Educators on the Move

Matthew McCormick, Woodstock Union Middle School

posted Jan 2, 2017, 4:57 PM by PLP Pathways   [ updated Jan 5, 2017, 12:50 PM by Don Taylor ]

Matthew McCormick is a sixth-year educator at Woodstock Union Middle School, where he has taught 7th-grade English and Global Studies since 2014. Prior to that, he taught a variety of middle school subjects in Fairbanks, AK. Before beginning his career as an educator, Matt worked as a journalist, ski bum, trail worker, and, improbably, gun store clerk.  

This summer, Matt attended his first Middle Grades Institute at Castleton University. It was during this week-long session that he first became a believer in the move toward personalized education and PLPs. The framework provided by PLP Pathways, which was modeled extensively at the institute, helped him make sense of how he might implement PLPs in his own classroom. 

Matt came away from MGI inspired and gung-ho, ready to put into practice all that he had learned at MGI. He had it worked out perfectly in his head: Students would start by writing about themselves and who they are, transition to setting goals for who they would like to become in late fall, and by spring would be ready to investigate opportunities for further exploration. Then students entered the classroom and all the answers he thought he had morphed one-by-one into questions: How can I make PLPs a part of the curriculum, not something "extra" that is disconnected from daily learning? What makes a good "academic" goal, and how can I model that for my students? Why am I having trouble convincing students to buy into this process?

Matt is grateful to have colleagues both in his own school and elsewhere in Vermont who reassure him that such questions are not a sign of failure, but rather the type of reflection PLPs are designed to inspire in our students. Struggle is good! 

When he's not pondering how best to teach his students, Matt enjoys reading, running, hiking, skiing, birding, and fishing. He lives with his wife and one-year-old son in Plymouth, VT.

Chris Palmer, BFA-Fairfax

posted Nov 6, 2016, 10:57 AM by PLP Pathways   [ updated Nov 7, 2016, 1:43 AM by Don Taylor ]

My name is Chris Palmer.  I’m a fifth-year educator at BFA-Fairfax Elementary/Middle School in Fairfax, VT.  My first four years as an educator, I’ve taught seventh and eighth grade science at BFA-Fairfax Middle School, along with being an assistant varsity baseball coach at BFA-Fairfax High School.  This year, I’m doing a one-year internship as an administrative intern — under the mentorship of BFA Elementary/Middle School principal Tom Walsh — to complete my Masters in Educational Leadership at UVM, which I will complete in May 2017.  Previously, I received my Masters in Secondary Education from UVM in 2012 and my bachelors in Engineering Science from Tufts University School of Engineering in 2008.

As part of my administrative internship, I am helping to lead BFA-Fairfax Middle School's transition to proficiency-based, personalized learning and reporting.  I serve as a member of the BFA-Fairfax proficiency-based learning leadership team that has worked with Bill Rich of Red House Learning for the past year and a half.  Last year, with the recommendation of the proficiency-based learning leadership team, BFA-Fairfax Middle School moved to proficiency-based report cards, among many other exciting ventures.  

I believe wholeheartedly in the transition to student-centered, personalized instruction happening in the state of Vermont since the passage of Act 77.  Since Horace Mann’s Common School movement in the 1840s, education has been viewed as a transfer of knowledge from teacher to student.  We have 170 years of evidence that this dynamic works for some students, but not others.  Part of my work this year is to seek out educators in at the forefront of personalized, proficiency-based learning and technological integration in the state of Vermont; to meet with these teacher-leaders; and to bring back components of their success to BFA-Fairfax.  I believe that there is astounding potential to transform learning, rooted in the individual knowledge and experience of talented, committed educators.  It is about connecting these educators with one another and with teachers and school leaders who want to do what is best for their students but aren’t sure where to begin.  Part of my work this year is to make as many of these connections as I can and to leverage the knowledge and passion of educators around the state of Vermont to help lead the dedicated teachers at BFA-Fairfax in our mission to provide a truly student-centered learning environment in which all students feel valued, engaged, and able to thrive.

