We are proud to announce that this school year we are piloting an exciting new component of the Seedlings Educators Collaborative: The SEC Fellowship. The SEC Fellowship supports a small number of SEC alumni in their ongoing efforts to implement SEC work in their schools, and in their role as a mentor to similarly motivated SEC alumni within their school. Two overarching goals are to (a) connect the curricular work created during the summer workshop with classroom practices inspired by SEC’s educational philosophy, while meeting the goals of Districts and National Standards, and (b) strengthen collaboration and communication among SEC alumni.

Three alumnae who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the program’s philosophy by putting SEC thinking into action in their own classrooms were selected as Fellows for the 2017-2018 year: Diane Huot, Eva Kibby, and Shandra Patton. Through the coming year, these Fellows will be inspiring us with stories of collaborating with colleagues, connecting with community resources, and developing meaningful curriculum through regular entries on our blog.

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Diane Huot is a master teacher with 34 years of experience teaching 1st through 3rd grades in public and parochial schools. She is currently teaching first grade at Conte West Hills School in New Haven, where she has been for 17 years. Enter her classroom and you will be struck by how much knowledge her first graders have to offer about food chains and organisms in their local environment. It is the kind of depth of knowledge that at that age can only have been acquired through personal experience. Indeed, inspired by her Seedlings work, Diane has been taking her classes to Quinnipiac Meadows Salt Marsh regularly for the last two years. There, students have gathered data about the wildlife they discover. (Read more about this here.) Diane has worked hard to develop strong relationships with community partners who have in turn helped her students to integrate their experiences into a broader understanding of food chains, watersheds, habitats, and human impact on the environment. Cesar Garcia Lopez, Diane’s Yale Mentor, and Ivette Lopez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have accompanied Diane’s students on tens of field trips and visited the classroom numerous times to do follow-up work. In the last two years, Diane’s classes have won the city science fair twice. Over the years, Diane has participated in a wide range of professional development workshops, including attending Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and the space program at the Air Force Academy. (Following these space and astronomy workshops, she developed several space/solar system centers and organized sky observations and science nights using a portable planetarium!) Diane credits her work with Seedlings as a participant for two years and now a Fellow, together with her partnerships with community mentors, with helping her to integrate STEAM into her classroom. Diane is clearly someone who never stops learning and trying new things, but even with 34 rich years of experience, she feels that Seedlings is helping her teaching to become “fresher” and “more authentic.”

fullsizeoutput_1b32Eva Kibby is a highly respected teacher with 31 years of experience under her belt. Twenty-two of those years have been spent at Six to Six Interdistrict Magnet School in Bridgeport teaching PreK, 2nd, 3rd, and currently 5th grade. In the next school year, she will be taking on a new role as Science Coordinator. Eva has been recognized over the years as a gifted educator: She was named CES Teacher of the Year for 2011, and has been nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. A true teacher and leader, Eva’s passion is for continued learning. She believes that an effective teacher must be a life-long learner. This philosophy has helped her seek out professional development and share her learning with her colleagues. She is a member of Associated Teachers of Mathematics in Connecticut (ATOMIC), National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and ASM Materials Education Foundation. Eva learned about Seedlings after watching a colleague carry out an integrated restaurant unit that had been developed over the summer workshop, and has since participated for two years as a participant. She has successfully incorporated many components of the program, including devoting Friday afternoons to “TEAM Time” in her classroom. During this time, students are given a challenge. As a small group, they design a solution to a problem, such as making a track that has to go through something or take a right turn, making a double loop roller coaster for a marble to travel through, or making a boat that can float and hold weight. Seedlings, she says has brought her “back to the foundational ideas of developmental appropriateness and learning through play and inquiry.”

SEC_0617_previewShandra Patton has been teaching preschool in the New Haven Public Schools for 11 years, though she has the energy and passion of someone who has just stepped into the classroom for the first time, enthusiastic about young children and eager to try out new ideas. The children’s work on the wall in her classroom at Augusta Lewis Troup School in New Haven, and Shandra’s masterful interactions with her students, however, demonstrate a confidence in pedagogy and trust in children that comes only with experience. Shandra has abandoned manufactured bulletin board materials and charts in favor of children’s artwork and documentation of their words and ideas. She uses art to teach math, science, and literacy. Her block corner takes up a significant portion of the room, and it is always in use. Shandra is passionate about creating developmentally appropriate emergent curriculum, and enjoys helping children engage in learning that reflects their interests.  (Click here to get a more in-depth view into Shandra’s classroom.) Seedlings, Shandra says, has supported her classroom practice by sparking her creativity, helping her to think in an integrated way, and reconnecting her with child development. As a practitioner, she has found herself becoming more reflective and willing to accept mistakes as opportunities to grow. With this process-oriented mindset, Shandra is eager to collaborate as a Seedlings Fellow with colleagues in and outside of her school to share ideas, exchange community resources, and honor the teaching and learning process.

Be sure to check back here often to learn how these talented educators are impacting their students and schools through collaboration, inquiry, and making connections!