Author Archives: Ma. Isabella Primavera

MiddCAM Remote Communication

During the past few months, many have recognized and lamented the sadness of seniors as they’ve missed out on milestones including their graduation ceremonies, their final seasons of sports, their senior proms, their senior week traditions, and their final few months with friends before heading in different life directions.

Perhaps fewer have thought about COVID-19’s effects on high school juniors. Physical distancing has significantly complicated the college applications process, adding stress and uncertainty to their lives during a time that, for many, is already fraught with both. Understanding this, Middlebury College Access (MiddCAM) mentors have prioritized continued support for their mentees this spring, despite the difficulties of remote communication. Each mentor-mentee pair’s communication has looked a little different: some text, some email, some video chat, and some do a combination of the three. No matter what form they’ve taken, the relationships have provided crucial support to the high school students as they’ve navigated canceled tests and canceled college visits.

The mentees are not the only ones benefiting from the relationships, of course. Mentors are also finding comfort in their remote connections with their mentees. Eleanor Pontikes ‘22.5, a MiddCAM mentor, reflects: “my weekly FaceTimes with my mentee Anna have not only been grounding, but also fill me with hope for the future.” Even with time apart, having a set time every week to meet has sustained their relationships with their mentees: “[it] has been something that both of us look forward to each week and helps keep us connected to other people during these difficult times,” writes MiddCAM mentor Abbey Tinsley ‘23. 

MiddCAM Mentors video-calling there mentees, from left to right: Eleanor Pontikes ‘22.5, Jack Summersby, and Abbey Tinsley ‘23.

Despite the difficulties and challenges that remote activities entail, the mentors are positive about the future thanks to modern technology. As MiddCAM mentor Jake Summersby states: “While posing its own unique and new challenges, remote activities including work and school have challenged our abilities to adapt to new circumstances. Mentorship is no different, and while nevertheless a different experience, modern technology brings us closer together.”

Jack credits websites like Naviance and Khan Academy, which “help bring the college process online, while video conferencing apps supplement the lack of physical proximity.” Despite the unknowns, Jack says, he and his mentee “are still confident in a bright future ahead.” Indeed, not only are the mentors confident about the future due to technology, they also credit their mentees for having a positive and dedicated mindset:  “Anna, like the rest of the MiddCAM mentees, is so hardworking, dedicated, and compassionate—it has been such an amazing program to be a part of,” states Eleanor. 

Thank you to both mentors and mentees for continuing to inspire each other during these very difficult times!

Middlebury Educator Spotlight: Ariana Bailey

The transition to remote learning brought the crucial role of educators to the foreground. We wanted to take this time to reach out to some Middlebury alumni educators teaching in Vermont and recognize them for all the work they do, including their efforts to stay connected with students during this isolation period.  

Ariana Bailey received her MA in Spanish from Middlebury’s Language Schools in 2011 and started teaching at Middlebury Union High School that same year.  Since then, Ariana has brought her students to campus to meet with Language in Motion students, and she and her students have hosted many LiM students in their classroom at MUHS and are even continuing to “host” them virtually!  

While she grew up in Vermont, Ariana traveled extensively and lived in Spain and Mexico and always pictured herself living abroad long term. However, she found herself constantly coming back to Vermont. Speaking to Vermont’s charm, Ariana states: “Vermont is such a beautiful place; it has such a great variety of landscapes and activities for such a small state, and we’re even starting to see some more diversity! Vermont schools are wonderful, too! My colleagues and students are amazing.”

When asked about the transition to remote learning, Ariana feels that she has been busier than before. Balancing her career with homeschooling her son and taking care of her daughter has been quite difficult. Planning classes has also been challenging; she wants her students to continue learning Spanish through a variety of modes and materials but isolation has made those very limited. Though she truly misses her connection with her student and colleagues, she has been trying to stay connected by making videos, including read-alouds of Spanish books,  for her students.

Thank you, Ariana! 

