I was fortunate enough to have Ms. Ziff as my teacher in fifth grade and as a writing coach the following summer. With the skills she taught me, my writing has colossally improved. Ms. Ziff’s curriculum presented me with the techniques and study habits I needed to excel at Curtis School, and I am now getting straight A’s at Marlborough. I honestly don’t know what kind of a writer and reader I would be without the tools I learned with Ms. Ziff. She was always a very understanding, rigorous, and involved teacher, and an incredible mentor.
–Maddie R., 9th Grade, Marlborough School
Without a doubt, Ms. Ziff is my most favorite teacher out of my school career so far. Ms. Ziff’s friendly demeanor and enthusiasm in class made communicating easy and learning exciting. My love and appreciation for writing stems from the literary exploration I remember from Ms. Ziff’s class. She introduced us to many different types of writing and literature, and we all carry some of that knowledge with us today, almost three and a half years later. The way Ms. Ziff taught us wasn’t just so we could get passing grades. She taught us so we could learn to understand and appreciate the material, and have fun in the process.
--Alivia P., 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
With Ms. Vanessa’s help, I consider myself an excellent writer. I now use smell, feel, sound, look and color words in my writing to create mind pictures. Recording my ideas first helps me remember everything I have to say. Ms. Vanessa has challenged me to stretch my writing and I am excited for what I will do next.
–Evan M., 3rd Grade
Once for a test, I was asked to write about my favorite teacher, and immediately Ms. Ziff came to my mind. Even to this day, I end up comparing all of my teachers to her. Ms. Ziff pushed me to do my best, and never let me slack off. She introduced me to my love of writing and gave me the confidence I needed both academically and in myself.
–Georgia L., 9th Grade, The Buckley School
Ms. Ziff seems to know everything you can think of having to do with writing. She’s helpful in all subjects, has a diligent and patient way of teaching, and is very kind. We wish Ms. Ziff could tutor us the rest of our student career!
–Jake and Matthew W., 7th Grade, Brentwood School
In this day and age, homework and school are challenging. As an academic tutor, Ms. Ziff always makes sure I comprehend and meet the needs of a test, assignment, or report. Probably the most important skill Ms. Ziff has taught me is how to improve my writing in every single subject. She challenges me by asking questions about the topic that ultimately help me have a better understanding of the assignment and a clearer direction of how to complete it. Ms. Ziff is definitely not just my teacher and tutor; she is my mentor.
–Lexi S., 7th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Ms. Ziff was my fifth grade teacher. One of our many writing assignments was to write a series of colonial-style journals about the treacherous experience of crossing the Pacific Ocean to get to America. Since it was a fairly large project at the start of the school year, I was determined to outshine the class (with the writing skills I was yet to learn!) I visited with Ms. Ziff after class every day to discuss my writing. Because of her kind nature and willing availability, I always thought of Ms. Ziff more as a friend and mentor than just a teacher. By the end of the colonial writing assignment I had learned the writing process and 6 Traits, the basic elements of any good paragraph, at least 300 new and exciting verbs and adjectives. Thanks to Ms. Ziff, the dictionary is my best friend, and having her as a teacher was the single best writing experience I’ve ever had. I am now an avid eighth grade writer who is thrilled for Ms. Ziff to inspire others as she inspired me.
–Paige P., 8th Grade, Campbell Hall
To me, being Ms. Ziff’s student is wonderful. The learning environment Ms. Ziff creates is conducive not only to efficiency and productivity, but promotes complex thinking and well reasoned ideas. She is what I call a master teacher. She explains each idea and can teach every subject clearly and profoundly. She brings clarity to every concept, as well as energy and excitement to every student.
Ms. Ziff is always organized, resourceful, and ready for anything. She not only acts as a teacher but as a role model. She is extremely prepared and a taskmaster, yet she is so personable and easy to talk to. What I particularly enjoy is that she believes in a process, whether it is the creative process or the writing process. The best process of all is the Ms. Ziff approach, and I think that this makes her spectacular.
