Jaws Writes Poetry

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Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)

Home of the Sharks, Charles J. Colgan Sr. High School’s Center for Fine and Performing Arts Creative Writing Program has earned the Virginia High School League (VHSL) State Championship in creative writing. Additionally, Indigo Green, a recent graduate, took home an individual state championship for poetry.

The winning collection submitted by Colgan High, which included four pieces earning “Superior” ranking, consisted of the following:

  • Essays: “Driving with the Windows Down” by Kitti Pierce-Moystner and Honorable Mention Award “The Frogship Shop” by Savanna Loy
  • Short Stories: “Mercenary Pizza” by Aidan Sadler and “Stolitsa” by Tirayan Bartlett
  • Poetry: “descent” by Gabriela Hawkins and VHSL State Champion winner “Momma Sang Da Blues” by Indigo Green

“I’m a writer for a reason!” said Jessica Dyche, creative writing teacher at Colgan, laughing as she rocks in her seat behind the veritable cornucopia of pens, pencils, papers, skeletons, elephants, cacti, and a sign that triumphantly proclaims: “SLAY girl!”

“I mean, we all share the same love,” Dyche said of her creative writing students. “To me, writing is like water, and to them it is like air. So, when you have those things together it makes beautiful waves.”

Dyche has begun her 10th year of teaching, six of which she spent at Colgan High. In just her fourth year as the Center for Fine and Performing Arts Creative Writing lead, Dyche has coached her students to earn the coveted VHSL State Championship in Creative Writing for 2021-22, as well as a State Championship for Poetry by graduate Indigo Green.

“I’m so proud of them. This is their trophy,” Dyche stated firmly. “But, as long as they come in here and love writing, that is what matters to me. We take their passions, and we turn it into something that is tangible and that they made.”

From a competitive field of 31 other Virginia schools with a little over 186 students, Colgan upset Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology from repeating as a three-time state champion. The last PWCS school to earn this designation was Woodbridge High School in 2018-19.

The award is a validation of the principles—craft, professionalism, process—on which Dyche has built the culture at Colgan. “Our literary journals are all student-run. There are books,” Dyche paused to reach for one of many student publications, “that all the seniors have self-published and worked toward as part of their capstone. I stress the [principles], then I turn it over to the students to really make something of that.” And the students have.

Their first literary magazine, Siren, was more traditional. Upon student demand for creative freedom and intentional play, they launched a second experimental literary magazine, The Megalodon. It is this type of dedication and commitment that has led to the program’s success.

“We stay after school every day to work on InDesign and… [a plethora]of emotions come out with self-published books of work.” Dyche said, on her 35th birthday, sitting with a student all evening to complete a publication. Holding the published work, she confesses, “Having this book come out was probably the best 35th birthday present, because seeing a student’s words come to life…” she trails off for a moment.

While winning the VHSL Championships is a highlight of the year, Dyche admits the real victory is the love of writing her students share with her. She concludes: “Every day is a success if they love writing.”


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