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Teacher of the Year

“The mission of the Vermont Teacher of the Year Program is to promote the teaching profession and recognize educators who are modeling exemplary teaching practice in Vermont’s schools. The Vermont Teacher of the Year is an outstanding teacher who represents the thousands of excellent educators in our state, demonstrating leadership to peers by defining quality and rigor and support by sharing collaborative professional knowledge. The Vermont Teacher of the Year serves as an advocate for the teaching profession, education and students.”

2023 Teacher of the Year

Robyn Newton is Vermont’s 2023 Teacher of the Year. The 2022-23 school year marks her 28th year teaching physical education at Vergennes Union Elementary. Robyn is passionate about teaching students new skills, creating unique opportunities for physical activity and play, stressing the importance of movement and health, and bringing joy, fun, smiles and laughter to her students. 

At Vergennes Union Elementary, Robyn leads PE instruction and PE curriculum planning and management for the school. She led the district's effort to secure a nearly $1 million Carol M. White Physical Education Program Grant to provide new equipment, programming and opportunities for the district and VUES.  She takes pride in promoting student and community engagement, providing lessons that build trust, respect, and self confidence.  Robyn promotes the importance of movement as a key to help our students physically, mentally and socially.  Robyn loves collaborating with her colleagues especially during her two week multidisciplinary Olympic Unit. She also started the Action Based Learning (ABL) program in Vergennes where she works with the Kindergarten team as well as several interventionists, paras, counselors and administration. This program is a motor development program based on brain research that supports the link of physical activity to increased academic performance.

Robyn was Addison Northwest School District’s 2001 Elementary Teacher of the Year as part of UVM’s outstanding teacher program, and previously served as the Vice President of the Society of Health and Physical Educators of Vermont (SHAPE VT), and was the organization’s 2010 Elementary PE Teacher of the Year. She also serves as a member of the Vergennes Parks and Recreation Committee and lead a $300,000 project to renovate the community’s ice rink and basketball facility. She has served as Vergennes Elementary school's wellness coordinator for the Vermont Educator Health Initiative (VEHI) and received VEHI’s Rockstar Award in 2017. Robyn previously served as co-chair of the Vergennes Community Group (PTO) as the teacher liaison. Building a better community for her students and families to be active and play is high on her priority list. She continues to bring in programs, equipment, and new spaces to help provide physical activity opportunities for all.

A native of Fairlee VT, Robyn lettered in cross country, basketball and softball at Oxbow High School.  Robyn graduated from UVM with a BS in physical education, where she was a four-year starting first baseman for UVM softball and 1995 Player of the Year. She has a Master’s degree in Education and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study from Southern New Hampshire University. Robyn coached the St. Michael’s College Softball team for 18 years. In 2004 she was named the SMC & Northeast-10 conference coach of the year.

Outside of work, Robyn enjoys traveling, camping, golf, softball, being outdoors and spending time with her family and friends.

2022 Teacher of the Year

Karen McCalla has been a School Librarian/Technology Integration Specialist at Mill River Union High School for 19 years. At Mill River, Ms. McCalla provides opportunities for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) enrichment through the library’s makerspace, and as Vermont Teacher of the Year, she plans to focus on the importance of a hands-on STEAM education for all students. Ms. McCalla also coaches robotics for upper elementary, middle and high school students through the FIRST robotics program and volunteers as Coordinator of Member Services and Education and as a Maker Evangelist at The MINT: Rutland’s Makerspace. In 2020, Ms. McCalla’s robotics teams were part of a volunteer labor force that produced thousands of face shields designed at the MINT makerspace for their local hospital, ambulance crews and healthcare workers. 

“Karen McCalla’s advocacy for a STEAM education for all students is timely and important. The STEAM focus on technical skills and a creative mindset provides lifelong benefits for our students, in their careers and everyday lives.” said Dan French, Vermont Secretary of Education. “Ms. McCalla is providing her students with the tools and the confidence to pursue real world solutions to real world problems.”

“Karen is the type of educator every school building needs,” said Tyler Weideman, Principal of Mill River Union High School. “She is one of those rare educators who always goes above and beyond in everything she does. She is always cheerful and ready to give a boost of confidence to any of her colleagues at every moment in the day. 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. Karen is a fantastic educator. We are lucky to have her.” 

Press Release: Mill River Library and Tech Integration Specialist Named 2022 Vermont Teacher of the Year

2021 Teacher of the Year

When Susan Rosato began in Colchester more than fifteen years ago, she was one of two part-time teachers of English Learner across the entire school district.  Over her tenure, Susan and Colchester have seen a substantial growth in the numbers of students eligible to receive English Learner services. Likewise, Colchester has seen substantial lobbying from Susan to increase staffing to meet this need. Now one of three full-time EL teachers, along with an additional part-time teacher, Susan ensures that her students thrive in her classroom.  But that is only the start.  She is an advocate for her students’ rights and their parents’ inclusion. She collaborates with classroom teachers, school counselors, social workers, and administrators to make certain that her students and their families navigate the education system and community life in Colchester.  This means tirelessly finding translation services for families. This means explicitly teaching cultural norms to her New American students.  This means attending sporting events, plays, and concerts to cheer on her students.  And in the time of COVID, she is the trusted authority for students and their families, taking responsibility to explain both the drastic changes in schooling along with broader public health information.

Likewise, she has developed a professional learning sequence for her peers to help them better understand how to meet the needs of all learners in the school. She has laid bare to her fellow educators the challenges that these students face and how to help them succeed. She has provided perspective and language to help them understand that the diversity of experience and perspectives her students bring make Colchester better. She helps teachers use the experience of her students who were born in refugee camps to make discussions of democracy more visceral and put a face on immigration reform.

