The Poetry Teaching Artist Training Project

The Poetry Teaching Artist Training Project (#PoetryTAT) provides novice teaching artists with professional development training and resources to enhance their teaching skills and increase their employability. Accomplished and well-known master teaching artists lead workshops and share essays on their teaching artist practice and pedagogy. Directed by Jonathan B. Tucker and co-sponsored by the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities from 2018–2021, PoetryTAT is offered free of charge to participants, and resources and materials are shared openly for the betterment of the field.

PoetryTAT 2021

With the pandemic continuing, we again commissioned essays on poetry pedagogy from four fabulous master teaching artists. We are proud to share essays on teaching poetry and creative writing by Sibongile Fisher, Amoja Sumler, Vangile Gantsho, and Tony Keith Jr. PhD. Please read and feel free to share these #PoetryTAT essays with your colleagues, students, and friends.

#PoetryTAT 2020

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, PoetryTAT 2020 is slightly different than previous years. Instead of in-person workshops, trainings, and events, our select master teaching artists share their wisdom through essays and videos. Below you will find bios of our featured 2020 master teaching artists. Click “learn more” to read the poetry pedagogy essays by Drew Anderson, Holly Bass, Natalia Molebatsi, and Jamila Woods.

Meet the Master Teachers



Drew Anderson is a former science teacher turned teaching artist, having developed his own curriculum called “Spoof School” which uses the art of parody songwriting to get students of all ages more connected to (and thus more invested in) their learning. Drew’s proud accomplishments include producing the award-winning two-man show From Gumbo to Mumbo along with his partner-in-rhyme Dwayne B! the Crochet Kingpin, helping to spread the Hip Hop Shakespeare movement along with his comrades in the Baltimore-based Fools and Madmen collective, and founding and co-hosting Spit Dat, the longest-running open mic in the District of Columbia.

Headshot of Drew Anderson, a handsome Black man with a trimmed beard clean shaved head. He is wearing a royal blue button-up shirt and looking directly into the camera.
hands in circle

My name is Drew Anderson, and I am, among other things, a teaching artist, actor, rapper, event host, and marathon runner (retired). But before I was any of those things, I was a poet.

Two photos of Holly Bass, a beautiful Black woman with her hair up and bright blue framed glasses. She's wearing a black jacket over a yellow top and smiling.

With over 25 years under my belt, I can confidently say that the real marker of success as an artist and a teaching artist is largely about staying in the game.

Holly Bass



Holly Bass is a multidisciplinary performance and visual artist, writer and director. A Cave Canem poetry fellow (1997-1999), she has published poems in numerous journals and anthologies. As an arts journalist early in her career, she was the first to put the term “hip hop theater” into print in American Theatre magazine. She is a 2019 Red Bull Detroit artist-in-residence, a 2019 Dance/USA Artist Fellow and a 2019-2020 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow. A gifted and dedicated teaching artist, for four years she directed a year-round creative writing and performance program for adjudicated youth in DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services as well as facilitating workshops nationally and internationally. She is currently the national director for Turnaround Arts at the Kennedy Center, a program which uses the arts strategically to transform schools facing severe inequities.

Poet, Natalia Molebatsi reciting one of the 67 Poems for Freedom at Freedom Park to celebrate Mandela Day. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

I cannot emphasise enough how poetry is not a stand-alone process but one that intersects with so many other activities in our lives, hence, poetry is life itself.

Natalia Molebatsi



Natalia Molebatsi is an internationally known South African writer, poet, and singer. In addition to being a performance poet and author, she experiments with jazz and hip hop. Her CDs, Come as you are: Poems for Four Strings and Natalia Molebatsi & The Soul Making are a fusion of poetry and a variety of music styles. She has published Sardo Dance through Ge’ko and edited We Are: A Poetry Anthology through Penguin books. Her work is anthologised in among other books, Letter to South Africa: Poets Calling the State to Order, Happiness the Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, New Coin, and the Anthology of World Poetry (2010) among others. Her academic writing appears in Scrutiny2, Rhodes Journalism Review and Muziki. Natalia has performed poetry and facilitated creative writing workshops at high schools, universities and festivals in Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, Zimbabwe, England, Italy, Azerbaijan, Argentina, Palestine, Germany and the USA, among other countries.



Called “a modern-day Renaissance woman” by the Chicago Sun-Times, Jamila Woods is a poet, singer, and teaching artist. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her poetry has been published by MUZZLE, Third World Press, and Poetry magazine. She was the associate artistic director of Young Chicago Authors and a founding member of its Teaching Artist Corps. Woods is a member of Dark Noise, a collective of poets & educators of color. In 2015, she was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Woods lives in Chicago.

I found particular freedom in the power to invent a narrative of my life in my own words.

Jamila Woods

At the same time that we are teaching, we are also students. We are all learning from each other.


The Poetry Teaching Artist Training Project provides in-depth professional development classes for novice and aspiring poetry teaching artists in Washington, DC. A small cohort of promising artists–through a series of speakers, classes, activities, assignments, fieldwork, and mentoring–will enhance their teaching, classroom management, and curriculum development skills, and thereby their long-term employability.

With proper training and guidance from mentors, poets can find profitable work inspiring and teaching students across the District and the world. This project consists of twice-monthly meetings, an induction and graduation ceremony, fieldwork training with mentors in schools, and two performances.

In addition to the wisdom and training imparted by guest lecturers and facilitators, participants receive a travel stipend to cover transportation costs, as well as curricula and reading materials, and personal one-on-one mentoring and guidance. Upon graduation, participants will receive a certificate of completion to bolster their professional credentials.

This project is partly funded by the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

What Our Participants Are Saying

I’m just trying to do my part to break the cycle of young people being taught badly.

Safia Elhillo

As a teaching artist, we have to be able to teach our students, our community how to find their peace.

Tatiana Figueroa-Ramierz

Through the program our participants are able to strengthen their skills in endure to become more employable as teaching artists.

Lauren May

Being in a room with other teaching artists who are going through the same struggles, that really helped.

Claudia Rojas


The culminating event for the 2019 cohort of PoetryTAT participants was held on June 23, 2019 at Busboys and Poets in Anacostia, Washington, DC. In addition to receiving award certificates and kind words from the project organizers, each PoetryTAT participant performed a poem and spoke about what poetry and teaching poetry means to them. Below is the group shot of the 2019 class and project organizers.

From L to R: Zoe, Lauryn Nesbitt, Amuche Nwafor, Chioma Aneke, Shayla Johnson, Elijah Friess, Claudia Rojas, Jonathan Tucker, Tiana Spencer. (Participants not pictured here: Mariam Coker, Joy Barnes, Malik Thompson, and C. Thomas)

Shayla Johnson (left) receives her certificate of completion for PoetryTAT 2019 from project organizers Jonathan B. Tucker, Tiana Spencer, and Claudia Rojas, at the closing ceremony of the year entitled What Poetry Teaches Us, at Busboys and Poets Anacostia.