Advancing Equity for Children and Youth January 23, 2021



"Selfcare, Healing, and Equity Responsive Practices For Educators When the World Feels Heavy"

Dr. Dena Simmons -Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence 

Sponsored by the University of Vermont's Middle Level Teacher Education Program

Concurrent Sessions

Advancing Equity for Children and Youth by…

Centering Social Justice

Integrating Social Justice and Equity into Humanities

Breana Desjardin & Rob Labate, Rutland Middle School

This unit was designed to more fluidly incorporate Spanish into the eighth-grade humanities team as issues of identity, equity, and social justice are explored in an effort to increase student engagement. The novel Tangerine, by Edward Bloor, was used as students explored social (in)justices and (in)equities that have occurred throughout history to the present day, including cases of immigration and Latinos in the United States.

Making It Safe for BIPOC Educators in Vermont

Jess Decolis and Flor Diaz Smith, VT Taskforce on Diversifying the Educator Workforce

Supporting racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse educators means ensuring that new teachers of color are in safe learning environments and schools and school districts attend to a community culture that supports BIPOC and provide clear pathways for career advancement. We will discuss structures, policies, practices to recruit and retain BIPOC educators.

Changing Student Perceptions of Math Self & Class Through Centering Social Justice

Tom Keblin, Browns River Middle School

This action research project is exploring how centering social justice in a 7th grade math classroom during a proportional reasoning unit impacts engagement and student views of the usefulness of math and its importance in making sense of issues that are important to them. It is still a work in progress; I am looking forward to feedback.

Classroom Community for Courageous Conversations with Young Adolescents

Melissa Eldred, Waits River Valley School

My action research is about building a classroom community to provide my students with strategies to allow for courageous conversations about tough topics such as racism and equity. After creating classroom agreements, my intent is that my students are able to embrace discomfort, use strategies that they’ve learned, and are able to take risks during discussions.

Supporting Identity

Social Identity and Brave Spaces

Grace Gilmour, Crossett Brook Middle School

This action research project will focus on a Social Identity unit at the beginning of the year. The purpose of this unit is to establish a classroom community in which students will develop critical skills and understandings related to social justice and anti-racism.

Birch House: A Community Defined Through the Sharing of Personal Identities and Interests

Roxane Johnson De Lear, Rutland City Public Schools

Being isolated into "houses" during COVID has given the student and teacher members of the Birch House at RMS a chance to find our identity within a smaller community. Through house and personal identity projects, students shared who they are and what is important to them in a variety of ways. By implementing the PIP (Personal Interest Projects), teachers were able to know our students in a different light outside of our content courses as they dove deeply into their own projects.

Uncovering Identity through Literature and More

Frank Kelley, Two Rivers Supervisory Union

This presentation will share the discoveries 5th and 6th grade students made using identity to examine real people and fictional characters. The books, I Will Always Write Back and SeedFolks, were two texts that were examined. This project is ongoing; a variety of resources and ideas will be shared.

Narrative and its Relation to Student Identity

Robert Ruley, Mount Holly School

To study and measure if and how the use of narrative can be used to increase students’ sense of their identity. Through reading and writing narratives, students will be exposed to and asked to consider how the characters’ identities might be similar or different to their own.

Exploring Identity in Science Class

Lawrence Montague, University of Vermont

How can building student identity and voice into learning increase engagement in science? This action research challenged middle grade students at The Schoolhouse Learning Center in South Burlington to connect their culture and interests to meaningful and relevant work in science class.

Exploring Identity with 4th and 5th Graders

Margaret Dunne, Mount Holly School

This exploration focused on supporting students in their own growing personal awareness of their identity and their connections with each other and our world. It brought opportunities to discuss topics like race, gender, ability, and more. This work strengthened my relationship with students, contributed to meaningful personalization, and strengthened our class community.

Energizing Young Adolescents: 20 Restorative Practices that Focus on Celebrating Students’ Assets

Nancy Ruppert, UNC Asheville

Motivating, engaging, and challenging young people starts with a deep commitment to and belief in every child’s potential. By examining our community through an assets-based focus, we turn classrooms, teams, and schools into communities of care. Everyday in my class begins with restorative practices.

Fostering Self-Direction and Reflection

The Sweet Spot: Scaffolding Self-Direction for Virtual & Hybrid Learning Environments

Rachel Mark and Emily Hoyler, Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education

Get a sneak peek from the instructors of the upcoming UVM and TIIE Professional Learning Series course. This session will focus on setting students up for success as self-directed learners. Learn about the misconceptions of student self-direction and identify the types of routines and systems that will work best for your learners.

Implementing PLPs in the midst of a Pandemic

Brooks Sturtevant, Missisquoi Valley Union Middle School

My action research project is studying the effect of the implementation of PLPs using a hybrid schedule and how students are active participants in the creation of PLPs, rubric scales, feedback forms. The goal of my project is to ascertain how effective PLPs can be in development of executive functioning skills amongst middle level learners. How effective can PLPs be when a good deal of learning is outside the traditional classroom and when students are responsible for meeting deadlines and being active participants in their education?

