September 26, 2010 -- Vermont Teacher of the Year Jennifer Lawson joins Kristin Carlson and Darren Perron to discuss education.
From Vermont's most trust the news source.
WCAX brings you your news makers, your neighbors.
This is "you can quote me."
>> And good morning everyone.
I'm Darren Perron.
>> I'm Kristin Carlson.
Our news maker this morning is Vermont's top teacher, Jennifer Lawson.
>> Also we have got your neighbors in the news.
The next generation of hot rod fans.
Also he makes millions laugh including the Dalai Lama.
Saving space in the cemetery and Sharon Meyers leaf peeping that's all coming up.
>> First our news maker is Jennifer lawson, Vermont's teacher of the year, a language arts and social studies teacher.
She has been teaching there for 12 years.
Thanks so much for being with us.
>> Thank you.
>> First let's start with why did you decide to go into teaching?
>> I decided to go into teaching largely because of my experiences as a student.
And because of my desire to look at alternative ways to work with students so that all students felt that they had the ability to succeed and experience a positive time in school.
>> Was school a positive experience for you or not when you were younger?
>> It was for the most part positive.
Middle school stands out to me as being a time of good and bad.
And friends one day and enemies the next.
And teaching at that time, I was going to Shelburn village middle school, was ‑‑ seemed to be going through a transformation in terms of engaging students in different ways, more handson approach.
And that was something that really connected me with what we were studying and I noticed the teachers who did that, versus the classes where I sat and at the time less engaged.
>> So handson learning?
>> Handson learning or times that teachers could help me see my connection to what I was learning and the purpose behind it.
>> So is this something ‑‑ this was seed put into, then, high school for you or did D'you really wait until college or after college?
when did it really solidify that?
I would like to spend my career back in school?
>> I think around my junior or senior year in high school, I felt tremendously impacted by some of my literature teachers and what they were connecting me to, certain books and their ability to have me reflect and question things and connect it to the larger picture of the world and so I originally entered into college studying psychology, thinking I wanted to look at human behavior and the mind and why we do the things we do.
And then realized that the best way to understand humans and behavior and particularly in the age group I was interested in was by teaching.
>> And after you graduated, where did you begin your teaching career?
>> I moved to new London, Connecticut.
I finished my teaching mentorship in Swanton.
And para educated in a classroom there and then was connected with a charter room in new London, Connecticut.
Through a professor the UVM who was consulting for them.
And I went to new London for my first time ever and interviewed and fell in love with what they were trying to do.
It was just a small school of about 6 teachers on the top floor of a Baptist church.
Right outside a rather rundown area, part of new London.
And all our furniture was donated from the sub base and we kind of got together and collaborated on what we wanted to do to help these students who at that time the population existed of students who had run out of options.
And were coming to a charter school in their area to start over.
So it was pretty ‑‑ it was very exciting.
>> How long did you spend there before you came ‑‑ was Vermont your next move?
>> I moved back to Vermont after being in Connecticut for five years.
So I taught for five years in Connecticut.
During that time, I studied at Connecticut college and received my master's.
And decided it was time to come back home and return to my family.
>> You teach at VINGENS now.
What do you think you brought with you from your experience in new London with the students who were really having some serious challenges?
>> I think what I brought was the importance of connecting with the students, understanding their lives outside of school, to then be able to deal with them in school.
That ‑‑ the things our students experience when they are not with us, in school, impact greatly their ability to focus, to learn, to care when they are in school.
Potentially having come from a night before of, you know, sitting in the dark because then don't have electricity or going somewhere at a shelter for food and so when we ask you know why didn't you do your home working we need to think about possibly other experiences the child is having and so I was interested in going to a school in Vermont by experiencing similar struggles or challenges because one of the things that became clear to me in new London was a large challenge regarding diversity wasn't so much a cultural/racial issue, it was a social economic issue and that similar not exact but similar elements and properties of that challenge existed in rural schools.
>> So you teach at VINGENS union.
What age do you teach?
>> 7th and 8th.
>> Language arts and social studies?
>> I taught the last 5 years language arts and social studies and now in the position of being a literacy teacher.
So I'm working with teachers to support students in the classroom with reading and writing.
And I teach enrichment classes in the after inn to students who are identified as struggling with reading and writing.
>> We have some pictures of when you got this award.
This Vermont teacher of the year award which is a pretty big deal.
>> Were you surprised about it?
>> I was surprised when I ‑‑ my principal said he had nominated me.
And I was ‑‑ as I shared in my comments, I was very humbled because I have come across and met and worked with so many teachers, that I feel deserve this recognition.
