities and needs. The most important thing I learned though is that teaching is truly what I want to do. I cannot picture myself anywhere else, doing anything else, and I have the digital storytelling internship to thank for that affirmation.


This internship asked me to step up and be a real teacher, and I will never forget how that felt. Every day that we were in the classroom, I saw and experienced just how important and relevant everything I have been taught is.


Digital Storytelling Internship Program

Rebecca Garland 

Southern Oregon University

My daughter, Brook, was first introduced to the Digital Storytelling project last year, her 7th grade year. There were many aspects of the class that Brook enjoyed and found interesting. One of the many positives she pulled from the project was the amount of respect each student learned to have for their fellow students and their work.

Another great take-away lesson was learning to put a presentation together. From organizing thoughts to getting their thoughts into a digital format, the students created very unique and special projects.

Brook has thoroughly enjoyed her time working with Mr. Katz and his team on the Digital Storytelling project. She is now helping this year's 7th graders create their own projects. In this process, she is discovering a whole new set of academic and life skills.


We cannot say enough good things about this program, Mr. Katz's work with the students, and the students' completed projects!

April Powell


Ruch Community K-8 School

When fourth and fifth grade students from Walker Elementary School in Ashland, OR. were asked if they liked being at school more, after experiencing Mr. Katz's Creative Writing Workshop, they responded: 

"Yes, because I don't feel judged anymore."
"Yes, because now I have more ideas for my stories."
"Yes, because after this workshop, I'm better at handwriting and art."
"Yes, because now people are nice and happy."
"Yes, because before I didn't feel confident in my writing, and now it is one of my favorite subjects in school!"

Honestly, you are doing the kind of work I dreamed of doing for years as a younger man. Don't ever let anyone tell you what you are doing isn't worth it. I hope to rally faculty and students around this cause!


Thomas Perkins

Qualified Mental Health Professional

The hearts, the humor and the compassion of the folks that lead this organization are huge. I am grateful they are here in this community helping young people learn wonderful skills and doing so with joyful teaching of the value of each individual.

Peggy Lavelle 


Hospice Care Volunteer

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