Middlebury Alumni Educator Spotlight: Chelsea Colby ‘17.5

The transition to remote learning brought the crucial role of educators to the foreground. We wanted to take this time to reach out to some Middlebury alumni educators teaching in Vermont and recognize them for all the work they do, including their efforts to stay connected with students during this isolation period.  

Chelsea graduated from Middlebury College in 2017.5 with a major in Environmental Policy and a minor in Education Studies. She currently teaches at Cornwall School and is in her third year of teaching within the Addison Central School District. She teaches all core curricular subjects to a group of 13 second graders.

While at Middlebury she was engaged with CCE in a number of ways. She was the communications intern, a Privilege & Poverty intern, as well as an AmeriCorps Pathways mentor. She was president of Nutrition Outreach and Mentoring, a member of Sister-to-Sister, a Community Friends and MiddCAM mentor, a MAlt trip leader and participant, Charter House volunteer, and a CCE first year/Feb orientation leader.

One of the things that drew Chelsea to stay in the area was the Middlebury College Education Department’s strong ties to the local school district. Throughout her time at Middlebury College she was placed in classrooms learning from local teachers and became invested in the district.

Even before graduating she was already working as a long-term substitute teacher within ACSD. The support provided by both the college and the district were very appealing and made her want to continue to work in Addison county. The partnership between the college and the school district has also afforded her the opportunity to be involved with the first ever Middlebury College Education Studies graduate course For the Love of Learning: Individuals and Societies.

“It has been a beautiful opportunity to engage with other local educators in an academic setting,” she states. The work Addison Central School District is doing with the International Baccalaureate program was another big draw for her as her teaching philosophy is in line with the ideas of teaching thematically and supporting students to become global thinkers. 

She also just loves living in Vermont post-graduation! Being a Vermont resident has also offered her the chance to further explore the area and enjoy the local farms and businesses: “In 2019, I took full advantage of my summer vacation and spent almost 3 weeks hiking the entire length of Long Trail which is by far one of my favorite memories.”

As for the transition to remote learning, it has been challenging. Building and maintaining connections with students has been harder to do via technology, but she has been impressed with the way her district has prioritized food, safety, and social-emotional well-being for students before moving to academics.

She feels fortunate that the district and community have supported all of the families in order to be sure they have access to the internet and an internet capable device. “We are all being flexible and adaptable, finding new ways to connect, engage students, and learn during this time of global crisis,” she states. “The gratitude colleagues, parents, students, and our entire community is sharing has been a bright spot throughout this challenging time.”

Thank you, Chelsea!

Stay tuned for more stories from Middlebury Alumni Educators!

Middlebury Alumni Educator Spotlight: Ben Weir ’11

The transition to remote learning brought the crucial role of educators to the foreground. We wanted to take this time to reach out to some Middlebury alumni educators teaching in Vermont and recognize them for all the work they do, including their efforts to stay connected with students during this isolation period.

Ben Weir majored in History and graduated from Middlebury in 2011. As a student, Ben was involved in  migrant rights through the CCE (then called ACE, the Alliance for Community Engagement). He helped found Juntos, the student service organization that supports local farmworkers in gaining English skills and other tools that promote their wellbeing and independence. 

Born and raised in Vermont, Ben always knew he wanted to stay in his home state. He taught Social Studies and English at Randolph Union High School in Orange County, Vermont, for 7 years, before taking a job this year as a Special Education Case Manager at Middlebury Union High School. Addison County drew Ben & his wife because of the network of friends they developed quickly after graduating.

“We are very lucky to live in a strong and vibrant community with significant diversity in perspective and life experience,” he states. “When I graduated from Middlebury, I became friends with lots of other Middlebury graduates who had chosen to stick around and start their own enterprises to help grow this community. These people have become my core group of friends and have made my life richer in many ways. I chose to teach because I identify strongly as a Vermonter and I feel a duty to help provide the sorts of opportunities that I had for the next generation of Vermonters.” 

Ben (in black) and his group of advisees from his last year at Randolph Union High School (last school year). These students were in his advisory from when they were in 7th grade through the end of their high school years.