Being at Harvard Westlake for my second year, I still peer into the past at my fifth grade year at Curtis. In the fifth grade, Ms. Ziff set the foundation for my analytical, constructive, and creative skills. Whether writing a sonnet or writing an essay, I still have her lessons in my mind, which prove to be poignant even now.
Ms. Ziff is an excellent writer herself. The skill and effort she puts into her own writing is incredible. She defines the meaning of professionalism and brings that into any endeavor. Not only do I believe she is an amazing teacher; I am certain she is a writer on the rise.
In digital storytelling summer courses, Ms. Ziff created a clever approach to her classes, combining both traditional and evocative storytelling techniques with digital documentary movie making. The result was extraordinary; the class was able to conjure films of people who inspired them in their lives. I made two documentaries one of my friend Patricia Simpson, who is an artist, world traveler and survivor of the Great Depression and World War II, and the other about my father, who was a musical child prodigy.
Ms. Ziff maintains a good balance of knowing when to give more help and when to insist that you rise to the challenge of the learning situation. She instills confidence, honors excellence, and respects effort.
–Kenneth N., 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
My experience working with Vanessa on college application essays was phenomenal. I cannot tell you enough how much her services improved my work and my writing skills in general. Vanessa is excellent at showing you how to reflect deeply, build relationships between ideas, and connect the reader with your message. She takes you through a step-by-step writing process to improve every aspect of your essays. I strongly urge any student faced with the daunting prospect of college applications to take advantage of Vanessa’s highly effective editorial approach. Since applying, I’ve received acceptances to every single school on my list.
–Alec, Westlake High School
My fifth grade teacher Ms. Ziff was an amazing teacher who really helped me learn how to express myself as a writer through fun and challenging writing projects. She taught us specific writing strategies including, “show don’t tell,” and the use of personification, metaphors, and similes to creatively share our ideas with our reader. One of my favorite assignments was a memoir project where I described a surfing holiday. After several drafts, and tough but encouraging comments, I literally brought my reader to the waves, thanks to the writing skills I learned from Ms. Ziff!
During the summer following the fifth grade, I participated in a three-week residential academic camp at Stanford where I studied playwriting and theater analysis. After reading and studying many difficult texts, we had to write our own play. My summer teacher noted that my writing was very creative and thorough, and that I should consider expanding it into a screenplay! This experience reinforced my desire to pursue writing as a future career, a feeling that began in Ms. Ziff’s class.
I continued to learn about different writing styles, specifically digital storytelling during a two-week summer camp with Ms. Ziff. I learned how to use technology and graphic design to enhance my stories and to connect with my audience. Now in the seventh grade, I continue to write, most recently publishing both a single and co-authored article in my school newspaper. I know that the many lessons I’ve learned from Ms. Ziff will help me achieve my goal of one day being a professional writer and filmmaker.
–Jaren S., 7th Grade, The Buckley School
View more testimonials about our summer writing workshops
for kids and teens at mywritingadventures.com
Vanessa is AMAZING on so many levels. She is a passionate and engaging teacher, as well as a delightful person. She makes writing fun and has turned our daughter Sophie’s “like” of writing into a true “LOVE”. Vanessa’s methods are creative, thorough and innovative. She teaches important fundamentals and details, forces students to think, and turns them into creative and interesting writers. Anyone who has the opportunity to work with Vanessa is truly lucky.
–Lori and Howard Altman
Vanessa is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher. We have been fortunate enough to have Vanessa both as our daughter’s full time private school teacher and as an in-home tutor for both of our sons. It is not an exaggeration to say that she’s had a tremendous impact and lasting effect on all of our kids’ educational development. Vanessa is extremely organized, she communicates ideas effectively, she helps motivate, and she has a lively, engaging teaching style that brings out the best efforts in all of her students. I simply can’t recommend her highly enough to work with any type of student at any level.
