Swenson Award 2007
Jean Berthiaume, Harwood Union High School
Harwood Union High School teacher Jean Berthiaume has been named the 2007 humanities educator of the year by the Vermont Humanities Council. A teacher of social studies at Harwood, Berthiaume is the fifth recipient of VHC’s annual Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award, first given out in 2003.
"We have many, many excellent teachers across the state of Vermont who meet many, if not all, of the criteria for this award,” said VHC board member Joseph Bocchino, head of the Swenson Award selection committee.
“Jean Berthiaume has had wide-ranging support from colleagues, students, and administrators in his long years of service. The passion that comes through in his efforts to encourage and facilitate lifelong learning, civic-mindedness, and participation in democracy, represents and honors all of the teachers who support our communities proudly.”
In several nomination letters, Berthiaume’s supporters spoke about his deep and enthusiastic commitment to his students, his creative and progressive approach to developing a curriculum, and about the connections drawn in his classes between the personal and the global.
“Jean’s ability to listen, question and challenge students is exquisite. He [takes] an insightful and bold stance towards the difficult issues of our times,” said Amy Demarest, an adjunct professor at St. Michaels College whose doctoral work has included time observing Berthiaume’s classes. “[He believes] that grappling with the challenging issues provides the best opportunity for learning.”
“Whether we are deeply involved in student-led discussion, or Mr. B shares an inspiring story, I always leave with a new understanding or awareness about the world’s problems and a creative, yet viable, solution,” said Harwood student Gabriela Meade. “His class has taught me and many others that we are the future.”
Vermont Humanities Council Chair Melissa Hersh presented the award at VHC's fall conference, The Northern Civil War Home Front, November 10 at the Inn at Essex. The ceremony included the presentation of a $1,000 check to Mr. Berthiaume.
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.
Berthiaume has taught at Harwood Union High School since 1996 and for the last nine years in social studies. His courses include World History, U.S. History, Economics, Co/Motion (an elective with a focus on service learning), and Creating Sustainable Communities, which explores democracy-related issues, environmental, economic, and cultural sustainability, and responsible citizenship.
Berthiaume received his bachelor’s degree from Lyndon State College. He earned a Masters in Education from the University of Vermont in 2006 while continuing his teaching at Harwood. His other awards include the Richard F.W. Whittemore History Prize for Excellence in Teaching (given by the Ethan Allen Homestead) and Washington West Supervisory Union Teacher of the Year.
“It would be fitting for Jean Berthiaume to receive this award because his mentor and inspiration was Graham Newell, the first recipient of the Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award,” said Maureen Charron-Shea, who works in Harwood Union High School’s Learning Resource Department. “[He] has a gift for making social studies dynamic and meaningful. . . . [He] is very often the teacher who students name as their favorite, most memorable, and most inspirational because he inspires them to open their minds to a lifetime of learning and participation in community and democracy.”
Nominations for the Swenson Humanities Educator Award are due June 15.
Learn more about the Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award.