Christie Nold, Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School

posted Oct 9, 2016, 12:17 PM by Don Taylor   [ updated Oct 9, 2016, 12:17 PM ]

Christie is in her second year at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington, Vermont where she teaches 6th grade Social Studies. Prior to FHTMS, Christie worked as the School Programs Coordinator and educator at Shelburne Farms, a nonprofit education center dedicated to Education for Sustainability. In addition, she taught English and Civic Engagement with the Peace Corps in Nedryahiliv, Ukraine following completion of her master’s degree at the University of Vermont in 2008.


At FHTMS, Christie is an educator on team Verve where students facilitate team meetings, set the agreements, and lead their conferences. In addition, she is a member of the newly formed Professional Learning Committee which works collaboratively to explore the possibilities of Act 77 and support educators in its implementation. Inspired by her experience at the Middle Grades Institute, she is now piloting proficiency-based learning and evaluation as well as implementing elements of negotiated curriculum. Christie aims to place relationships at the center of her work and is committed to dismantling systems of oppression and decolonizing education together with her colleagues in the Diversity Working Group and students in Peer Leadership. Outside of the classroom, Christie enjoys reading, kayaking, hiking, and traveling with her partner Mohamad.


Christie actively tweets at @ChristieNold and has chronicled her experience at the Middle Grades Institute using Blogger

Dave Baroody

posted Sep 21, 2016, 4:43 PM by PLP Pathways   [ updated Sep 21, 2016, 4:43 PM ]

Germantown Academy Philadelphia, PA


David Baroody teaches English and Social Studies to young adolescents at Germantown Academy in Philadelphia, PA. Originally from northern New England, David graduated from Middlebury College and completed his MAT in UVM’s Middle Level program before teaching on teams in Essex and Jericho, VT. David has taught in a variety of different educational settings, including traditional boarding school, rural and suburban public schools, and large independent day schools. Throughout these different settings, David has worked to glean best practices that can be used to create effective and transformative learning environments to meet all students’ needs.

David’s work with middle school students is characterized by elements of student voice, inquiry-based learning, integration, and innovation. At his current school, David has been central to expanding student-led conferences and introducing digital portfolio work, has grown opportunities for negotiated curricular and co-curricular programs, including creating a scope and sequence for passion-based research, and is involved in innovation programs across the PreK-12 spectrum, including working collaboratively to design and expand maker curriculum for his current students and faculty. More focused and deliberate individualized opportunities, with students as engaged and vocal drivers of their learning receiving input from a variety of different stakeholders, including parents, teachers, school administrators, and community members, are elements that interest David as he views the roll-out of Act 77 from beyond Vermont. He can be reached followed on Twitter @dave_baroody, on Tumblr http://dave-baroody.tumblr.com/, and at school david.baroody@germantownacademy.org.


Lindsey Halman, Essex Middle School

posted Mar 4, 2016, 5:46 PM by Don Taylor   [ updated Mar 4, 2016, 5:50 PM ]

Lindsey is originally from Rockville, MD, but has called Vermont home for the past fourteen years.  She has taught middle school in Vermont for the past fourteen years and is currently teaching at Essex Middle School where she is a co-founder of The Edge Academy team.  The Edge Academy integrates education for sustainability, as well as the arts,  into all aspects of the team and curriculum.  

On Lindsey’s team, there is a strong focus on student voice, project-based learning, and curriculum/technology integration.  She is passionate about building strong relationships with students, helping them feel empowered to make change, and creating a socially just climate and culture for all students.  She started, and co-facilitates, a student-led Peer Leadership program, a restorative justice circle process, as well as a GSTA (Gay-Straight-Trans-Alliance) at Essex Middle School.  


Lindsey holds her National Board Certification as a middle level generalist and is a strong advocate for middle level practices and education throughout the state. She is currently a past-president and board member of VAMLE (Vermont Association for Middle Level Education) and a member of the Middle Grades Professional Development Collaborative.  Lindsey lives in South Burlington, VT with her husband, Josh, preschool daughter, Aila, and their loving yellow lab, Luna.  In her spare time she can be found spending time with her family, taking ballet classes and performing with The Farm to Ballet Project, reading, and loving the outdoor activities that every season brings to VT.