–Howard Tager, CEO TigerLead Solutions
What our daughter Maddy values most about her time in Vanessa’s class is being inspired to become an organized writer who could convey her thoughts in a meaningful manner. Vanessa taught Maddy that emotion and feelings can come alive on paper, and Maddy has continued to build upon this foundation of critical and creative thinking every year at Harvard Westlake.
--Laurie and Chris Harbert
All of us remember teachers who inspired us to greater heights and who influenced our lives. Vanessa Ziff Lasdon has played this role in my daughters’ lives. Vanessa was a wonderful teacher. My daughters looked forward to her classes. Of greater significance was how much they learned and that they were wonderfully prepared for the next chapters in their lives at Marlborough School. My daughters have excelled in all disciplines, but especially in writing and reading comprehension, thanks to Vanessa’s inspiring efforts.
–Jacob E. “Jack” Tauber, M.D.
Vanessa taught our son, Jake, in fifth grade and has since tutored both Jake and his twin brother, Matthew, now seventh graders at Brentwood. Vanessa is a very talented writer, and her approach to teaching our sons to become more skilled writers has been a pleasure to watch. Vanessa’s personalized method to guiding our boys with their individual styles has manifested itself in tremendous academic improvement. She brings organization and structure to the writing process, while encouraging the creative juices to flow. While we continue to be impressed by Vanessa’s many attributes, it is her high energy level, extraordinary patience, and passion for what she does that make her truly unique.
While her core competency is writing, Vanessa has also assisted our kids in other subjects, most notably science, history and math. She also assisted our son, Jake, in creating a personal website. She consistently goes out of her way to accommodate the boys’ ever-changing schedule — something that any busy parent is sure to appreciate.
–Melissa and Rob Weiler
My son Colin, currently a high school freshman, learned more about writing and literary appreciation from Ms. Ziff in fifth grade than in any other year of school. Vanessa’s valuable lessons, attention to detail, communication skills, and organization have given Colin the confidence to become a successful writer in school. Today as a freshman, Colin still pulls from instructional techniques he received from Ms. Ziff. I wish all teachers had Vanessa’s passion for teaching and inspiring!
Vanessa Lasdon has all the requisite skills of an exceptionally great teacher. She is hardworking, dedicated, passionate, and exceedingly knowledgeable. Her writing strategy is based on the Six Traits of effective writers: 1) ideas and content 2) organization 3) voice 4) sentence fluency 5) word choice, and 6) conventions. However, it is not the use of this strategy that makes her an extraordinary teacher; rather, it is her application and approach to teaching this strategy. When Vanessa taught our son Justin, his strengths were (and still are) in math and science, but, at the time, they were not in expository or creative writing. In fact, his writing was fairly bland and disjointed. Vanessa showed Justin how each writing trait works independently and in conjunction with the others. She astutely recognized our son’s good sense of humor and how that could be expressed in his writing through the “voice” trait, showing him how to incorporate each of the remaining traits in all types of modes and genres, until Justin became a more confident, organized, and expressive writer. Vanessa perceptively recognizes the innate abilities of each student, and builds on those strengths, converting average writers to ones that are flourishing in prose. Whether it’s teaching a student to become a more vivid creative writer, a more effective analytical writer, or a more selective business writer, she can do it all! We highly recommend Vanessa, and the incredible writing services she can provide.
–Meli and Stephen Rose
Parents can only hope that their child finds a teacher who will see them as individuals, recognize their strengths and weaknesses, encourage them to reach beyond what they thought they could do, give them the tools to achieve success, and make the whole experience enjoyable. Vanessa transformed our son Josh from a decent writer into an excellent writer. Her curriculum of breaking down the components of writing – brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, and finalizing – provided Josh with a complete package of tools as a fifth grade student, which he continues to use at Notre Dame high school. We wholeheartedly recommend Vanessa and her ability to draw out the best in your child’s writing ability.
