It was just over 38 years ago today that I made my first trip to the Northeast Kingdom.
“What will you do if they offer you the job?”, my mom asked as we headed back to Springfield, MA after an interview with the Brownington School Board. “I’ll take it of course!” was my reply.
I had dreamed of being a teacher since I was 5 years old, and I always knew that I didn’t want to live in the city forever. The chance to move to Vermont was just too good to pass up. I was fortunate to receive a job offer before I had even graduated from college and I was anxious to begin my career.
The people of Brownington welcomed me with open arms. They donated furniture for my first apartment, they invited me for meals, and to join their families on holidays when I was unable to travel home. I often walked to and from school in those early days, picking up students along the route to walk with me.
Teaching was challenging back then, challenging in different ways than it is now, but still challenging. There was no preschool and no kindergarten. Many of the students had never seen a book or held a pencil until they started school. They didn’t know their colors or their shapes, or their letters and numbers, and they had difficulty keeping their shoes on all day. I always had at least 25 students in my combined first and second grade classroom. I shared a room with the 3rd and 4th grade teacher; only a curtain divided our classrooms. The hot lunch window opened into my classroom so when the older students came to get their lunch they all traipsed through with strict orders to be quiet and try not to interrupt our lesson. You can just imagine how that worked!
I learned a lot from my students those first few years and came to appreciate teaching in rural schools even more than I could have imagined. I went on to teach in Glover and in Irasburg, to become the Director of Instruction, and finally the Superintendent. Although my entire career has been spent in OCSU I’ve had the opportunity to do lots of consulting on a national level, and those experiences have made me appreciate teaching in Vermont even more.
We are on the brink of significant changes in our state, and while I am concerned about what these changes will mean for our towns and our schools, I am hopeful that we will be able to retain our sense of community and continue to offer high-quality education to students. I appreciate all of the people who work together to provide opportunities for students: community members, parents, educators, staff, school boards, and the students themselves. Together we can help make the OCSU vision and mission a reality.
All of our students will have choices for success throughout their lives.
It is the mission of the Orleans Central Supervisory Union to provide an environment that celebrates diversity and creativity, promotes inclusion and integrity, and partners with parents and community members to give students access to a 21st century education.