Susan Piccoli, a librarian at Woodstock High School and Middle School (WUHSMS), has received the 2021 Victor R. Swenson Award. Named after the organization’s first executive director, the award recognizes a Vermont educator who exemplifies excellence in the teaching of the humanities.
Piccoli has avidly participated in Vermont Humanities’ statewide one-book Vermont Reads program. In October 2019, she partnered with WUHSMS history and English teachers to arrange a field trip for 120 students to see civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis and his March Trilogy co-author Andrew Aydin at a Vermont Reads event held at the Flynn Center in Burlington.
“The entire sophomore class read March: Book One in their history classes and then we went to see John Lewis and Andrew Aydin speak,” Piccoli recalled. “The moment I was proudest of during that trip was when my students lined up to shake John Lewis’s hand as they were waiting for the bus. The students found the book and the authors’ stories relatable and inspirational.”
Before taking the helm as the library media specialist for WUHSMS, Piccoli was a history teacher at the school. “Eleven years ago, former principal Greg Schillinger asked Susan to move from her role as one of our best AP U.S. History and American History teachers to head our library programs,” wrote fellow teacher Martha Perkins in her recommendation letter for Piccoli’s award. “Susan’s instructional, inspirational and intellectual gifts are ones that all of our students and faculty benefit from on a daily basis.”
Piccoli is the advisor of several clubs at WUHSMS including Culture Club and the Young Adult Diverse Books Book Club. Prior to the pandemic, Culture Club took trips to Boston and New York City to experience a variety of different cultures. “The cultural immersion experiences I have shared with Ms. Piccoli have changed my life”, says Julia Kowalski, a Culture Club student. During the pandemic, Piccoli had to pivot and started the Diverse Books Book Club that met monthly via zoom to discuss books with diverse characters by diverse authors.
Piccoli utilizes her many skills and expertise to develop curriculum that is intentional while giving students access to experiential learning. She holds degrees in art history, history, education, a museum studies certificate and a school library media specialist endorsement.
For Piccoli, her interests and versatile background lend to a holistic way of interacting with her students. “I believe that exposure to the arts can be transformative, whether it’s the visual arts, literary arts or performing arts. I try to incorporate all of those mediums into my practice,” she said.