–Jill and Larry Krutchik
Vanessa has done extraordinary things for my son, Evan, and his writing. At the end of second grade, Evan was a reluctant writer. He only used simple words and sentence structures. Vanessa was able to extract Evan’s ideas and help him get them down on paper. She got him excited and intrigued to dig deeper into his experiences and bring his thoughts to life, first out loud and then with written words. Now Evan’s words dance and sing, which makes me want to dance and sing! I show his writing pieces to everyone I know, and I make sure to credit Vanessa for making Evan the blossoming writer he is today.
I have been looking for someone like Vanessa for the last two years to work with my son. I can’t say how happy we are because we finally found her! Smart, warm, full of energy, ready to mentor youngsters or share her experiences when asked, totally in her element when teaching students how to write well and how to develop a passion for writing. Having an eight-year old highly gifted boy was not enough to make him put all those brilliant ideas on paper. He was reading interesting books far beyond grade level, but was not as interested in the written production as it was taught at school. I did not know how to help him but I knew there should be someone who could.
Daniel feels constantly challenged by Vanessa and that ignites him. She knew exactly how to “hook” him: she provided him with choices for his readings; with the liberty necessary to launch his creativity in writing; with innovative tools for otherwise boring tasks like learning homonyms and new vocabulary; with almost “magic formulas” for how to answer reading comprehension questions; with methods on how to cool down his thinking speed and convert those galloping sentences in his head into tamed, well-constructed sentences on paper. Now Daniel is reading voraciously book after book, and gaining confidence at a remarkable pace as a writer. He always looks forward to his Thursday’s time with Vanessa online, after which he comes away equally empowered and drained in a refreshing way. As Daniel says, “the best thing is that we can take Vanessa wherever we go (Canada, US, Ecuador, Romania, Sweden or North Pole), because she taught us e-learning tools such that physical distance is not an issue anymore.”
I first encountered Vanessa Ziff in the fall of 2009 when my son, Gabriel, had the good fortune of having her as his fifth grade teacher. By the end of that year my son — who had never thought much of himself as a writer, or a student, for that matter –- had started suddenly thinking of himself as both. Later, Vanessa tutored each of my three boys. This required a great deal of improvisation and resourcefulness on her part, as she was asked to craft different approaches to meet each of their educational needs. Vanessa can teach anyone anything, in other words! But perhaps even more impressive than that is her ability to help each student realize his or her own untapped potential. It’s the stuff that changes lives!
Vanessa is still the teacher my daughter references when approaching any writing assignments. She was so fortunate to have experienced Vanessa, who implemented much of the foundation for her writing, and instilled a love for language with her bright personality. Particularly influential for Georgia was finding her voice using rich, vivid, detailed images in her writing. The writing skills my daughter, now excelling in ninth grade English Honors, left Vanessa’s class with continue to be an invaluable set of resources.
–Betsy Soo Leva
Vanessa Ziff Lasdon is an incredible educator; one of the best teachers we’ve ever experienced. Ms. Lasdon was our son, Kenneth’s fifth grade teacher at Curtis School as well as his digital storytelling instructor during two consecutive summer courses. In many respects, Kenneth’s layered understanding and love for literature, creative and analytical writing, and documentary style storytelling is directly due to Vanessa’s efforts and talents. Kenneth often utilizes the deconstruction and analytical detailing techniques he learned from Vanessa. Our son, now in his second year at Harvard Westlake Middle School, excels in this scholastically competitive environment, thanks in large part to Ms. Lasdon. Her vast skills, complete dedication, and clear purpose construct a solid core for every student she teaches. Vanessa is extremely imaginative, insightful and determined, creating an inspiring and challenging environment for her students. Her energetic, passionate nature produces both a fun and rewarding learning experience.
