Thursday April 13, 2017
If the mission of Vita-Learn IGNITE is to fuel innovation and transformation in schools, it is teachers who are making it happen. Twenty nine of these forward-looking educators, along with ed-tech specialists and leaders from transformative and innovative schools in Vermont, were recently honored at the 2017 Project IGNITE Innovative Educators Day of Recognition and Powerful Conversation at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier. Included were South Burlington teachers Theresa Akerley, Megan Downing, and Karola Triodl, who were recognized for supporting innovation in their schools. The event was sponsored by Vita-Learn, a non-profit, charitable corporation whose mission is to promote and support the use of information technology to transform Vermont education, and the ASCD, the state affiliate of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
VT-ASCD President Kathy Barwin, said, “It’s an amazing annual event and teachers who are showcased do truly innovative learning activities using technology to enhance deeper learning.” However, Barwin explains it is not just about the technology, “It’s about really enhancing understanding through the use of technology. Pretty cool stuff!”
According to Lucie Delabruere, a teacher of educational technology related courses at local colleges and organizer of Project IGNITE, this year’s IGNITE conversation focused on the concept of “Innovative Mindset” and what it takes to move schools from having pockets of innovations to systems of innovations.
Theresa Akerley, a teacher in the science department at South Burlington High School (SBHS), says she was honored to have been recognized as an innovative educator, adding, “I feel a strong sense of obligation to instill a sense of curiosity and foster students’ fearless exploration in science and technology.” Akerley speaks enthusiastically about the passion that she might be able to inspire through exposing students to accessible technologies and innovations like 3D printers, gel electrophoresis, bacterial gene transformation, and blended classroom formats.
“SBHS is truly fortunate to count Theresa Akerley among our faculty. Her passion for science and for helping students to understand its complexities and connections to their own lives is extraordinary,” says SBHS Assistant Principal Patrick Phillips. He adds, “During her tenure at SBHS she has served as an outstanding role model in furthering her own education and inspired all of her students to learn.”
Megan Downing, the second of the three South Burlington teachers to be recognized, is a teacher at Rick Marcotte Central School (RMCS). She says, “The award is in no way just for me, but a symbol of the amazing collaboration that exists within our school.
RMCS Principal Brent Coon describes Downing as a teacher who is always looking to enhance learning opportunities for her students. He says, “She is an innovative educator who cares about each one of her students! All of us at RMCS are so proud of this accomplishment.”
Downing expresses an appreciation for the efforts of all RMCS teachers to incorporate technology into education, adding, “I am excited to continue to make connections with other educators and find other ways to expand our learning capacities through technology and the arts.”
Karola Triodl was the third South Burlington teacher recognized. A music technology teacher at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School (FHTMS), Triodl says, “Being part of South Burlington School District’s amazing educational team for the past 32 years has been transformative in so many ways. I believe when we as a teaching community can spark a student’s creativity and passions to make learning authentic and let them know that they matter, then we have paved a path for that student to make a difference in the world today.”
FHTMS Principal Karsten Schlenter says, “Karola is one of the most innovative educators I have known in my career in educational administration. She has transformed our music program by integrating technology in a purposeful way. Students learn music concepts, develop an appreciation for the arts and end up composing their own music!” He adds, “Our students are fortunate to be inspired by such a knowledgeable, compassionate and caring educator. This award is well-deserved.”
Vita-Learn describes teachers such as Akerley, Downing, and Triodl as creative, innovative, and willing to take risks. As the three continue to make a difference in their school communities, it is the students, themselves, who will continue to reap the benefits in the classroom and beyond.