The transition to remote teaching has been, as Ben describes, “hectic!” He explains: “Everyone is trying to figure out how to do this all at once (from Governor down to the students,) so it’s a bit crazy. The experience has solidified my belief that education is all about personal connection. When teachers and students connect personally, everyone is more likely to grow. That connection is necessarily more difficult in a remote setting, so I look forward to being back in the classroom when it is safe!”

Thank you, Ben!

Stay tuned for more stories from Middlebury Alumni Educators!

Middlebury Alumni Educator Spotlight: Hilary Poremski ’00

The transition to remote learning brought the crucial role of educators to the foreground. We wanted to take this time to reach out to some Middlebury alumni educators teaching in Vermont and recognize them for all the work they do, including their efforts to stay connected with students during this isolation period.  

Hilary Poremski majored in English, with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in teacher education and psychology. She graduated from Middlebury in May of 2000. During her student years, Hilary engaged with the community through her work-study position at the Addison County Parent-Child Center, developing close relationships with staff members, children, and fellow Middlebury students who also worked there.

Hilary is currently in her 14th year teaching at Rutland High School. Prior to teaching at RHS,  she began her career at Spaulding High School in Barre, where she taught from 2001-2006. Her experience as a teacher in Vermont “has been as rewarding as it has been challenging.” She reflects: “It took me years to discover my identity and strengths as a teacher — to learn how to manage and instruct teenagers effectively and confidently, to connect with them personally, to regard them with unconditional compassion.” She is currently teaching at Rutland High School, and this is her 14th year there. Prior to teaching at RHS, she began her career at Spaulding High School in Barre, where she taught  from 2001 to 2006. 

Her experience as a teacher in Vermont “has been as rewarding as it has been challenging.” She reflects: “It took me years to discover my identity and strengths as a teacher — to learn how to manage and instruct teenagers effectively and confidently, to connect with them personally, to regard them with unconditional compassion.” But, along the way, she has had the most incredibly gifted mentor-colleagues, many of whom are now life-long friends. “They represent what I believe is an exceptionally strong state-wide public school faculty,” she states. My own excellent high school teachers (at Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon) first inspired me to want to become an English teacher in 8th grade, and I am so happy to say that I am now almost 20 years into the career I envisioned for myself as an adolescent.” 

When asked what drew her to staying in Vermont, she explained that she’s had a long family history within the state: “I am a 4th generation Vermonter, still living on the land my Polish great-grandparents farmed after immigrating to the U.S. and initially working in the marble industry over a century ago. (In fact, this “family history of place” was the subject of my undergraduate honors thesis at Middlebury). Simply put, I have never been drawn to actually live outside of Vermont, given my very deep and personal ties to this place. My relationships with my family and now-husband also played a role in keeping me here during those years after college graduation when many move elsewhere. And I knew I would (eventually) find a teaching job in Vermont. In this sense, multiple factors converged to keep me here.” 

The transition to remote learning for Hilary has been relatively easy in terms of technology and logistics, thanks to her district’s resources and the user-friendliness of tools such as Google Classroom. However, in all other aspects, “it has been stressful and increasingly sad,” she says,  “students who were chronically absent or already difficult to engage in the classroom have been almost impossible to reach remotely, and some have fallen off the map entirely in spite of my ongoing efforts to connect. Hosting online classes via Google Meet doesn’t feel like teaching.  It’s amazing how much gets lost when I am not physically in a classroom with my students — in particular, the ability to circulate around the room, check in on my students’ progress, and offer on-the-spot help and one-to-one instruction.”

Hilary misses many aspects of in-person teaching, including “the personal connections–conversations, moments of laughter, and bante, seeing and hearing [her] students in person, [her] colleagues, some of whom are [her] dearest friends.” On top of teaching full-time at home, she is also parenting her 2-year-old and 7-year-old. “Their needs are constant,” she includes, “not to mention the fact that I’m responsible for my 7-year-old’s homeschooling. It is extremely nerve-wracking and draining.” 