And just why me when you know next door is this person who I know is doing absolutely amazing things and then I saw thought ‑‑ the award isn't about me or for me.
It is in response to what I've been able to do because of where I am and the people I work with and the community I'm in.
>> So what are you doing that you think or your community, let's broaden it out so I don't make you feel too uncomfortable here.
What do you think is working in your classroom and your school and your community that is an example that led to this honor?
>> I think it is taking the time to connect with the students to get to know them, living in the community.
I see the students and their families outside of school, participate in community events that allows me to experience them in other settings so then I can bring that experience back into the classroom and see them as the larger person than just a student.
It is a very close community that cares very much about its children and education.
And I think that the students trust us at VIRGENS because they see us so much and we are a part of their community outside of the school, that they take the time to let us get to know them and work with them.
>> There isn't some magic well did I this and now all my students are getting A's and things are perfect?
>> I think listening and respecting and allowing the students the opportunity to know you as a person so they trust you and trust what you are trying to guide them through or teach them about and I think by being a member of their community, I can context actualize things for them.
I can connect their learning experiences and their content to their world because I'm more familiar with it.
>> Is there anything in your teaching career you have been doing it now for a dozen years, that stands out, maybe particularly your time in Vermont of something where you thought this is why I went into teaching?
because we know there are good days and bad days in all of our jobs but is there a moment that stands out that you say this is why I went into teaching?
>> One moment that stands out and there is about 5, 6 running through my head right now, but would be a time that I took students about thee years ago to a town hall meeting in Farris burg regarding the issue of a gas station with the possible McDonald's being built in fair is burg on route 7 and the students, we had studied the town plan and the town vision and we had read ‑‑ we looked at the pros and cons of this gas station joining the town of Farris burg and how it fit into the town plan.
And so the students, one evening came with me to the town meeting and they were put on the agenda, three of them had prepared responses to share with the board.
And they stood up and they very maturely and respectfully expressed their opinions on what would be the impact of this decision, whether it were to happen or not for the town of fair is burg and they were so mature and eloquent and they just owned what they had studied and they showed that they were voices to be reasoned with and heard and they drew the attention of the board to looking at the town plan and the vision to statement again when that had been an oversight at the time and so they ‑‑ they were proud of themselves as well.
>> And so the town officials too, how powerful to hear from 7th and 8th graders.
That must have been something I'm sure the town officials remember.
>> And to hear them citing ordinances and actual excerpts from the town plan and not just an emotional response but a factual historical response.
>> Well, and I was reading a little bit about your biography and one of the things I came across is you have been involved in the school' as sesment testing and assessment testing can be a little controversial.
What's your take on assessment testing?
>> I go back and forth.
I think it is a gauge that we are trying to use to see where our students stand, where our schools stand.
What we need to work on, I often explain we look at the name, for example, kneecap and we talk about this is a common assess.
and common in the sense that these are things or areas in reading, writing math, and science that overall we hope that you are able to do at this point in your life, due to the instruction we have given you.
And if not, what do we need to do to get you off to that ‑‑ up to that speed, that place.
I'm currently teaching an afternoon enrichment class for 75 minutes in last block and it is a group of students who were selected because we felt they needed to have some extra time spent to prepare them for this testing that is coming up in October.
But I thought as ‑‑ saw it as an opportunity to share with students and work with students on their ability to succeed, their ability to improve by being shown strategies and ideas for tackling situations like assessments or tests so that when they face things, like their driver's license test, how can I use what I did on the kneecap to decode a question or determine what was important, to answer those questions for something that is really important to them like their driver's license.
And so I see it is rel ‑‑ its relevance I can't say I'm not happy when the time in October has passed and we move on to other things.
But it is ‑‑ it is something we need to pay attention to.
>> Because you won the teacher of the year for the state, you get to go to Washington, D.C.
you will get to meet president Obama.
I'm not sure whether or not you will have a chance to talk with him but if you d what would you tell him is important for education in the state of education?
have you thought of that at all?
I definitely constantly think about what is important regarding education.
And I think that it would be to really include teachers policy making, to have schools and administrations consider the importance of taking time with teachers who are incredibly busy and other staff members of a school to understand what is currently going on on national and local levels.
I know personally I am so entrenched in the trenches of the the day to day and being as prepared for my students and present for my students that, a lot of what is going on in regards to policy and initiative and so forth, comes secondhand to me.
And how can we engage teachers and the people who are in the trenches more with the folks making the policies.
>> Do you think you might try to insert a little advice to the president?