Check out Lindsey's PLP Pathways blog on negotiating the curriculum.


Samuel Nelson, Shelburne Community School

posted Feb 9, 2016, 6:27 PM by PLP Pathways

Sam is a 6-8th grade Social Studies and Humanities teacher on the Winton House team at Shelburne Community School in Shelburne, Vermont.  After graduating from the University of Vermont in 2007 with a degree in Secondary Education, Sam worked in various fields within the social work and education realm. Before arriving at SCS, Sam worked at both Peoples Academy Middle Level and High School, as well as the St. Francis Xavier school, and was a counselor for the Northeastern Family Institute.  Outside of the classroom, Sam enjoys taking on leadership roles with colleagues, as well as organizing clubs, team activities, and coaching students. Outside of school, Sam is passionate about long-distance hiking and running, as well as reading and travel.


For Shelburne Community School, 2015/16 is the first year of revitalizing, through personalization, the experience of every middle level student. This includes student PLPs in the form of an e-portfolio. This is all in conjunction with a partnership with the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education to support SCS moving to a digital 1:1 format. SCS has worked to use technology as a tool to support individualization, independence, connectivity and creativity in student work. This year on the Winton House efforts include: designing and implementing e-portfolios for all 6-8th grade students, guidance with goal-setting and collecting evidence, PLPs as a catalyst for student-led conferences, standards-based learning, negotiated curriculum, various forms of student reflection and more.


A look at this year’s growth can be found via Sam’s Twitter account or the Winton House Social Studies blog.

Megan Gagne: Colchester

posted Jan 14, 2016, 1:46 AM by Don Taylor   [ updated Jan 14, 2016, 1:47 AM ]


Megan is in her fourth year as a Humanities teacher, teaching 9­ -12 grades, with the Colchester Alternative Program at Colchester High School. Megan graduated from Saint Michael’s College in 2008 and has had various teaching experiences since. She taught third and fourth grades with the Jesuit Volunteer Program at Saint Anne School in Sacramento, California. She also taught eighth grade Language Arts at Mountain View Middle School in Goffstown, New Hampshire. She began her career in Colchester as a Humanities teacher and support­ staff in the Infinity Program, an alternative program at Colchester Middle School, and has been teaching in the Colchester School District since. She is also the Head Varsity girls’ lacrosse coach at Colchester High School and
girls’ B soccer coach at Colchester Middle School. She really enjoys teaching and coaching in the Colchester community.

Megan has been implementing the use of PLPs in the Colchester Alternative Program. As the formal implementation of PLPs has taken off at CHS, Megan has led the implementation with her team. The team supports students in creating PLPs as e­portfolios through Google Sites. The program views students’ PLPs as vehicles for self­-exploration, meaningful goal­ setting and reflection. The focus of students’ PLPs revolves around my life, my goals, and my growth, with the PLP as a place to demonstrate learning and the reaching of academic and personal goals. Students continue to work on their PLPs in a Learning Seminar course taught within the program, as well as integrated work in content classes.

Meg O'Donnell: Shelburne Community School

posted Nov 13, 2015, 2:15 AM by PLP Pathways   [ updated Nov 13, 2015, 2:21 AM ]

Meg O’Donnell is a middle level generalist at Shelburne Community School (SCS), Shelburne, VT and has been teaching on the Alpha team for over 20 years. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in History from Saint Michael’s College in 1988 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Trinity College in 1993. In 2002 she earned her National Board Certification as a middle level generalist, and renewed her certification in 2012. Meg teaches with a dynamic team of teachers on the Alpha team, and together they plan integrated thematic units for their 80+ students in 6th, 7th and 8th grade. Meg lives in Richmond, Vermont where she is blessed with a very patient husband (Mark) and two lovable energetic boys, Evan (8) and Sam (5).


