Swenson 2006

Last Updated 6/7/2011 2:15:13 PM

Swenson Award 2006

Roberta Steponaitis, Vergennes Union High School

Former board chair Melissa Hersh, Roberta Steponaitis, and VHC Executive Director Peter Gilbert.

A Vergennes Union High School teacher who has inspired students for 22 years has been named Vermont's humanities educator of the year for 2006.

The Vermont Humanities Council has chosen Roberta Steponaitis, a teacher of history and geography, to receive its annual Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award. The award is the fourth given out by VHC since inaugurating the award in 2003.

“Roberta Steponaitis is the teacher they [students] will remember when they think back to their high school days, as having made a pivotal difference in their lives,” said Dr. Carol Spencer, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development of the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union, in her nomination letter. “She touches the lives of the students she meets in a personal and influential way.”

Vermont Humanities Council Chair Melissa Hersh presented the award at VHC's fall conference, Setting as Character: Vermont’s Landscape, Stories, and Sense of Place, November 4 at the Killington Grand Hotel in Killington. The ceremony included the presentation of a $1,000 check to Ms. Steponaitis.

VHC created the award to recognize a Vermont educator on an annual basis and to honor Victor R. Swenson, the Council’s first executive director. The award is given to a Vermont educator in grades 6 through 12 who exemplifies excellence in the teaching of the humanities.

Steponaitis has taught at Vergennes Union High School since 1984. During those 22 years, she has taught at the middle and high school levels, offering courses in US History, global religions, world cultures, civics, and current events.

She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Vermont in 1982 and her Masters of Education from the University of Phoenix in Arizona in 2005. She will complete her PhD at the University of Phoenix in 2008.

Says Spencer, “I believe that the spirit of inquiry that she fosters in her students clearly represents the spirit that the Victor Swenson Humanities Educator Award celebrates.”

Steponaitis encourages her students to use primary resources to investigate the lives of historical people. She founded the Otter Creek Basin Student History Club to encourage passion about local, state, and national history in her students. And she takes her students to museums and reenactments throughout the region. Her students have earned many local, state, and national awards.

“Ms. Steponaitis’s . . . commitment to bringing history alive for her students has given two generations of students a stronger sense of belonging to a place in history,” notes Spencer. “She helps students to become scholars. . . . She inspires students to aspire more highly in their lives. She reaches out and taps them on the shoulder and says, ‘you would be good at this history project. Come on. Give it a try.’ For so many kids, that is all it takes to get them involved, and to help them make a commitment to deeper engagement in their schooling.”

Nominations for the Victor Swenson Humanities Educator Award are due June 15.

Learn more about the Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award.

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