Woodstock Biology Teacher Wins Recognition

  • Jen Stainton introduces the lab for the day to her chemistry class at Woodstock Union High School in Woodstock, Vt., on September 6, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Cole Dalton observes a container of water and pop rocks during the "pop rock challenge" lab in Jen Stainton's Chemistry class at Woodstock Union High School in Woodstock, Vt., on September 6, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Spanish exchange students (from left) Mark Sanchez Pamplona, Alvaro Arino Cabu and Francis Nieto Torres work on the pop rock challenge lab while teacher Jennifer Stainton responds to a student across the room.during a chemistry class at Woodstock Union High School in Woodstock, Vt., on September 6, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Jennifer Stainton has been named the 2013 Outstanding Biology Teacher, a national award, by the National Association of Biology Teachers.

But being nominated was more compelling than the award itself, the Woodstock Union High School teacher said. That a Vermont colleague, Gail Hall, thought highly enough of her work to forward her name to the national committee, “that’s the real meaningful piece for me,” Stainton said.

Stainton, 38, has taught at Woodstock for five years, and has been a teacher for 15, mainly in the Upper Valley. She has developed, with her Woodstock colleagues, a ninth-grade science class that integrates chemistry, physics, biology and earth science.

As part of that class, all ninth-graders at Woodstock Union participate in a yearly study of mercury in dragonfly nymphs that assesses the quantity of mercury in the environment. The study brings together students at Woodstock Union, Stevens High School in Claremont, researchers at Dartmouth College and the University of Maine and three national parks in Northern New England: Woodstock’s Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park; the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish and Acadia’s Schoodic Education and Research Center in Maine. This year, a class at Hartford High School will join the project.

The project provides students just starting high school with hands-on science opportunities. “Getting an idea for how mercury cycles through the environment here in New England is pretty much the whole point of the project,” Stainton said.

The National Park Foundation funds the program, providing grants of $5,000 to $7,000 a year.

In addition to teaching, Stainton is working on a doctorate in education at the University of Vermont, a degree that’s often a prelude to an administrative job. She said she enrolled “to broaden my understanding of education in general,” and in particular to learn more about how to be “an agent of change.”

“Frankly, I feel lucky that I found science education when I was young, because it’s my passion,” Stainton said.

Gail Hall, the science assessment coordinator at the Vermont Agency of Education, learned about the award from an aquaintance on the nomination board.

“I knew immediately who I would nominate,” she said. “She’s very skilled and very articulate and an excellent representative of a biology teacher in Vermont,” she said of Stainton.

Once nominated, Stainton had to fill out an application and send a video of herself in the classroom and other materials to the National Association of Biology Teachers. The award carries no honorarium, but Stainton does receive a microscope and a gift certificate from Carolina Biological Supply Co. She will receive honors in November, at the association’s annual conference in Atlanta.

Teacher News

Thetford Academy English teacher Joe Deffner was chosen as a “summer scholar” by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He attended a workshop on the campus of Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., titled “One Place, One Time: Jackson, Mississippi, 1963.” The workshop coincided with the 50th anniversary of the murder of Medgar Evers, a Mississippi native and a field secretary for the NAACP. Deffner was one of 80 teachers chosen from around the country.

∎ Woodstock Union High School teacher Marie Olson-Badeau was one of 40 teachers in the country selected for a food science training program developed in part by the Food and Drug Administration. The program, which took place over a week this summer, covered food safety issues and the science behind them.

Student Honors

A pair of Upper Valley students, Keegan Caraway, a senior at Mascoma Valley Regional High School in West Canaan, and Joshua Jacobs-Rehbun, a senior at Thetford Academy, were awarded the Rensselaer Medal, a merit scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., for students who have distinguished themselves in math and science. If either of them attends RPI, they will receive a minimum of $15,000 a year toward the cost of their education.

The medal is the oldest prize of its kind in the United States, and is awarded at more than 2,000 high schools in North American, Latin American, Europe and Asia.

∎ Katherine Chen, a Hanover High School graduate, is one of 10 young women from around the world recognized through the BlackBerry Scholars Program. The winners receive full, four-year university tuition to study the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math.

In Chen’s case, that means her tuition at Harvard College, where she is matriculating this fall, is taken care of. The announcement last week adds to a veritable embarrassment of riches for the Hanover resident. In May, Hanover school officials held a news conference to announce that Chen had won the John M. Stalnaker Memorial Scholarship, a $20,000 award spread over four years, as part of the National Merit Scholar program.


Anne L. Cravero, of Hanover, graduated from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine with a bachelor’s degree in biological chemistry and French.

∎ Joel Harris, of South Strafford, earned a bachelor’s degree from Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., in athletic training.

∎ Jessica Newkirk, of New London, graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and justice studies.

∎ Paul Hayden Seaver, of White River Junction, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Emmanuel College in Boston.

∎ The following students earned degrees at Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, N.H.: Kori Bainton, of Lebanon, master of physician assistant studies; Michelle Dunne, of Hartland, bachelor of science, nursing; Jon Jarrait, of North Pomfret, bachelor of science, marketing, cum laude; Anik Cote, of Norwich, master of physician assistant studies; Steven Mann, of Norwich, doctor of physical therapy; Rebecca Zebo, of Norwich, master of physician assistant studies; Elizabeth Avicolli, of Quechee, bachelor of science, nursing, summa cum laude; Suzanne Simone, of Sharon, bachelor of science, nursing; Julie McKenney, of South Royalton, master of business administration in health administration; Sandra Filiault, of West Hartford, bachelor of science, nursing; Joseph Swanson, of Woodstock, master of business administration, leadership.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com, or 603-727-3219. Send announcements to schoolnotes@vnews.com.