Our new assistant principal, Bill Deiss, was born in Toledo, Ohio, but spent his high school years in Singapore; Jakarta, Indonesia; Palos Verdes, California; and Mclean, Virginia. “My dad’s job required us to move fairly often,” Bill said about his early life, “It could be described as eclectic or transient.”
He went on to study at Randolph Macon, a small liberal arts school in Virginia. Then he got his Masters at Wingate University. “I found that I thrived in a smaller environment.”
After college, he went on to specialize in Special Education for eight years in self- contained classrooms at a high school in North Carolina working with behaviorally challenged students. He then left special education. “I wanted to be the master of my own classroom.”
Bill became certified in mathematics and started teaching 9th grade algebra. He also was involved with many extra curriculars such as coaching tennis. “I really like to get involved.” Later the Dean of students position opened up, which he held for 3 years. He was honored as employee of the year.
He likes that Vermont is less crowded, and enjoys outdoor activities such as jogging, hiking, and snowshoeing. About U-32, he said, “I really appreciate the way people accept each other for who they are up here. It’s refreshing and enjoyable for me to see.”
Bill has already found one thing he would like to improve about our school. “On the SATs, this student body scores above the state and the national average, however only 50% of the graduating classes apply to or go to a form of higher education after high school. I value education, I think it’s a way to a better life.”
He wonders if students aren’t getting enough information about college, such as scholarships that are available. “I have a lot of questions before I can come up with solutions. I am going to approach this first year with an open mind.”
Bill is currently living in Calais, and has two kids: a daughter named Charlotte, a student at Carnegie Mellon University, and a son, Gavin, a junior here at U-32.
It’s nine o’clock on Monday morning. Most of the school’s administrators are at their desks, getting ready for their day. Matt Kolva, however, has already been working for three hours, setting up new playground equipment at nearby Doty Elementary. The rest of his day will be just as busy: working on sports fields, preparing cross country trails for this weekend’s meet, and managing the school’s alarm systems.
Kolva is U-32’s new Director of Buildings and Grounds. His average day is “getting in at six, and just rolling with it.” This isn’t surprising, considering how many aspects of the school Kolva is responsible for. He is in charge of “the roof, the ceiling, the windows, the doors, the grasses, the ballfields, the vehicles, a lot of the budgets, and all that fun stuff” for U-32 and the five elementary schools that feed into it.
Kolva compared the job to “eating an elephant. It’s one bite at a time. You can’t just go ahead and change everything right off the bat, you gotta see how it works first,” he said. “Although if I was gonna make a big change, I would get irrigation on the ballfields.”
Kolva’s job is to make all the decisions that affect the buildings or grounds, but he says his goal is just to keep everything running smoothly. “I want to leave it better than when I got here, so that when the next person in this spot gets here it’ll be functioning well,” he said. At this point in the year, he’s focused on “learning the school and learning the people.”
When Jessica Labonte arrived on the first day of school, she was impressed when the seniors received recognition by the entire high school in the gymnasium. “I especially loved at the beginning of the year when the seniors came out and everyone applauded, that’s something at my prior high school, we could never do with such a large school.”
When Labonte is not at school, she is enjoying the outdoors of Vermont: kayaking, skiing, hiking and walking her dogs. These are the benefits that she couldn’t enjoy to the fullest when she was living near Stamford, Connecticut. Labonte taught jewelry/metalsmithing, photography, computer graphics, and pottery for 16 years before moving back to Vermont where she could continue to take advantage of the outdoors and “create with kids all day.”
During high school at Twin Valley High in Wilmington, VT, she knew from excelling in art classes and on the potter’s wheel that she wanted to pursue a career in art. From there, she decided to take more art classes which then evolved into education courses to teach. Now she is the long term sub for Kristine Chartrand at U-32. Labonte still learns on the job even after teaching for over 16 years. “She [Kristine] is amazing with organizing; which makes the transition even easier,” said Labonte.
“My gram asked me once, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’ and I said I want to be a gardener and a teacher and an artist and I just listed all these things and I feel like I am all those things. There’s no reason why you need to box yourself in.”
These are the words of Kim Mckeller, U-32’s new mentor coordinator. Three years ago the last mentor coordinator retired and since then Kim has been working about 7-10 hours a week, but not enough to even be considered part time. This year they decided they needed more time, so now she officially works part time.
She works with kids in Pilot, Branching Out, internships, independent studies, and other programs that get kids out of the traditional school environment. She and her coworkers help about one hundred students a year. It seems fitting that someone who is such a versatile person is helping kids with a learning style that is so versatile.
“I really love working with the students and seeing them light up about things that are really meaningful to them, and they are excited to learn, because I feel like that’s when the best learning is happening.”
Aside from here she works at the Vermont higher education collaborative. She wants to help people find that one thing that they are excited about. Whether it is something for a career or just a hobby that they love.
Kim has gone all over the place in her life. She grew up in Maine and since then she has lived in western Massachusetts, Boston, Niger, Botswana, and Oregon. She ended up here and we are all lucky to have such a open-minded person in our community.
Laura grew up in Vermont, going to Mt. Mansfield high school, before moving to Stowe to raise her own family. She majored in business and outdoor education, which she used as a parks and recreation director before changing jobs when she “really decided I wanted to work with individuals with special needs.”
