As a wide-eyed, eighteen-year-old entering the limestone walls of Dickinson College with an interest in a broad array of subjects such as science, politics, and literature, Marena found herself drawn toward education, specifically teaching English. For as long as she could remember, Marena's favorite thing to do was getting lost in the pages of a novel. From devouring Harry Potter as a young adult to writing a thesis on Zadie Smith's On Beauty and E.M.Forster's Howard's End, her passion for reading and writing surpassed any other.
During her junior year, and with the encouragement of her then boyfriend Matt, she officially decided that she would devote her career to educating children and hoping to give the next generation of readers and writers the sense of wonder and excitement she felt each time she opened a new book (or, more likely, downloaded to her Kindle).
Upon graduating from Dickinson College with a Bachelor of Arts in English, she enrolled in University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, where she would obtain her Master's of Science in Education, focusing on reading, writing and literacy specifically.
Armed with this extensive education, Marena was ready to enter the classroom and finally embark on her journey to inspire young readers and writers. She quickly found a home at a K-8 school in Northern Virginia. For six years, she spent her waking hours educating middle-grade students in English. During this time, she married Matt, and they made a home for themselves in Washington, DC.
Books and stories brought Marena into the English classroom, but her students kept her there. Her middle-grade students possessed the wonder of young children and the intellectual capacity of adults. This combination led to thinking and writing that was simultaneously sophisticated and imaginative. Year after year, her students, even the ones that struggled mightily, gave her original perspectives on ideas she thought she had sorted out, reminding her of what had attracted her to reading in the first place. More than anything, she loved when students who had initially claimed to dread reading or writing began coming alive when discussing a novel or coming up with an essay topic. As she fostered her students reading and writing skill sets, she saw them become more confident and enjoy the acts of reading and writing.
As Marena progressed professionally, continually improving her curriculum, classroom management, and feedback methods, she and Matt were also growing on the home front. They became parents to the happiest little boys, Jack and Danny, and returned to a conversation they had been having for years: one-to-one online classes for reading and writing.
After years of teaching and using technology to enhance her students' learning, Marena sincerely believed that there was a way to utilize the internet to leverage the short mini-lessons she knew were more effective in reading and writing instruction than hour-long tutoring sessions. Marena saw that young readers and writers needed just the right amount of one-to-one attention that targeted their needs so the experience was manageable, joyful, and built confidence. When done right, growth occurred.
Marena was determined to start something she knew could have great impact on young readers and writers, so she set to work and brought Matt along for the ride.
In between bath times, sweeping seemingly endless amounts of carrots and peas off of their dining room floor, and even some episodes of Grace and Frankie, Marena and Matt created what they would call rewriteU. With it, Marena would rewrite her own story; she'd rewrite the traditional way of teaching reading and writing in one-to-one settings; and, most importantly, she'd give her students the opportunity to rewrite the way they perceived themselves as readers and writers.