–Michele Noble, Director, Writer and Filmmaker
It is hard to find enough superlatives to describe Vanessa Ziff as a teacher. My son was fortunate to have been in her class, and it is no exaggeration to say that she fostered a huge positive change in his development as a student and as a person. In particular, the skills she taught him as a writer — particularly the value and necessity for a writer to revise and polish their initial draft many times and to avoid the cliché or obvious choices — are with him several years later at Harvard Westlake. While my son generally received high marks in creative and expository writing prior to being Vanessa’s student, the quality of his writing, thanks to her attention and high standards, improved remarkably. I would whole- heartedly recommend Ms. Ziff as a writing specialist.
–Liz McNicoll, Attorney, Paramount Pictures
Vanessa Ziff Lasdon possesses the dynamic combination of an incisive intellect and boundless passion when it comes to teaching her craft and sharing skills with her students. My son Nick benefitted enormously under Ms. Ziff Lasdon’s tutelage, particularly in his writing techniques and creative compositions. Vanessa’s ability to work attentively to detail and instinctively zoom in on my son’s issues, as well as bolster his existing strengths, was second to none. Perhaps the most unique quality that Ms. Ziff Lasdon brings to teaching is her infectious love of learning, which is immediately passed on to her students.
-– MaryLynn Richmond
Vanessa is one of the most inspiring, high energy, and enthusiastic teachers my son has had the good fortune to learn from! Vanessa helped Noah to dig deep and get creative with his writing.
Vanessa is high-energy smarts and charm, the kind of writer and teacher who captures and captivates readers of all ages.
–Cynthia Leitich Smith, New York Times bestselling author
It’s obvious right from the acronym on Vanessa’s website that she is a wordsmith: “Write. Observe. Revise. Discover…W.O.R.D.” These are the four essential ingredients for becoming a writer; two of them about the work (writing and revising) and two of them about the joy (observing and discovering.) Vanessa accomplishes it all.
–Julie Larios, award-winning poet and children’s author
Vanessa is a true master of her craft. A dedicated, brilliant writer and thinker herself, she has a gentle way of guiding students (and adults) through the writing process. She is a blast to work with, completely trustworthy and utterly authentic in her ways. She knows how to engage young or novice writers in a way that brings out strengths we had no idea we had! To work with Vanessa is a privilege; you just want to soak up all her talent, and bottle it up for yourself! She is an inspiration.
– Sarina N. Fierro, Head of Lower Elementary, Curtis School
I had the privilege of working closely with Vanessa Ziff for several years and am certain that I learned as much from teaching at her side as any of her students did under her guidance. She is so good at what she does – at all of what she does – because she can balance meticulous preparation with quick and effective differentiation; she will not enter a classroom, workshop, or new project without a plan, but when it comes to addressing the specific needs of each of her students, she is as talented as I’ve seen in my years as a teacher. Where so many others fall back on old tricks, Vanessa Ziff taps into her extensive experience to invent new methodologies for each and every one of her clients.
–Patrick Kieffer, Fifth Grade – English & History
The Packer Collegiate Institute
An outstanding writing teacher, Ms. Ziff is exciting, creative, and fun, and an expert at her craft. Students of any age lucky enough to experience classes with her will emerge as far superior writers.
–Pam Kerman, Fifth Grade, Curtis School
Vanessa knows how to motivate students. She has a gift for inspiring even the most reluctant writer and her passion for writing is infectious. By the end of one of her workshops, students are buzzing with ideas and eager to share what they have written. Vanessa is a favorite workshop leader at our Young Writers’ Conferences.
–Julie Moore & Rena Svetic
Founders of Young Writers’ Conference
Vanessa is an outstanding writer who is a joy to work with. She provided web content for two sites I worked on, and was able to help our clients develop an effective and unique voice in a timely and organized manner. I would recommend Vanessa to anyone seeking professional copywriting or content strategy.
– Aimee Trudeau, Web Developer, Kizmato.com
Vanessa was insightful at helping me find the right words for my website. She was able to capture the essence of what I wanted to relay to those that visit my site, without sounding trite or redundant, unlike my experience with previous writers.”
– Martin Pugh, musician