>> No, I don't think he needs my advice, but I would just say if you have solutions, we're ready to listen.
>> You've been teaching now nor ‑‑ now nor a dozen years.
Do you see this as a career for you for the rest of your life?
have you thought about it?
>> I have thought about it and my father, who is ‑‑ or was a professor of 44 years at the University of Vermont, who is an inspiration to me in his teaching methods and his philosophy and his relationships he had with his students, just retired as I said.
And he ‑‑ I look at him in retirement and I can relate to what do I do now because so much of our life is about our teaching and so I don't know what I would do without teaching.
It constitutes a huge part of who I am and what my life is about.
>> Your students must have been pretty proud.
>> They were very proud and I told them they needed to be very proud of themselves as well.
>> Well, Jennifer lawson Vermont's teacher of the year, thank you so much for your time.
>> Thank you.
>> We look forward to what you will do next year and the year after.
>> Me too.
>> Thank you very much.
Here is Darren with our neighbors in the news.
>> Thank you, Kristin and congratulations again, Jennifer.
Coming up, where you can find fabulous foliage.
Sharon is on the hunt with help from dogs.
We will explain.
>> ‑‑ it is not just your father's and grandfather's hobby anymore.
Collecting and figuring hot rods is now something young are people are doing.
Jennifer Redding reports.
>> A new generation of street rodders is trying to rev up a hobby typically dominated by baby boomers.
These young auto enthusiasts definitely break the mold of the stereotypical street rodder.
>> Primarily in the street rod area, we are 55 to 65 age bracket.
>> It is original
>> But at 27, David is one of the younger hobbyists at this year's northeast street rod nationals.
He came from Connecticut to check out the more than 1600 street rods muscle cars and antique vehicles at the Champlain valley expo.
And worries what will happen to his beloved sport in the future.
>> You never know what's going to happen when my generation is the age of most street rodders now.
Most people I know don't even like these cars.
>> The national street rod association was one of the first to recognize the presence of these young enthusiasts back in 1986.
>> A lot of them are second again are racial, third generation from street rod parents or grandparents.
>> I have grown one it.
My dad always had cars when I was 10, 12 and I had quite a few over the years.
>> To show off your car at this convention, there is just one rule on age.
You must be old enough to own it and drive it.
Which can be a stretch because this hobby is definitely not cheap.
It is estimated that this year's nationals will bring over 40 million dollars worth of cars to Burlington.
And most come with a 10 to 40 thousand dollar pricetag.
>> It its an expensive hobby.
it is probably why you see so few people my age it in.
>> A vehicle from 1948 or older.
The engines are usually retrofitted with modern parts and to get them to that point, owners often have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars like this 1936 Pontiac.
>> The old‑time street rodders hope more kids will en vest in this sport in the future.
>> A lost kids have new ideas.
You know, it is a good thing.
The more people into it, you know, the better it is.
>>> The reality of it is, you know, there is only so many years that ‑‑ for me there is only so many years I have left and so it would be great to have the kids involved.
>> Only time will tell.
Enthusiasts say the best way to catch car fever is to start young.
Jennifer Redding, channel 3 news, Essex junction.
>>> A Vermont artist creations are seen around the world.
He makes millions laugh including someone you may not expect.
Jack Thurston reports.
>> His factory is this cramped south Burlington studio.
His assembly line his precise hands.
>> Could I have been a surgeon.
>> Harry bliss is a prolific exporter.
>> I think humor is a pretty spiritual thing.
>> He is one of the nation's top cartoonists.
For magazines like the New Yorker, with a daily dose of humor called bliss, running in more than 60 major newspapers, including the L.A. times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Boston globe.
>> When you put work out there, you never know what is going to happen or who is going to see it.
>> He learned that lesson when he got this E‑mail.
>> You must have been really surprised.
>> I was thrilled.
When I saw the photo.
>> It shows the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism holding one of bliss's cartoons.
The artist, friend of a friend, L.A. journalist roana Elliott, met with the Dalai Lama in India and brought him the drawing as a gift.
>> His holiness cracked up as did everybody else in the room.
>> Cartoon shows a husband and wife in their mundane morning routine when he asks her is it just me or is the Dalai Lama a great guy?
bliss's wife wrote the line.
>> This was something funny about of course he is a great guy.
He is the Dalai Lama
>> Elliott said the Dalai Lama did need the help of a translate OM he likes to fun pun at the language N this case how we times like to think we say is so profound when really it can be sort of silly.
