This fall presented educators, schools, and families with many challenges, one being that many students in the state are learning from home virtually three days a week. When confronted with this challenge and how Vermont educators could support students at home while simultaneously being responsible for in-person instruction, the idea of a partnership with UVM’s teacher education programs became a creative solution. 

In one such example, Grand Isle Supervisory Union (GISU) and the Elementary Education Program in UVM’s College of Education and Social Services (CESS) got to work building a reciprocal relationship. Education majors studying to become teachers gained experience working remotely with GISU students to help them complete coursework, while families and students received additional support for learning at home. 

“It has been an exciting endeavor that demonstrates what can happen when strong partnerships are developed between intuitions of higher education and local schools,” says UVM Lecturer Kelly Mancini Becker. “There were many valuable contributors to the successful outcome of this collaboration – from classroom teachers, school principals and superintendents, to a host of UVM professors, staff, and students.” 

Becker lauds the efforts of Megan Grube, director of curriculum and instruction at GISU, and Megan Walker, a grade 3-4 classroom teacher from North Hero School, who worked with all 26 UVM students in her elementary education course. "And it wouldn't have been possible without the fearless leadership of Barbara Burrington, our director of field site coordination, who helped us make the match," Becker explains. 

“Working with the UVM students has been an amazing experience, especially during this complicated time of teaching in a pandemic,” Walker says. “It gave my students time to participate in interactive math activities that I know they wouldn't otherwise do together on their own during their remote days. I am very grateful for their efforts.”

Becker notes similar collaboration with the creation of mentor partnerships for two junior level practicum courses led by her UVM colleagues Maureen Newman, Simon Jorgenson, and Marcus Fuller who partnered with a variety of schools in the GISU district. 

Ellen Baker, the director of teacher education for UVM, says the GISU partnership is one of many similar success stories that occurred over the past year between Vermont school districts and university's teacher education programs. "Our students benefit just as much if not more than the schools and students they serve," she explains. "Continuation of successful collaboration with our school partners during the pandemic allows teacher education majors to stay engaged with their required practical experience in the field and gain new skills working alongside experienced professionals in the field." 


Doug Gilman