Students on the Alpha team are no strangers to the goal setting process, as they have maintained portfolios and set and assessed personal goals each trimester according to the Vermont’s Vital Results for many years. While the transition to PLP’s and adopting the Vermont Transferable Skills this year may appear seamless, it has required some significant adjustments to our assessment process. 


Instead of reflecting on the Vital Results, students have spent the first part of the year understanding and reflecting on the Transferable Skills, and connecting weekly work to the descriptors of each skill. Where they used to set trimester goals after sharing a paper portfolio with their parents in November (which could include as many as 10 goals, 2 per Vital Result), they now set goals in October, and have chosen one or two overarching goals of their choice! 


They have created action steps to achieve these goals with guidance from parents and teachers, and have posted these on their individual e-portfolio sites. They are currently in the beginning phases of collecting evidence to support their action steps, an ongoing process that will be refined and adjusted as we move further into the year. We look forward to March conferences where students will demonstrate their growth on their goals, and continue the process of setting goals and creating action steps for the remainder of the year.  Alpha, like the other middle level teams at Shelburne Community School, are excited to be in partnership with the Tarrant Institute; their support and guidance has been enormously helpful as we roll out 1:1, e-portfolios and PLP’s.


John Craig: Hazen Union School

posted Oct 7, 2015, 1:31 AM by Don Taylor   [ updated Oct 7, 2015, 1:36 AM ]

John Craig is the Associate Principal at Hazen Union School in Hardwick, Vermont. John earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education English in 2007 and a Master’s in Educational Leadership in 2013 from the University of Vermont. Before arriving at Hazen, he taught middle and high school English Language Arts for seven years at Missisquoi Valley Union in Swanton, Vermont. John is passionate about Proficiency-based Learning, Personalized Learning Plans, and integrating technology in a meaningful way (he is also passionate about riding bicycles and skiing in the backcountry). You can contact John at jcraig@ossu.org, follow him on Twitter @OldManCraig, and read his blog at http://hazenleadership.blogspot.com.

Our PLP work:

During the summer of 2015, a group of Hazen Union middle level teachers, a tech integrationist, and instructional leader attended the Middle Grades Institute at Vermont Technical College. In addition to attending the collaborative, this group of teachers launched a partnership with The Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education. While rolling out a 1:1 device initiative, our team designed an interdisciplinary unit (IDU) that focuses on community and integrates the use of Personalized Learning Plans (PLPs). This IDU will serve as the foundation of our students’ PLPs. Moving forward, Hazen students will use PLPs to to collect evidence of work towards school-wide proficiencies. We are in the early stages of implementing PLPs and excited to share our journey at http://hazenmiddlelevel.blogspot.com.

Kevin Hunt: Williston Central School

posted Oct 13, 2009, 12:53 AM by PLP Pathways   [ updated Oct 7, 2015, 1:36 AM by Don Taylor ]

Kevin Hunt is a generalist teacher on Swift House at Williston Central School. Kevin graduated from Saint Michael’s College in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Secondary Education. He spent a year coaching the Saint Michael’s men’s lacrosse team while also working as a paraeducator on Swift House.  Kevin, entering his third year as a teacher on Swift House, recently completed his M.Ed at Saint Michael’s College and presented his capstone work on the effect PLPs have on students’ self advocacy and reflective habits. He is also the assistant CVU boy’s lacrosse coach. If you would like to contact Kevin, email at khunt@cssu.org


Our PLP work:


Swift House, a team at Williston Central School, has been using personal learning plans linked with student portfolios for nearly 25 years. Most recently, we have integrated our PLP process with e-Portfolios and now use the Vermont Transferable Skills (also CVU grad requirements) as the foundation for which the PLP team (student, parent, teacher) derives the student’s various academic and personal goals. We have students reflect on their goals by writing a blurb about their progress and providing evidence via a page on their e-Portfolios once a week. At the end of each trimester, the students compile various pieces of evidence in their e-Portfolios that show growth in their goals and share their work during our parent-teacher-student portfolio conferences, which are student driven.

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