The Writing Teachers Collective is a space for classroom teachers, mentors and teaching artists to build community outside of their schools or organizations and grow in their individual practices as writers and educators.


The first Writing Teachers Collective in 1999 focused on fostering the continued growth of teachers who write and teach poetry. From this space, about 30 people met and shared best practices including workshops and brainstorming which later sparked the idea for the city-wide poetry festival.


By coming together to share, vent and celebrate, as well as invest in our own writing & teaching practices, we can continue to build a better world for the young people of Chicago. Each session invites a guest artist, writer or educator to address new & relevant themes through creative writing and professional development exercises.

The Writing Teachers Collective (WTC) is a community organizing tool and an emergent strategy, growing at the speed of trust. WTC welcomes all educators and allies to Chicago’s youth and strives to be responsive to the needs & desires of the community that we build with one another.

As attendees & facilitators, we’ve had:

  • poets & writers who taught or want to teach
  • teachers who write or want to write
  • administrators who want to integrate creative writing into new and burdensome state standards
  • community arts organizers engaging youth

Workshops are hosted by YCA Teaching Artist and Education Associate, Robin Reid Drake and are led by different facilitators; check our calendar for further info.

Join us for bimonthly sessions curated by & for EDUCATORS. Come sharpen your tools on arts education, creative writing curriculum and much more. PD credit is now available. Contact with your questions or requests for further information.

Previous Facilitators:


Christian Aldana‘s poetry is a safe space for wicked and sinister femmes who hate imperialism. She is the author of The Water We Swim In, a full length collection of poetry published by Sampaguita Press in 2023. They are a queer, Filipinx, artist, educator and community organizer based in Chicago. Though she has a soft spot for the Midwest, part of her will always be in South East Asia (Cebu and Saigon) where she grew up.

She is the founder and Creative Director of Luya, a poetry organization that centers the stories and experiences of people of color. Alongside their comrades at The Digital Sala, Christian is dreaming up alternative visions of what radically flexible, community-centered, revolutionary writing spaces can be.

Their poetry has been published or is forthcoming in the Chicago Reader, Injustice Watch, Marias at Sampaguitas, the Capilano Review, and Locked Horn Press. Their performances have been featured at the Poetry Foundation, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Stony Island Arts Bank, Young Chicago Authors, on NPR’s Worldview, and more.

When they’re not writing poems you can find them in deep discussion about dystopian sci fi, cooking in their pjs, and trying to throw off the tether of scheduled time.


Madeline Kobayashi

Madeline “Desi” Kobayashi (she/her) is an educator, writer, instructional coach, curriculum designer, and professional development specialist. She earned her Bachelors in Secondary Education/History from DePaul University, and spent 14 years as a classroom teacher, for which she received the 2014 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her extensive teaching experience includes middle and high school Social Science, English Language Arts, and College and Career Readiness, serving youth in four schools across Chicago. She has also worked as a literacy specialist with the Chicago Public Schools Department of Literacy, as well as an instructional coach for Rogers Elementary School. She holds two Masters Degrees in Secondary Education/English Language Arts, and Literacy Education with a Reading Specialist endorsement. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and her research interests include liberatory literacies, abolitionist teaching, and trauma-responsive pedagogies. She is passionate about building collaborative spaces for educators, and designing research-based literacy curricula that is culturally sustaining and attends to the academic and human needs of Black and Latinx youth. Madeline is the co-founder of Critical Learning Collaborative, an education consulting business that supports justice-centered communities of practice in order to transform classrooms into the liberatory spaces our youth need and deserve.

Robin Reid Drake (she/they) writes poetry and short films about whiteness, trans embodiment, horror, ecology and control. They received a 2023 residency at Sundress Academy for the Arts (TN) and were a 2022 Southern Constellations Fellow at the Elsewhere Living Art Museum (NC). Her work can be found in POETRY Magazine, DREGINALD and Foglifter.

They live and teach in Chicago.

Chima “Naira” Ikoro (she/they) is an interdisciplinary writer and first-generation Nigerian from the South Side of Chicago. Naira is currently a teaching artist at Young Chicago Authors, where she spent many of her formative years as a student. Through programs such as Check The Method, Wordplay, and YCA’s internship formerly known as Bomb Squad, the city’s artist community has always been her home. She created the Community Organizing beat at South Side Weekly, and is currently The Weekly’s Community Builder, where she started The Exchange, The Weekly’s poetry corner. She received her bachelor’s in Film with a minor in Environmental Studies from Columbia College Chicago. Alongside her friends, Naira co-founded a mutual aid abolitionist collective called Blck Rising, and she continues to root all her work in caring for and connecting to the communities she belongs to.

