STEAM: Local educators celebrated for combining STEM, art concepts

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BENNINGTON — The Eta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma International presented its third annual Bright Spots in Education awards on Tuesday, honoring six local female educators.

"I'm really excited and pleased to see all of you here today to celebrate these outstanding women," said Virginia Ray, chairwoman of the chapter's Program Excellence Committee, which distributes the Bright Spots awards, "We realize that teachers quite often don't get enough credit, so we'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you for a job well done. Each of our Bright Spots award winners today will receive a certificate and a red rose, which is a symbol of Delta Kappa Gamma, and our sincere appreciation for a job well done for the young people of our area.

"Two years ago we celebrated our first Bright Spots," Ray continued, "and we celebrated the early educators in our school system. Last year we celebrated STEM teachers, that's teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This year we decided we'd add the arts to STEM, thus creating STEAM, and we asked all the principals to nominate a teacher who coordinated literary, visual, or performing arts in her classes with STEM goals."

The first teacher so honored was Fisher Elementary School kindergarten teacher Cindy Granger.

"Mrs. Granger has been creating her lessons around the STEAM mission since she first started teaching," wrote Fisher Principal Deanne Lacoste, "When planning a unit on apples, for example, Mrs. Granger made sure to address the various learning styles of students as they discussed the life cycles of apple trees, built 3D apples, and measured ingredients for apple sauce, all great STEM objectives. Then she adds creating apple window art, designing apple collages, and drawing pictures to ensure that the arts are represented."

The Molly Stark School's nominee for the award was music teacher Janie Hart. Principal Donna Mackenzie King and assistant principal Gail Johnson wrote of Hart, "As administrators, we realize that music is linked to every subject that is taught, and we recognize how well Janie is able to do this. Janie is very often able to incorporate science into her music lessons in a very meaningful and purposeful manner. The study of sound, including sound waves and vibrations, is a topic taught in music. The study of the seasons are also themes taught in music and connected to their classroom science units... Her ability to engage our Bennington community in so many ways is just remarkable."

Third-grade teacher Colleen Marcoux of Monument Elementary was nominated by her principal, Donna Cauley. "Colleen puts her students at the forefront of the most up-to-date learning experiences," wrote Cauley, "One example of the practice is her unit lesson on 3D printing and programming. This learning experience carried over into extended school activities, and has sparked the interest of other educators regarding computer programming and integrated learning with technology."

Special educator Janet Palmer was nominated by Mount Anthony Union High School principal Glenda Cresto. "Ms. Palmer is a special education teacher who weaves the arts into science," wrote Cresto. "She is an educator who has coordinated visual, musical, and performing arts projects in her classes with the original STEM goals. Her students may be reading far below grade levels, yet in her classroom they work as scientists, experimenters, and problem solvers, their thinking jump-started by using the arts to engage them with the physical world of science. For example, her students study cell structure and functions by creating an edible cell. Her students extract DNA from strawberries, DNA they can physically hold and study under a microscope. Her students create gingerbread houses as part of their studies on mixtures and compounds." Palmer will be retiring at the end of the school year, after working at MAUHS for many years.

Fifth-grade teacher Kaitlyn Hunt of Pownal Elementary School was also honored, for her work collaborating with Catamount Access Television and MAUHS for a unit on the history of photography.

"As an educator, Kaitlyn always tries to facilitate learning experiences and encourage exploration and engagement on many levels," wrote Principal Todd Phillips, "STEM has always been a platform for that, as has arts integration. She tries to nurture all types of learning, and provide hands on opportunities in the classroom as often as possible." He said the project had stemmed out of a trip to MassMOCA in North Adams, Mass., in which some of the students had expressed interest in learning more about photography. "It was a wonderful experience, which they will never forget for years to come," he concluded.

Rounding out the list of award winners was fifth-grade teacher Denise Sklepowicz, who will be retiring after teaching at the Village School of North Bennington for 34 years.

"She is, without question, a teacher who is truly a bright spot in the Village School of North Bennington," wrote head of school Thomas Martin, "Denise is enthusiastic, energetic, compassionate, and knowledgable regarding her fifth grade subject matter. She has expressed a keen interest in bringing technology into her classroom to support and enhance instruction. She is committed to expanding children's experiences beyond the walls of her classroom. She had successfully implemented our iPads into daily classroom instruction, and has been a leader in developing a one-to-one technology initiative with her students."

Also honored were three people who received awards at the DKG state meeting in Brattleboro in April. Joyce and Kenneth Held were presented with the Outstanding Service to Education Award for their work with the fourth-grade class at Pownal Elementary School to publish books about the history of the town. This year, they and the students have been working since January to put together a book on the history of the Soloman Wright Public Library.

Susan Green, music teacher at Shaftsbury Elementary School, received the Evelyn Debrune Springstead Music Award, which is presented every five years to a DKG member who has made significant contributions to music in the lives of their students and communities. Green has taught at Shaftsbury since 1992, and is very active in community music organizations and educational activities.

Delta Kappa Gamma Society International is an organization, with chapters in 17 countries, that has spent 85 years promoting the professional and personal growth of female educators, as well as excellence in education.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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