Student Engagement Through Goal Setting and Voice in Personalized Learning Plans

Mackenzie Ramsdell, Chester-Andover Elementary

I will present the results of my plan to use student input, as well as long term and short term goal setting, to help students become more engaged with personalized learning plans (PLPs).

Seeking Common Good: Fostering Community, Discovering Purpose, and Finding Joy in a Pandemic B

Lissa Fox, Harwood Unified Union School District

As students return to a hybrid learning environment in Harwood’s Personal and Future Exploration class, a ninth grade literacy-based course, they spend the quarter developing a Purpose Project which allows them the opportunity to explore a career interest while designing and carrying out a community service project. Please join me as I share the process and products of their work.

The Effectiveness of a Classroom Website and its Impact on Student Self- directed Learning and Family Involvement

Tia Hewes and Maureen Kahill, Greater Rutland Central Supervisory Union

As research suggests, communication and connection between home and school contribute to a child's overall success. This study aimed to collect data and get feedback on how the creation and implementation of our 5/6th grade multi-age classroom website can support self-directed learning and family involvement. Our goal was to create a classroom website that would house all the contact information, instructional materials, school calendar, weekly newsletter, etc. in one place. We conducted a usability study to evaluate the effectiveness of the website in regards to our students’ self-directed learning and family communication at our public school in Poultney, Vermont.

The Impact of Choice on Writing

Brennen Morton, Kingdom East School District

The presentation will discuss the impact of providing a specified student with choices about his writing topic and how it impacted his engagement and work completion in his specialized instruction for writing.

Using Student Reflection on IEP Goals to Develop Reflective Mindsets

Amy Hamblett, Two Rivers Supervisory Union

This project was designed to help special educators think about how to harness the power of the individualized connections they have with their students on IEPs, in order to help students develop the routine practice of, and stamina for, reflection.

Feedback Methods for Individualized Student Growth

Brett Mastrangelo, Green Mountain Union High School

Feedback is a critical component for learning as well as for revision, but is not one size fits all. Providing feedback through the same method, even on similar student work, may not produce similar outcomes. Additionally, feedback can be provided by others besides the classroom teacher.

Examining Bias

Challenging Simplified Notions About Health in the Middle Grades

Lindsay McQueen, Edmunds Middle School, Burlington School District

This project was designed to analyze the extent to which anti-bias lessons in health class change students’ thinking about the causes of health disparities.

Identifying Biases with Students Within Science Content

Allana Page, SAU23

Through the creation of an ecosystem unit that was equitable as well as able to be taught remotely for fall instruction. I learned about how to directly teach students about biases and have more meaningful conversations about our own biases as well as others’ biases. Data was collected through pre and post assessments through google forms as well as teacher observation. We will talk about the successes and pitfalls of this project and the learning that occurred for both teachers and students.

Confronting Stereotypes and Misconceptions in the Spanish Classroom

Lucia Johnson, Lyndon Town School

This year I have been focusing on confronting stereotypes and misconceptions about Spanish and the people who speak it.

Decolonizing Curriculum

Decolonizing the First Feast: Lessons on Thanksgiving

Susy Remaillard, Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School

The Thanksgiving story presents opportunities for teachers to break down myths and stereotypes about indigenous peoples and build greater accuracy into one of the foundational stories of our country. This session will focus on two lessons related to myth busting that can be delivered in both synchronous and asynchronous environments, with a focus on decolonizing methods of instruction as well as content and skills. Participants will be offered an overview of a larger unit created to help students write their own Thanksgiving history using the tools of poetry.

Making Science Authentic: A Place-based, Decolonized Ecology Unit

Natalie Smith, Lyndon Town School

In science education, an important goal is to build students’ connection to their environment. I will describe a unit I built on ecosystems that is based on important local issues and tied to historical land use and Native American traditional ecological knowledge in order to increase students’ cognitive engagement in science.

Equitable Learning Opportunities for Students: In Person and Through Distance Learning

Jennifer Severance, Mill River Union High School

ELA Curriculum in schools has historically been one-sided, not integrating the aspects of equity prevalent to our youth. Instead of basing the curriculum on mainly white American authors that utilize the white privilege power that was “given” to them, why not integrate more equitable material that the students can connect with?

Strengthening Advisories

Building a Strong Foundation: Using Advisory to Support Students in an Uncertain Time

Brie Healy, Williston Central School

The purpose of this project was to encourage students’ sense of belonging and social connectedness in order to promote engagement and social-emotional well-being in response to the detrimental effects of the coronavirus pandemic on adolescents. Through building strong advisory communities, we hope to support our students as we navigate an uncertain learning environment

The Role of Advisory Groups in Creating Community in Middle Schools

Melissa Holtzman, Saint Michael’s College

This project will investigate the degree to which middle-school advisory groups offer students

opportunities to develop close connections with peers and trusted adults. Specifically, a

comparison will be made between a cohort's sixth-grade advisory group experience and their seventh-grade advisory group experience.