>> Most people probably sit down with his holiness the Dalai Lama and want things like what's the meaning of life and what I wanted to do was bring some joy.
>> It is important for me to make anybody laugh because that is why I do what do I.
>> Bliss says this whole experience is a reminder that whether you are a doctor or bus driver, farmer or lure or even the Dalai Lama, when it comes to humor being we are not that different.
>> We are all the same
>> Harry bliss draws out laughs with his creations that are made in Vermont.
Jack Thurston, channel 3 news in south Burlington.
>> There is something new in essential Vermont crème he trim.
took two years of planning, needed state and town approval and voters had to okay 50 thousand dollars to pay for it.
Judy Simpson tells us what it is.
>> The newest addition if he Wilson cemetery looks very different from the traditional head stones but serves the same purpose.
Only on a smaller scale.
This is one of the state's first columbariums.
Each of the 9612 by 12 inch compartments can hold up to two URNS.
Covers can be engraved.
Three have already been presold.
Each niche costs about $1500.
That's a bit less than a burial plot.
>> Cremations are fast becoming the way to go.
And they are different ways in which you can handle the ashes.
And this is one way that we are addressing that, that issue.
>> In fact, the rate of cremations is growing in Vermont.
Now close to 50% of folks opt for Cree cremation rather than a full casket funeral.
For many a fangs decision.
The average cost of a funeral is $7000.
Cremation costs about $1000.
But there is also another reason.
>> The people who have been interested in this seem to be interested in it for the reason of saving land.
Just the 5 alone around the circle could serve 480 CREMAINS or individuals whereas if this was used for full body burial only 96 bodies could be served.
>> The two on site are made from Barry granite and room for several more.
>> Each niche that is sold will have some money set aside in a reserve fund to bull the next someone in the future it won't cost the taxpayers money to build one that will come out of a reserve fund.
>> Having it also solves the dilemma for people who want to be cremated but would like their remains placed someplace traditional where family can visit.
Officials here think other municipalities will be considering the option to meet a growing demand.
Judy Simpson, channel 3 news, Barrytown.
>> Is it too early to start looking for fall foliage?
well, not in some parts of our region.
As Sharon Meyer found out with the help of some dogs.
>> One of the best ways to find out where the local color is is to stop in at a local bills and if that business happens to have sticky buns, so much the better.
Joey has a special business right on route 78 in high gate.
It is spall but there is something for everybody.
>> We have full service bakery.
But we are also a restaurant, a diner, and we really ‑‑ the customers really love the fact that we have breakfast all day long.
>> He also sells everything from original art to baked goods to maple sugar candy from his own sugar house.
But once we stocked up on a few necessities we still needed to find the foliage.
>> Down through the 109 corridor we have seen a lot of beautiful foliage and really bright and lovely colors are starting to come there.
>> And he is right.
There are some spots of brilliant color especially when you get into the hills and mountains.
We took a detour from Joey's route and stopped at lake CARMI.
Bob and Carol were putting their boat in the water to go walleye fishing.
>> Your starting to see some fall colors come in.
>> We noticed some pretty ones on the way up.
>> Being on lake is pretty any time of year but we headed up into the higher elevations in search of more color.
Our travels took us to Montgomery where we found a special way to enjoy the season.
At Montgomery adventures they run their sled dogs during foliage pulling carts.
>> Customers like it a lot better for the most part because it is not in the ice cold.
>> It is loud when they are hitching up the dogs but once they get going, it is a quiet and very pleasant way to take in the scenery.
>> Good kids.
Here we go.
>> I love wildlife and nature.
And it is just an amazing way to travel through the woods without being on a noisy machine.
>> It is beautiful already in Montgomery.
As the temperatures fall and the leaves become even brighter, the dogs an the travelers will be even happier.
>> Tis the season.
>> Sharon does the coolest things.
And she will be out on other tours as well coming up.
>> That's right.
And this week you will continue your mission Afghanistan series?
>> Yeah, that's right.
Coming up we will have that story on the channel 3 news on Wednesday night at 6:00.
This week we will take you to a hospital in bag ram airfield where we got a rare look at Afghan women and children interacting with Vermont guard troops.
In Afghanistan, women are hardly ever photographed.
In fact their culture calls for men to look the other way when women are walking down the street so this was a very unique opportunity for us and we got some amazing and heartwarming interactions.
>> We are definitely looking forward to that.
Been amazing reports that.
will this be Wednesday on the Channel 3 news at 6:00
>> You've got it.
Until then take care everybody.
I'm Darren Perron.
>> I'm Kristin Carlson.
Have a great Sunday.