Rutland County librarian named Vt. Teacher of the Year

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 6:35 AM EDT
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NORTH CLARENDON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Rutland County librarian has been named Vermont Teacher of the Year. Vermont education officials traveled to Mill River Union High School in North Clarendon Monday to bestow the honor.

“I’m excited to represent Mill River and the state of Vermont as the teacher of the year,” McCalla said.

Surrounded by family, students, faculty, and friends -- the librarian and technology integration specialist was named as 2022′s Vermont Teacher of the Year. The first time a librarian has received this honor since the first award was given in 1968. “Being a school librarian is a tough job and a lot of our schools -- you don’t have the hours that you need and you sometimes don’t have the help you need,” McCalla said.

Vermont Education Secretary Dan French has worked with McCalla on technology in schools. “She’s been an innovator for many years,” he said. French cited her work supporting the school as it switched to remote learning at the beginning of the pandemic and her dedication to introducing STEAM, science, technology, engineering, art, and math to the Rutland community.

McCalla now joins honorees from other states with a chance of being named national teacher of the year.

Reporter Olivia Lyons: What do you think Karen’s chances are for being the national teacher?

Dan French: I think they’re really good. I would be very excited to have someone like her with her capabilities and perspective representing us.

McCalla knew she was a finalist but says she did not expect to win. “I was surprised,” she said.

But Ari Lefebre, one of her robotic league students says otherwise. “I think that’s really cool and not very surprising, honestly. Really easy to understand her and what she talks about and I think she has a lot of experience with kids and that definitely helped that,” he said.

As teacher of the year, McCalla says her goal is to increase more STEAM opportunities, not just in her district but across the state. “One of my hopes is to be able to make access to really high-quality STEAM education a lot more equitable,” she said. By doing so, she says students who find writing as a barrier can express what they’ve learned in other ways, like through video, audio, or 3D printed items, and that it has longer-lasting impacts. “There are so many careers now that you can have that use that STEAM problem-solving ability, but doesn’t always translate into sitting behind a computer screen all day programming.”

Also recognized this year were finalists Kyle Chadburn at Orleans Elementary School and Susannah Cowden at Harwood Union High School.

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