I imagine that many of us in education have fantasized more than once about starting our own school. I certainly have, and perhaps if I was ten years younger, I just might take a stab at it!
Facilities, funding, politics and state approval aside, I would already have the most important component in place—the faculty. Imagine forming a school with many of the most innovative, progressive, compassionate and visionary teachers in Vermont. Six years into our work, The Rowland Foundation has identified and nurtured thirty-seven such teachers. They are our Rowland Fellows!
Having served as a principal for 28 years both in a K-8 and 9-12 setting, I know how blessed I was to have forward thinking teacher leaders on the faculty. I also know how challenging it was to move people out of their comfort zones.
While the Fellows have worked on their own initiatives to assist in transforming their schools and enhancing the climate for learning, they have collaborated closely with the Fellows selected during the same sabbatical year. Meeting four to six times throughout the year with Senior Rowland associates, Jean Berthiaume and Mike Martin, they have developed close personal and professional relationships due to the greatest gift The Rowland Foundation provides–time to explore, to travel, to observe, to weigh, and to build relationships. Imagine the school with a faculty so harmonious, so connected and committed to one another!
As of this writing, we are poised to announce our next group of Rowland Fellows. It is hard to believe, but in just six short years, the Foundation is now seeing approximately a 6:1 ratio of applications to fellowships. By nature of school needs and teacher interests, the proposals will vary. But what is common, particularly among those selected for a fellowship, is the passion to make things better for students, to take risks, to make a difference and to upset the apple cart. Our Fellows recognize that the way we organize instruction and define learning must change.
Capitalizing on what has been modeled by these horizontal cohorts of inspiring teachers, The Rowland Foundation has now established vertical cohorts of its Fellows organizing Fellows from 2009-2013 fellowships around areas of interest and expertise. After a year of conversations, these groups, facilitated by newly named Rowland Associates, are now meeting regularly in different corners of the state to explore how they can affect change around the key issues which resonate with any Vermont high school trying to find a better way.
In future Rowland Foundation blogs, I expect our Fellows to detail the work of their vertical cohort. For now, I can’t help but to imagine that imaginary school blessed by the professionalism and wisdom of these teachers.
I do love my job!
Chuck Scranton spent 35 years in schools, 28 of which were in school leadership. From 1993-2008 he was the Headmaster of Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester and taught in the English and history departments. He served on the Executive Committee of the Vermont Independent School Association and the Board of Directors of the Independent School Association of Northern New England. Chuck received his B.S. in Economics from Wagner College and his Masters in Education from Rutgers University.