Middle School Advisory Block

Courtney Musty, Kate Lester, Paul Choquette, Jim Nelson, Blue Mountain Union School

The purpose of our action research project is to build a consistent framework for our middle school advisories. We will meet daily with our individual advisories to build relationships. The daily advisory activities and discussions will lay the foundation of our bi-weekly town meetings. Through rituals and routines we want our framework to provide students with a comfortable and safe space to express themselves.

School Wide Structure of Advisory

Erica Caetano, Yvonne Panarello, Danielle Pinson, Rutland Middle School

The goal of this action research project was to see if advisories helped to build a stronger sense of community within Rutland Middle School. We implemented a school wide advisory this year at our school. We have had advisory in the past, but this is the first time we are following a united curriculum and have set expectations across all teachers. We wanted to check in with students to see their levels of connection with this advisory structure. This presentation will also note key factors that make advisories successful such as: accessibility, fidelity, and equity.

The Role of Advisory Groups in Creating Community in Middle Schools

Melissa Holzman, Saint Michael's College/Hunt Middle School

This project investigates the degree to which middle-school advisory groups offer a cross-section of seventh- and eighth-grade students opportunities to develop close connections with peers and trusted adults. Attention will be paid to how young adolescents in an alternative education program for students with behavioral issues respond to advisory groups.

Learning Remotely

Equity Strategies in Remote Learning

Wendi Dowst-McNaughton, West Rutland School

How do strategies for equity help support, motivate, and manage remote and hybrid learning? Since remote learning emphasizes inequity overall, I will test concrete strategies for specifically promoting equity for remote learning situations. The equity strategies apply to the curriculum, relationships, and methods of the Middle Level ELA classes.

Effective and Equitable Remote and Hybrid Learning for Students and Families

Heather McGann, The Dorset School

This project is designed to support and encourage middle grade students and their families to take greater ownership of their remote and hybrid learning experiences by increasing opportunities for communication and support. Making a more effective and equitable remote and hybrid learning for students and families.

Lessons Learned from Teaching in a Homegrown Virtual Academy

Emma Vastola, Two Rivers Supervisory Union

Created in August of 2020, The Two Rivers Virtual Learning Academy (TRVLA) is a 100% virtual

academy that serves approximately 70, K-6 students from four sending schools in Southern Vermont. This exploration focuses on how the TRVLA experience has transformed teaching and learning.

A Grand Litany of Hybrid Learning Experiences at Twinfield

Tracey Witherspoon McNaughton, Kandi Greaves, Tom Meegan, Twinfield Union School

Utilizing data from our Action Research Project, teaching practices and collected data, we will reflect on successes and challenges that presented themselves during a hybrid learning environment.

And Much More!

“How To Do School”: A Systematic and Equitable Framework for the First Six Weeks

Charlotte Eberts, Elizabeth Emerson, Evy Gray, Jennifer Macdonald, Sarah Magoon, Shaun Noonan, Joe Speers, Peoples Academy Middle Level

We will describe a framework for the first six weeks of school to ensure the executive functioning and social-emotional needs of young adolescents are met. We will create a warm, inclusive, and safe in-person and remote-learning environment, develop classroom routines and structure, establish guidelines for digital citizenship, and outline expectations for academic work. Taking these things into consideration, we will examine how an explicit and systematic framework for the first six weeks of school can increase engagement, promote individual success, and provide an equitable learning experience for all students?

Universal Close Reading Strategy

Mariah Cleveland, Siobhan Kelly, and Jessica Gordon, White River Valley Middle School

The ELA team from the White River Valley Middle School designed a cross-discipline close reading strategy to address student needs around reading and comprehending informational texts. The team then introduced this strategy to other core content teachers in the middle school in order to create cohesion across all subject areas. The strategy was designed through a lens of equity.

Bringing Literature Home

Jeffrey Palmer and William Stilianessis, NCSUVT

This presentation examines the impact of local, historical context upon teaching literature and inspiring a sense of relevance and personal agency among middle level students.

Resources for All

Jody Chamberlin & Meg Frye, Williamstown Middle High School

We will share ways that Google, FlipGrid, and other sources can be used to make your classroom content accessible to all students in the classroom and virtually. There will be time for attendees to share resources as well. You will walk away with things you can try the next day.

How Can Leadership Change the Culture of Middle School?

Kelly Mulligan, Kingdom East School District

In a small school, such as Sutton, some things tend to be forgotten. In larger schools that consist of just middle school students, you can find leadership and student voice not just in the classroom but schoolwide. Middle school students are a unique group as they move from child to young adult. This growth needs to be facilitated by the teachers and administration and one area that will help facilitate this growth is in leadership. This study will examine different leadership roles and how that leadership affects the middle school environment and all students.