Hilary and Claire Groby, her colleague/friend/fellow Midd alum,  have connected with CCE for special field trips to the college. Two years in a row, their students visited the college art museum and spent the better part of the afternoon interacting with international students at the CCE. Hilary states: “it has been such a wonderful opportunity for all of us to learn about each other’s home states/countries and cultures. It has helped to challenge stereotypes and find common unity, which is one of the main themes of Global Studies 10 (sophomore English and World History II at Rutland High School). We really look forward to resuming these field trips when it becomes possible again!”

Thank you, Hilary! 

Stay tuned for more stories from Middlebury Alumni Educators!

Middlebury Alumni Educator Spotlight: Claire Groby ’08

The transition to remote learning brought the crucial role of educators to the foreground. We wanted to take this time to reach out to some Middlebury alumni educators teaching in Vermont and recognize them for all the work they do, including their efforts to stay connected with students during this isolation period.  

Claire Groby graduated from Middlebury in 2008 with a double major in Theatre and International Studies. Claire married a local Middlebury native, so after completing her graduate degree at NYU, they returned to the area to be closer to family. After teaching in Hanover for a few years, Claire got a job teaching 10th Grade World History at Rutland High School, and is currently in her fourth year there.

For the past few years, Claire has been bringing her students on field trips to the college to meet with International, study abroad, and upper-level language students through the Language in Motion (LiM) program. 

Claire loves Vermont and feels especially fortunate to have found a job in a community she really enjoys given how strained schools and education budgets are in Vermont at this moment.

Comparing teaching in Vermont to teaching in New York City public schools, where she completed her student teaching internships, Claire states: “I feel a pretty large contrast in my experiences teaching here in Vermont for the most part. However, teaching in Rutland is certainly more similar to Brooklyn than Hanover was.I think that education is truly valued in Vermont, but something which stands out to me is the challenges of shrinking enrollments. I’ve been observing this locally in Middlebury as well as in Rutland at very different levels.”

Remote teaching has been an interesting challenge for Claire, balancing her teaching with caring for her children both at home (take a look at this delightful video of Claire being interrupted by her children as she attempts to make video lectures).

She has been doing mostly asynchronous assignments and email feedback but will soon be navigating class presentation remotely. “Some days,” she says, “I feel like I have lost the good parts of teaching (connecting with students, seeing colleagues, sharing my passion for history and bad jokes) and am left only with the tedious parts (emails, paperwork, grading).”

Although she feels that this all happened very fast–being given only a week or less to prepare for remote learning–she has learned a huge amount about technology in a short amount of time. 

Thank you, Claire! 

Stay tuned for more stories from Middlebury Alumni Educators!

Musings during Quarantine

Life has a way, from time to time, of re-focusing us and our priorities. For some, this can be a welcome process of periodic self-examination and reflection. For others, it can create chaos amidst an already fraught effort to navigate and survive daily life. And, of course, there is a wide spectrum of experience in the in-between.

This moment has presented such a challenge on a rare scale. For each of us, this means impacts that span from minor daily changes to radical shifts in every aspect of our lives, and often all in the same day – or even minute to minute. For me, this has been a disruptive, but relatively benign experience.

I am healthy. My family and friends are healthy. I have a home I can stay in, food in my cupboards and work to do.

Picture of the moon, by Jason Duquette-Hoffman.

For so many others, the impact has been existential. My work has changed in this time, along with how and where I do it. I am missing my direct engagement with students, but have amplified my partnership work with community organizations in a time that is stretching their capabilities to the maximum. And, in all of this, I am striving to re-imagine community-connected student learning opportunities when that connection itself is most difficult.

In the days ahead, I hope we can see the opportunities reflected back to us amidst the noise, and co-create a rich, robust and resilient re-imagining of this work. I look forward to hearing your hopes, thoughts and ideas, along with sharing in your struggles, worries and disappointments.

If you get a chance, take a moment to comment with your thoughts. Or, if you prefer, send them to us privately. In the coming days, some of you may also receive a survey from us, asking for your feedback. We look forward to hearing from you! Take care of yourselves, your loved ones and your neighbors. Wash your hands, and call your elders 🙂 

Best,

Jason