Harwood Union High School students and teachers gathered just after noon Monday for a school assembly, but it also included something special. They were honoring one of their own -- a teacher nominated for a national award by her co-workers.
"Two teachers actually did it together -- jointly -- and recognized a coworker for a program called Speak Out, that she initiated several years ago that has had a tremendous influence with students with disabilities," said Harwood Co-Principal Amy Rex.
Colleagues and students nominated Maureen Charron-Shea for the LifeChanger of the Year Award for her work as a special education teacher. Six years ago she helped her special ed students produce a documentary as a service learning project. For the first time, it gave them a voice to tell their own stories.
"I think it is when she hears students stand up in front of people and share their stories -- there is something powerful about that -- I think for all of us in education -- when a young person feels confident enough, safe enough to share their stories with others," said Steve Rand, a Harwood English teacher.
Charron-Shea was recognized in front of the school for the work she has done with her students, past and present. "Each year LifeChanger of the Year will honor ten outstanding educators, and today we are here to recognize one of them. Maureen Charron-Shea was selected as a top three finalist out of hundreds of nominees across the country," said Mallorie Manosh with National Life Group, the administrator of the award.
As one of the top three finalists, Charron-Shea has been invited to a national awards ceremony in Florida in March where the grand prize winner, first runner up and second runner up will be announced. The top cash prize is $10,000, split between the school and the teacher. First runner up gets $7,000 and the second runner up gets $5,000.
"I am totally shocked," said Charron-Shea. "I had no idea I knew I was nominated, but to come to this assembly and get this award, I am so shocked."
She credited her students for her success, and said special education has come a long way since she first started teaching. "When I started 30 years ago I was once asked to work in a bathroom, or even a closet, so today things have changed thank goodness. We are working with students and telling their stories -- I always say publicly with pride -- because these students now instead of being ashamed by a label are empowered by it."
The students have now produced two documentaries, children's books and even music. And Charron-Shea says its just the beginning.
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:27 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:27:22 GMT
Town meeting day didn't bode well for dozens of school budgets across the state. Now the Burlington City Council is looking to cut costs after voters rejected school spending hikes. The council votedMore >>
Town meeting day didn't bode well for dozens of school budgets across the state. Now the Burlington City Council is looking to cut costs after voters rejected school spending hikes.More >>
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:26 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:26:45 GMT
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill passed Tuesday allows an unlimited number of qualified Vermonters to access medical marijuana -- removing theMore >>
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries.More >>
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:26 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:26:03 GMT
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman. 43-year-old Craig Dubuque was arrested for the alleged financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Police sayMore >>
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 11:35 PM EDT2014-03-12 03:35:07 GMT
"You know, people say you might not need it, which is true, but this way you get a choice. I don't have to go out tomorrow," said Lorinda Henry of Milton. Henry says she hit the grocery stores TuesdayMore >>
Parts of Vermont could get up to 24 inches of snow in the coming storm. And VTrans officials are warning drivers they may not be able to keep up with the storm rolling in Wednesday.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 8:02 PM EDT2014-03-12 00:02:07 GMT
"Seems like it was just yesterday. Doesn't seem like it's been two years at all," said Glenda Reandeau of Tupper Lake. Residents of Tupper Lake still have their eyes out for Colin Gillis, a now 20-year-oldMore >>
Colin Gillis of Tupper Lake, N.Y., disappeared two years ago. And authorities are still searching for him. They say the investigation now focuses on tips from the public and from those who were the last to see Gillis.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 6:17 PM EDT2014-03-11 22:17:43 GMT
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser. Authorities say Officer Adam Lucia was one of two officers responding to an aggravated assault call Monday at TopsMore >>
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser.More >>