School Notes: Upper Valley Educators Institute Hires New Director
From across the country, the Upper Valley Educators Institute has hired a new executive director who has been focused on the same methods of training teachers that UVEI has long espoused.
Page Tompkins, 42, starts work at the Lebanon-based nonprofit on July 1, and brings with him from northern California experience in leading several education ventures.
“UVEI is doing a lot of things that I believe in and that I’m quite passionate about,” Tompkins said in a phone interview.
When it was founded in 1969, what was then known as the Upper Valley Teacher Training Program was a bit of an oddity. Rather than have teachers-in-training spend 80 percent of their time learning educational theory, UVEI puts them in the classroom, under the wing of an established teacher-mentor, for 80 percent of its 10-month teacher training program. The aim is to have teacher candidates develop competency in 10 critical areas before attaining certification.
Tompkins started doing similar work in 2005, when he founded the Reach Institute for School Leadership, which places teacher trainees in the classroom with a mentor, much like UVEI.
His aim was to train teachers to better enable them to handle the challenge of managing a classroom and thereby improve teacher retention. “Most new teachers who fail, fail just because they are new,” Tompkins told The New York Times in 2007.
Research into teacher training over the past decade has shown that putting practice over theory really works, Tompkins said. “It’s clear to me that the programs that do the best work … really are emphasizing practice, experiential learning and feedback on practice,” he said.
Reach Institute started with 25 teachers in 2006 and has grown to 100 educators in preparatory programs and 250 in professional development. Tompkins earned a doctorate in education at the University of California, Berkeley in 2011, and was a lecturer in the university’s Leadership for Educational Equity Program.
His work in professional development will be useful at UVEI, which created two masters degree programs under outgoing director Rob Fried, and is working on programs through which the institute would work with educators or whole schools on professional development.
“One of the things that has characterized my work is that I view schools as partners,” Tompkins said. “Part of our task,” he added, “is how do we help our partner schools become the schools that they want to be.”
Tompkins and his wife, Megan, are in the process of moving to the Upper Valley with their two daughters, ages 6 and 9. They had long considered moving to New England, where Megan’s family lives. Part of the reason they wanted to move was for the schools, Tompkins said.
“I had a chance to visit a whole range of schools in the Upper Valley and was really impressed,” he said. While those visits were relatively brief, he was glad to see small class sizes and “an emphasis on authentic work,” in which students research, analyze and write an assignment from scratch, rather than fill out worksheets.
“Students were really engaged and teachers were really engaged,” he said.
Tompkins has a hard act to follow. In addition to developing the masters programs, Fried also founded a program to train school principals and led the institute’s move to its current location on Route 4 in Lebanon. Fried also led a shift in emphasis from “great teaching” to “school transformation,” turning schools into communities of learners, rather than top-down organizations in which students are subjected to constant lectures.
At 42, Tompkins is likely the first UVEI director who’s younger than the institute itself.
“I’m just really excited to be a part of the education community in the Upper Valley,” he said.
A pair of Upper Valley natives earned degrees from the University of Connecticut: Matthew Kempson of Bridgewater earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, and Hannah O’Neill of Windsor now holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
∎ Among the graduates of Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., were a few from the Upper Valley: Nicholas Splaine of Lebanon, Bachelor of Arts in English; Grace Rodriguez of Norwich, Bachelor of Arts in Human Development, magna cum laude; and James Callahan of West Windsor, Bachelor of Science in finance, cum laude.
∎ Travis Ray Barcelow of Bethel earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Union College in Lincoln, Neb.
∎ A clutch of Upper Valley residents received degrees last month from Norwich University in Northfield, Vt.: Ana Culai of Hartford, accounting; Thomas H. Andrews of Hartland, history; Melissa M. Potter-Markwell of Reading, nursing; Jennifer Marie Johnson Bingham of South Royalton, nursing; Antonio Noel Diaz of West Windsor, mathematics; Megan Helen Lewis of White River Junction, nursing; Stephanie Ahlberg Dorain of Wilder, history.
∎ Recent graduates of Haverford College in Haverford, Pa., include Trevor Stephen Barlowe of Etna (biology), Peter McNally of Norwich (psychology) and David Boisvert Whitcomb of Lebanon (English).
∎ Peter Cerulo of West Windsor, Mollie Hoopes of Hanover and Kate Kerin of Lyme all graduated from the Stratton Mountain School, a ski and snowboard academy at the foot of Stratton Mountain in southern Vermont.
∎ Tyler Hagen of Norwich graduated with honors from West Virginia University with a degree in Aerospace Engineering.
Sarah Allison Roger of Randolph Center made the spring term dean’s list at the University of Connecticut.
∎ Connor S. Jordan of Lebanon earned spring term dean’s list honors at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.
∎ Stephanie Parker of Windsor was named to the dean’s list at New England College in Henniker, N.H., for the spring semester.
∎ Norwich University’s spring dean’s list included several students from the Upper Valley, including Ellsworth Burch Gibbs of Lebanon; Danielle Nicole Storti of Lebanon; Zachary William Fulton of East Thetford; Ana Culai of Hartford; Sophie Lynn Shepard of Hartland; Austin Charles Soule of Hartland; Abigail Lorisa Wright of Hartland; Stephanie Michele Boudro of Reading; Antonio Noel Diaz of West Windsor; Robert Thomas Bauch of White River Junction; Megan Helen Lewis of White River Junction; Hailey Nicole Dunn of Windsor; and Tyler Jay Kibling of Windsor.
∎ The following area students made Northeastern University’s spring dean’s list: Richard M. Rossoll of Lebanon; Lucas A. Starr of Hartland; Hilary F. White of North Pomfret; Brita Van Fossen of South Royalton; Nicolas R. Hugon of South Royalton; Anne E. Schaafsma of Thetford Center; and Kelsey L. Jordan of Lebanon.
∎ Eleanor Gorham of Norwich is on the spring dean’s list at Muhlenberg College in Allenstown, Pa.
∎ Shelby Morgan Newcomb of Lebanon was named to the dean’s list at Anderson University in Anderson, Ind., for the spring term.
∎ Leanna Travis was Lebanon High School’s student of the month for May.
Claremont’s Maple Avenue School store plans to donate profits from this year’s sales of school supplies to The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and to the Maple Avenue School for playground equipment. At today’s school assembly, the store will give $140.50 to Relay for Life and $70.50 to the school, for playground equipment.
∎ Jesse Cutting of Lyme Center was honored by the Vermont Land Trust for his exceptional commitment to land stewardship in agriculture. Cutting, a recent graduate of the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center, has volunteered with bear rehabilitator Ben Kilham and works at Kilham’s sawmill and sugaring operation in Lyme. He also plants trees at Nichol’s Tree Farm. In the summers, he works on local farms haying, harrowing and plowing. He plans to attend Paul Smith’s College in the fall, focusing on forestry.
∎ Cherie Blessing, a teacher at Mid Vermont Christian School, was one of 10 educators who received the most votes from a national “Shout Outs” contest sponsored by Herff Jones, a vendor of class rings and other school paraphernalia. The award conveys $5,000 for Blessing to share with her school.
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