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Burke Town School Teacher Chosen for 2018 Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award

The Vermont Humanities Council (VHC) has named Morgan Moore, a teacher of English and social studies at Burke Town School, as its 2018 humanities educator of the year.

VHC will honor Moore with the sixteenth Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award on November 17 at UVM’s Dudley H. Davis Center at VHC’s Fall Conference, “The Ebb and Flow of Optimism through American History.” VHC Board Chair Rolf Diamant will present the award to Moore, along with a $1,000 check.

Moore has taught the seventh and eighth grades at Burke Town School for three years. In that brief amount of time her work has been celebrated by colleagues as transformational to the learning environment of the school and to the lives of its students, gaining national attention along the way.

“[Ms. Moore] was recruited and hired specifically for her extraordinary passion for engaging student learners and for her motivation and skill to be able to establish a dynamic middle school program,” said Burke principal Stacy Rice. “Her students are motivated and committed to perform at high levels. She continuously goes above and beyond for her school, students, and community.”

In the classroom, Moore’s curriculum design and focus on project-based learning has earned the praise of fellow teachers. “As a veteran teacher, I taught Morgan how to run a reading and writing workshop and how to formatively assess students,” said colleague Des Hertz. “Morgan was a quick study and soon began teaching me.”

In one unit on civil rights, Hertz noted, Moore’s eighth-grade students read rigorously across genres and wrote about their own values. They then entered a national writing contest about overcoming challenges based on the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball. One of Moore’s students won the contest and a trip to the World Series, and the school was honored with a visit by Jackie Robinson’s daughter Sharon.

One hallmark of Moore’s teaching is the design of interdisciplinary learning experiences in the field that have “managed to capture an audience of teenage learners that typically cannot or do not want to participate in school-based activities,” said Rice.

For one such field experience, Moore applied for and received a Specialized Foundation Riding for Focus grant, which awarded 20 bicycles to the school. Students use the bikes during gym class and for an after-school bike club that promotes equity by allowing all students exercise and access to the Kingdom Trails. This and other outdoor activities have helped build motivation and confidence among Moore’s students. “They have completely embraced their project-based learning,” said Rice, which has included numerous hands-on learning experiences in and around the school.

Like many recipients of the Swenson Award, Moore’s approach to education ripples outward from the classroom into the greater community, building connections between students and the world around them. Integral to this approach is the students’ immersion in U.N. Global Goals research projects. Involving at least ten separate field experiences, the self-designed projects focus on local needs, from community gardens to combating hunger to wilderness first aid. Students have learned grant writing, effective communication with the community, how to use social media to promote their causes, and more. These experiences “inspire their enthusiasm and quite possibly set the stage for their college and career aspirations,” said Rice.

Another initiative, Humans of Burke, sends students out to interview community leaders who inspire them, culminating with a published work and art exhibit that draws robust attendance from the public. The teaching unit won the New England League of Middle Schools Beane-Brodhagen Award and has made local and national news: Vermont’s Associated Press bureau and the San Francisco Chronicle have both run stories on Humans of Burke.

Beyond her teaching accomplishments, Moore has worked to promote the professional development of her fellow middle school teachers in the Caledonia North Supervisory Union. She has also written and been awarded several grants for Burke Town School totaling over $37,000, including from UVM’s Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education and from VHC for a 2018 Humanities Camp.

Moore’s efforts have made a difference to her school, her colleagues, and especially the young people in her classroom. “[Morgan] has brought so much to this tiny rural school and its students,” said Hertz. “[She] cares deeply about creating educated, well-rounded, confident, curious citizens. She brings passion to her classroom on a daily basis and inspires students to do their best.”

About the Swenson Award

VHC created the Swenson Award in 2003 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.

About the Vermont Humanities Council

A statewide nonprofit organization founded in 1974, the Vermont Humanities Council seeks to engage all Vermonters in the world of ideas, foster a culture of thoughtfulness, and inspire a lifelong love of reading and learning.