Donna “Dante” Marie Gary (she/they) is an African American femme, non binary, and bisexual poet, organizer, and cancer sun. They welcome all pronouns and encourages folks to practice using they/them pronouns with them! They graduated first generation from Whitney M Young and summa cum laude from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Their research focus and concentration was entitled “Poetics of Embodiment; The Ways Marginalized Folks Re-Imagine Their Value.” They acquired a cross school Disability Studies Minor, and made a lasting impression as the co-president of the Disability Student Union. Donna first began sharing her poetry at rallies and marches, then as a youth poet in Louder Than A Bomb and now on stages such as The Metro, NYU Skirball, The Bowery Poetry Club and The Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Their poetry has been published by The Rational Creature, “Dawn With Arms of Roses; A Queer Anthology by Gal Pals Present,” Gordon Square Review, Lacunae: Vassars’ 1st Undergraduate Journal for Queer of Color Critique, Sycamore Review, and BOAAT Press. Her poem “Mouth,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Sycamore Review, and they received admittance to the Tin House Summer Workshop as a Poet Scholar mentored by Samiya Bashir. To reground they enjoy playing chess and drawing with pastels in their hometown Chicago, Illinois.

Christie Valentin-Bati (she/her) is a suburban kid from Florida now mostly grown up with an MFA in Poetry from Columbia College. She is an interdisciplinary poet and photographer writing in the lineage of Black women writers declaring radical truth/love through unflinching self-expression like Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Lucille Clifton. Her creative work and pedagogy emphasizes the quotidian as the bulk of life resides in the ordinary. Beyond the mundane, her work explores ecology and gender, and hybridity and genre-defying forms which includes combining text with visual art, collage, and photography. Her work has received honorable mention in the 2022 and 2021 Academy of American Poet’s Poetry Contest, has been commissioned by the ACLU of Illinois, and exhibited in Porous Gallery and Davis Street Drawing Room. She is published in Allium Journal, Bending Genres, and Menacing Hedge among others.

C. Lofty Bolling (they/them) is a Black nonbinary poet and artist from Virginia. They have been teaching poetry for a few years and have been writing for many more. Relocated to Chicago in 2021, and with new work on the way, you can catch C. Lofty teaching in Bronzeville, drinking too much coffee in coffee shops, and reading Lorraine Hansberry on the train.

Waringa Hunja

Waringa Hunja (she/her) is a graphic designer and writer from Maryland. She received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Waringa is currently the Teen Programs Instructor at 826CHI; when she’s not there, she splits her time between freelance design work and a frantic, never-ending hunt for the best cheesecake in the city.

Timothy David Rey (he/him) is a current two-time recipient of the Changing Worlds/ Artswork Fund ‘Survive and Thrive Grant’, and a 2022 Lambda Literary Fellow for Emerging LGBT+ voices. His work has been published and performed at the Poetry Foundation, Black Horse Review, Obsidian (forthcoming), Sixty Inches from Center, Steppenwolf Theater, and elsewhere. His book of poetry and performance, Little Victories, was published in 2012 by the LGBT imprint, New Town Writes Press.

He is a teaching artist in Chicago and the surrounding areas.

Maya Emma Nnena Ruth Odim (she/they) is a writer and dancer who purposefully mounts performance works in spaces which challenge occidental approaches to performance praxis. Maya is of African American, Igbo and Afro-Cuban lineage, living and working in Chicago, and traveling often. Maya holds a BA in American Studies (Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT) and is an MFA Writing candidate at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) where Maya is specifically studying Igbo Women’s decolonization movements, focusing on the year of 1929. Maya’s self published chapbooks are titled: Places Where We Can Imagine, and Planets, Gourds and Traveling Staffs.

Laura Goldstein‘s (they/them) first collection of poetry, loaded arc, was released by Trembling Pillow Press in 2013 and her second collection, awesome camera was published by Make Now Press in 2014. They have also published several chapbooks with vibrant small presses across the country. They are a Senior Lecturer in Core Literature and Writing at Loyola University Chicago.

blake nemec is a writer, teacher, sound recordist, and health care worker, who lives in Chicago. He is the author of Sharing Plastic, and work supporting abolition, decriminalization of unprotected bodies and musicalities of conversation. Hir work has appeared nationally and internationally in situations such as &NOW, Janus Head, Entitle; Undisciplined Environments, JUPITER 88, SpokenWeb, Captive Genders; Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, or the National Queer Arts Festival. He is a Lambda and SFAI fellow, has long worked as a sound recordist on independent films such as FREE CeCe and is available to facilitate somatics-based writing workshops.

Emerging from a decade-long history of community health clinic and grassroots harm reduction work in the San Francisco Bay Area, blake continues to organize within mutual aid groups and facilitate writing workshops in the Midwest. In the last two years, he has been giving writing workshops which use body based observations to extend techniques within traditional poetry or fiction writing. The trainings support writers’ current creative projects while also being generative. In parallel, the somatic practices in the series can resource artists on a neurological level.