Every morning in a house behind Northfield Middle High School, Mr. Foley begins class with only a handful of students. It's a different kind of teaching that gives kids the chance to make a difference outside of the classroom.
"We reconstructed three bridges and put them in and we got like three more bridges to redo," student Eric Moore said.
The STAR Program puts real-life projects in the hands of these young adults. In addition to the typical classroom lessons, rebuilding trails and hiking through the woods are a new way of learning they will never forget.
"It's not a traditional setting, but it's better. I learn better; the people that are here learn better," student Kelsea Bourne said.
Foley has been teaching for nine years.
He joined the STAR Program three years ago, teaching English, science and math.
Tuesday, he was honored as Vermont's 2014 Vermont Teacher of the Year.
"It's been a journey," Foley said. "We've been doing a lot of really great work around the community and around the state. And for me, it's really gratifying to see the kids grow and learn about themselves while they're also fulfilling the needs of our education system."
Foley will travel to Washington, D.C., to stand alongside teachers from across the U.S., each representing their state as candidates for the National Teacher of the Year Award.
"I think that he really deserves it," Bourne said. "He really cares about his kids."
Foley will also visit Vermont schools to talk with teachers about different ways to engage kids, and how the STAR Program has changed the lives of his students.
"They're having fun. They're taking on projects that they believe in and they're learning, as a byproduct, all of the things that we need them to learn," Foley said.
High school students of all ages are able to join the program. It's a way of learning they hope will help incoming students reach their full potential.
"I hope that they're just as passionate for the program. I hope that they have the good relationships with Judy and Luke that I have. I hope that they can change their life like my life's been changed," Bourne said.
"The fulfillment comes in watching them grow, watching them learn, but also seeing that spark ignite within them which really is a testament to how much they've grown, how much they've learned about themselves," Foley said.
A dedicated teacher earning an A+ for inspiring kids.
Foley will attend the awards reception at the White House this spring.
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