Laura enjoys the outdoors, hiking, playing sports, or “skinning,” which involves climbing a mountain on skis using adhesive skins before skiing back down. She also coached soccer for nine years while her children were in school, which captured both her love of sports and family. “Family is important, doing family things, sticking together, having dinner together. Having fun.”
Laura is an easygoing person, but she’s also very dedicated to what she does: helping people. Aside from running the Transition Academy, which helps older students learn skills they may need before heading off into the world, she also works as a special education instructor.
“In Special Education, you don’t fit a student into a program that already exists,” said Laura. “If a student needs a program with special needs, it’s your obligation as a school to create that program, or that class, or that experience.”
Sue Ognibene, pronounced ON-yu-BEN-ay, is a new special educator here at U-32.
“The fact that no one can say my name is hysterical. I’m apparently known as ‘Sue with the really weird ‘O’ last name!’” She likes the first name basis at U-32, “because now no one has to butcher my last name. It’s awesome.”
Sue taught in New Jersey for 14 years before coming here, where it’s “pretty low key.”
She reports that, unlike the environment here at U-32, “New Jersey is pretty rigid, like you’ve got to do this by this time and in this way and fill out this form, and very by the book.”
Sue prefers our system, because New Jersey’s focus on money and funding “is not always best for learning.”
Sue said her favorite part of U-32 is TA. “They don’t have that in New Jersey. You just get a guidance counselor in high school so there’s no other extra support. It’s really cool to follow kids from 7th grade all the way through [high school].”
Sue has been interested in teaching special education since her high school days. “I went to a very small school that had a severely handicapped school attached to it and we were like the buddy. They would come up and do PE and do activities with us,” Sue said. “I always thought I would change my mind, throughout the years, that I would go into something different, and I never did. I always went back to education, and helping out kids who just needed a little more practice.”
Despite how much Sue enjoys being here, there is one thing she would change: “Every student would have at least one fun time in the day. I know a lot of students have a lot of these hard classes. […] They maybe don’t get the elective they need or want for that outlet, because they’ve got to do all these academic things, so it’d be really cool if every student could have that one class that they wanted.”
Walking into the band room, not much has physically changed but you can feel a difference. Though David Powelson has only been the band teacher a few weeks, his slight southern accent and his high-energy teaching
Starting at a new school can be a very stressful time, not only for students, but teachers, who have to adapt to a new schedule, new coworkers and new students. David is coming from six years teaching at two schools in Tennessee. As a music teacher moving schools, he has had to “get to know [the students] and what they can do.”
“That’s what’s important to me. Individual students learning to play,” David said. “I like it when students are successful.”
It’s clear David loves his work. As he says, “with teaching, no two days are the same”.
Until you turn around. Then, you’d see Kara Rosenberg, U-32’s new English teacher, busy typing away on her computer, while trying to talk to a handful of students, all in her free time. Surrounding her, a clutter of books, sticky notes, and papers. Some of Sarah’s old students’ paintings are still on the walls.
The room may look the same as last year, but the teacher, and the energy in the room, is completely different.
Kara has been all around the world. “I’ve lived in many parts of the world, including Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria!” She’s taught at the international school of Tbilisi, and even speaks Russian. Most recently Kara taught at Williamstown, and now she finds herself at U-32.
“Friendly, smart, labyrinthine.” Those are the three words Kara used to describe our school. “When I walk in the hallways the students will say hi, and many of them I’ll see reading.”
When Georgia Roy graduated from high school, she gave a speech to the effect of: “ I have no clue what I’m doing, and I have no clue what I’m going to college for, and that’s okay.”
A few years after this speech Roy got a job teaching math at Hazen, following in her father’s footsteps. Roy is now continuing in the same position at U-32. She calls it her “first big girl job.”
In the classroom, Roy has “tried to integrate technology into the classroom, which means it might not be me up at the front of the classroom–it could be them watching videos or playing games and apps.” She says this allows students to explore math.
One thing Roy is excited about is our TA system. Although Hazen had a TA system she likes U-32’s better. “I have eight kids that I’ll be able to see grow up and I’m really excited about that.”
When our new high school math teacher Cari Wilson went to college, her plan was to become an engineer. “Teaching wasn’t really on my radar. I wanted to get out of school, like everybody”, she says.
Cari was raised in Maine, where she graduated high school. She continued on and attended the University of Vermont for two years, then transferred to the University of Connecticut. She then attended graduate school at the University of Southern Maine where she received a Master’s degree in Statistics.
Cari decided to try teaching math because she enjoyed teaching swimming lessons. She emphasizes: “about 15 years into teaching, I was tired”. She went on to start a desk job, but she did not enjoy it as she expected.
Nearly a month in, Cari decided a desk job wasn’t for her. She says, “that cured me of ever not wanting to teach again. I love it. I love mathematics and the kids.”
After thirty years of teaching, Cari has had lots of experience at many different schools. Cari has taught at Vergennes High School, Peoples Academy, a couple schools in New York, the Community College of Vermont and an international school, Cairo American College.
Now at U-32, Cari says she likes our school a lot. She especially admires our callback system, our advisory system and all the built in ways students can receive extra help if they need it. She uses three words to describe U-32, “Energetic, Innovative, Friendly.” Cari says, “I don’t think students understand what a little treasure they have here.”