10192021 Teacher of the Year

In North Clarendon, Vt., at Mill River Union High School, Karen McCalla is named Vermont’s Teacher of the Year. McCalla is pictured with Principal Tyler Weideman, Secretary of the Agency of Education Daniel French, and Superintendent David Younce.

NORTH CLARENDON, Vt. — Rutland County boasts Vermont’s latest teacher of the year.

Karen McCalla, a librarian and technology integration specialist at Mill River Union High School, is the recipient of the state’s 2022 Teacher of the Year Award.

Education Secretary Dan French and Mill River administrators honored McCalla at a ceremony outside the high school Monday afternoon.

French called McCalla an “incredibly skillful educator,” describing her advocacy for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) education as critically important as society undergoes rapid technological changes.

“So a teacher like Karen, with that experience, she sits at the cusp of all the good work that’s gone on in Vermont education in the past and all the promise of the good work that lies before us,” French said.

Mill River Superintendent David Younce said recommending McCalla for the award was the easiest letter he’s ever written, stating, “When you speak well about amazing people, and the great things that they do, it flows.”

“Those in the audience who are educators, you know that none of us enter this field for accolades. None of us enter this field for awards,” he said. “We enter this field because we want to take care of people. We want to serve students. We want to see the spark of learning. We want to experience what it feels like when someone makes progress and grows. That’s the excitement that goes into being a teacher and being an educator.”

In a written statement, Principal Tyler Weideman said McCalla “is the type of educator every school building needs.”

He added, “Given her background in technology, Karen, during diverse and challenging times, has held MRU together over the last two years, providing support to our students, teachers, and community.”

An educator at Mill River for nearly 20 years, McCalla also coaches robotics for upper elementary, middle and high school students, and serves as executive director and coordinator of member services and education at The MINT makerspace in Rutland.

Last year, her robotics teams produced thousands of face shields designed at The MINT for local hospital, ambulance crews and health care workers.

Speaking Monday, McCalla said she was humbled and honored, noting that she’s the first teacher-librarian to receive award.

As Teacher of the Year, she said plans to focus on the importance of hands-on STEAM education for all K-12 students in Vermont.

“This year, I look forward to connecting, contributing, supporting and amplifying the great work that’s happening already all across the State of Vermont,” she said.

“I’m really excited to take on new Teacher of the Year challenges, advocating for STEAM education for everybody,” she said. “So whether you live in a small town or one of our bigger cities, whether you have computers at home or not, should not indicate whether you know things about STEAM or could use a STEAM career.”

McCalla said that one of the most personally rewarding parts of being an educator is providing students with “a-ha moments.”

“That’s my favorite part — just watching the light bulb go on for a kiddo who might have been struggling or just didn’t get it and, then, see them get really fired up,” she said.

Established in 1964 by the Agency of Education, the Vermont Teacher of the Year award recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers in the state’s K-12 schools. McCalla, who is also Vermont’s candidate for the 2022 National Teacher of the Year award will represent the state next spring for the National Teacher of the Year program, typically held in Washington, D.C.

While excited to be recognized, McCalla acknowledged the hard work of other teachers across the state, saying many others are also worthy of the honor.

“Just in my building, there are so many people who could be the teacher of the year,” she said.

jim.sabataso @rutlandherald.com

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