University of Vermont

Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education

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Meet Our Staff

Penny Bishop, Director

Penny Bishop

TIIE Director Penny Bishop is Professor of Middle Level Education at the University of Vermont where she teaches future middle grades educators and conducts research on schooling for young adolescents. Penny has served as Principal Investigator on numerous grants, bringing over $6 million dollars to Vermont schools to improve the learning and lives of middle grades students. A former middle level English and Social Studies teacher, Penny was appointed to the National Middle School Association's Research Advisory Board and is President of the American Educational Research Association's group on Middle Level Education Research. She is co-author of five books on effective middle grades practice. In 2008, she served as policy advisor on fellowship to the New Zealand Ministry of Education, providing input and research on effective schooling policies for students in the middle years in that country. Outside of work, Penny enjoys time with her husband and two middle school-aged sons; loves international travel; studies Maori; and loses terribly at solitaire.

John Downes, Associate Director

John Downes

John Downes is currently a doctoral research fellow at the University of Vermont. He spent ten years working with teachers to design and facilitate curriculum reform and professional development in Vermont middle schools, focusing on technology integration, student-led curriculum, collaborative teacher learning, and implementation of Turning Points reforms. John has been involved with the Middle Grades Institute for 14 years, first as a student, and since with various strands, most recently, teacher and student Postsecondary strands. His current interests include the role of student voice in teacher and school change; student efficacy; and how technology can promote teaching and learning responsive to young adolescents. He is the primary researcher on several grants and evaluations. Among these is a 1:1 laptop initiative to re-engage middle level learners; the UVM GEAR UP project to improve young adolescents postsecondary prospects; and a state-wide initiative to bring students and their voices into collaborative school change. John also enjoys traveling with his family, paddling on Lake Champlain, biking in Vermont's mountains and valleys, and risking life and limb trying to keep up with his 18-year-old son on the slopes of the Greens and Rockies.

Susan Hennessey, Professional Development Coordinator

Susan Hennessey brings with her years of experience playing with educational technology and enjoys sharing the results of these explorations with colleagues in her role as the Professional Development Coordinator for TIIE. Before becoming part of the TIIE team, Susan was the Library Media Specialist and former English teacher and English Department Chair at Harwood Union Middle High School in South Duxbury, VT.  She frequently collaborated with fellow teachers facilitating professional development opportunities including workshops and summer graduate courses focused on emerging technologies.  In addition she taught courses in designing instruction for UVM and technology integration and English methods for Champlain College.  As a Literacy Leader in the Vermont Professional Development Network, Susan works with the DOE to design and deliver professional development resources to support aligning curriculum and instruction with the Common Core standards.  In 2007, she received the Milken Educator Award.  As the only member of the team who owns cats - 3 males to be exact - she brings a needed balance to this dog-loving group. 

Emily Howe, Pre-Service Intern

Audrey Homan

"My name is Emily Howe and I am going to be a Junior at UVM this year, where I am pursuing a dual degree in Secondary Education and History with a minor in Special Education. I am originally from Barrington, Rhode Island, but I have enjoyed calling Vermont home for the past two years! On campus, I work with incoming first year students in the Honors College as a Peer Leader and I am a tutor in the Writing Center. Im also involved with a few different community service groups, including Service TREK and Alternative Spring Break, and I enjoy cooking, playing guitar, and going to Zumba classes in my spare time!

Audrey Homan, Web & Communications

Audrey Homan

Audrey Homan comes to the Tarrant Institute with a background in grants management and web development, and is greatly enjoying the transition to game developer. When not reading or web developing, she climbs rocks, fixes bikes and wrangles herds of small dogs. She's working on out-staring YA author Maureen Johnson.

Mark Olofson, Graduate Research Assistant

Mark Olofson

Mark Olofson is a first year doctoral student at UVM and began working with the Tarrant Institute in the Fall 2013. Mark has taught middle and high school science and mathematics in Colorado as well as Los Cabos, Mexico. He is looking forward to incorporating his experience with content-driven technology integration and blending brick-and-mortar with virtual learning environments into his work with TIIE. Mark believes in the importance of student-community interaction and the need for the creation of authentic learning artifacts by students. Mark is new to Vermont, and enjoys many outdoor activities such as cycling, hiking, and whitewater paddling.

Carmen Petrick, Professional Development Associate

Carmen Petrick Smith

Carmen Petrick Smith is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Vermont.  She received her Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from the University of Texas at Austin where she studied the effects of embodied actions on learning geometry.  Her research interests center on embodied cognition, learning games, and STEM education.  She is also a former high school mathematics teacher, and in addition to her work in education, she can solve a Rubiks cube, is a former Guinness World Record holder for dancing the Thriller, and won the 2008 O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships.

Meredith Swallow, Professional Development Coordinator

Meredith Swallow is in her second year as a doctoral student at UVM, and is now working with the Tarrant Institute as a professional development coordinator. As a former 6-12 mathematics teacher, Meredith has been recognized for her innovative lesson plans and technology integration in her classes. She is excited to begin analyzing the results of TIIE's laptop initiative program at the middle school level. When not studying or engaging in research, Meredith enjoys her time in the outdoors hiking with her trusted sidekick Jack the Dog.

Erin Wertlieb, Administrative Assistant

Erin Wertlieb

Erin Wertlieb assists the Tarrant Institute with administrative processing and logistics. She comes to the Tarrant Institute with an eclectic background including experience in public radio fundraising, academic advising, yoga instruction, and elementary education.  In her spare time, Erin can be found baking and trying to keep up with her 5-year-old.

Last modified September 17 2013 01:00 PM