While overall Vermont has one of the highest percentages of white citizens in the country, scratching just a bit deeper, the under eighteen population in our larger cities is substantially more diverse, Susan provides, then, a great benefit to all students, teachers, and families in Colchester--and now Vermont--by teaching for the world that will be. And she will also be cheering her students, loudly, from the sidelines of the soccer field.

Press Release: Colchester High School English Learner Teacher Named 2021 Vermont Teacher of the Year

2020 Teacher of the Year

A middle school teacher in her bones, Elisabeth Kahn, who goes by Bibba, has taught in middle schools for more than twelve years. She developed and led student travel programs in Europe and Africa for Putney Student Travel. She brings grade 8 class on an annual trip to Quebec to use their skills in an authentic setting. Kahn works hard to get to know her students, aware of the power of relationships in reaching all learners.

“Bibba Kahn is a an inspiring teacher," said Secretary of Education Dan French. "She is a talented instructor who is focused on the success of her students. She is also a leader in her school and her district, working to help her colleagues implement new best practices. And she is focused on the big picture, passionate about the role of education to foster mutual respect and cultural competence. She will represent our state well at the national level as the Vermont Teacher of the Year."

“It is an honor to represent the hardworking, devoted educators of the state of Vermont,” said Kahn. “As 2020 Teacher of the Year, I am eager to shine a light on all of the great work happening in schools across Vermont. I am particularly excited to work with my colleagues around the state to identify ways to reach students currently struggling to overcome barriers to their education.” "This award could not go to a more deserving professional,” said Montpelier-Roxbury Public Schools Superintendent Libby Bonesteel. “Bibba is an incredibly engaging teacher and the ultimate professional. MRPS is extremely lucky to have her in our family of educators."

2019 Teacher of the Year

Thomas Payeur has been teaching mathematics for six years, all of those at Winooski High School. He is an innovator in the field of proficiency-based education, leading school change efforts to develop best practices in teaching 21st century skills. His mathematics instruction is grounded in research-based methods. His students come from all around the world and constantly challenge him to rethink his assumptions and explore new ways of problem-solving. He strongly believes that all people are math people.

"This honor is an absolute validation of the struggle to reform education with a focus on 21st century skills, across the state of Vermont and the nation as a whole,” said Payeur. When communities are given time and space to come to consensus on the skills their future generations will need to master, hope, possibility, and success bloom in tangible results. The work requires relentless persistence, artful communication, flexible problem solving, imaginative creativity, cultural competence and a focus on the well-being of all involved. The students, staff and larger community of Winooski regularly embody these skills, and as such, I dedicate this honor to them."Also recognized were the 2019 Vermont Alternate Teacher of the Year, Beth Fraser, a mathematics teacher at Blue Mountain Union School in Wells River and Distinguished Finalist Shane Heath, a science teacher at Northfield Middle High School.

2018 Teacher of the Year

Linda Cloutier-Namdar M.Ed., has been a teacher in the 9th Grade Core since its inception at EHS (Essex High School), and has also served as a mentor teacher. She is currently a class advisor at EHS, a Flynn Theater Teacher Leader, and a writer for the Essex Westford Education Association. In addition to work on a wide range of school committees, she has taken part in school literacy initiatives, and is a member of the English/Language Arts (ELA) Vertical Team for the district. Cloutier-Namdar piloted and helped to edit an ELA Transferable Skills Task, working with staff from the Great Schools Partnership and the Vermont Agency of Education. A member of the Vermont Writing Collaborative (VWC), she has presented workshops at VWC Summer Institutes, and co-presented a workshop at the 2017 New England Secondary School Consortium School Redesign in Action event. As a graduate of UVM and St. Michael’s College, she counts herself fortunate indeed to be a Vermont teacher. Cloutier-Namdar’s tenure as 2018 Vermont Teacher of the Year will begin January 1. Also recognized were: Dr. Sara Doncaster, M.F.A., Music Director at Lake Region Union High School in Barton, Vermont and Karen Greene, M.A.T. a high school English teacher at Middlebury Union High School.

2017 Teacher of the Year

Katherine McCann, a High School Mathematics Teacher at U-32 Middle and High School in East Montpelier; has been selected as the 2017 Vermont Teacher of the Year. In addition to teaching Advanced Placement Statistics, Geometry, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2; Katherine is also a National Board Certified Teacher, Presidential Award winner for Excellence in Teaching Math and Science, and co-president of the Vermont Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Also recognized are Alternate Rachael Potts, a Special Education and Transition Specialist at Harwood Union High School; and Finalist Corey Smith, a Fourth Grade Teacher at Proctor Elementary School.

2016 Teacher of the Year

Susan Koch, a Union Elementary School Kindergarten and First Grade teacher, has been selected as the 2016 Vermont Teacher of the Year. In addition to teaching first grade, she has encouraged and developed the Educating Children Outdoors (ECO) Program in Montpelier. This outdoor education program has now spread to all of the grades at Union Elementary. All students are given the opportunity to learn in a natural setting throughout the entire school year. Also recognized are Alternate Anne Marie Mahar, a science and biology teacher for grades 11-12 at Rutland High School; and Finalist Stephen Rand, an English teacher at Harwood Union Middle and High School for grades 9-12.

Selection Process

Beginning with the selection of Vermont's 2018 TOY, the Agency of Education has partnered with the University of Vermont for the Vermont Teacher of the Year and National Teacher of the Year process.

Educators recognized at the prior year's UVM Outstanding Teacher Day (OTD 2017), will be invited to apply for the Vermont TOY Award. Interested candidates must submit an application for consideration to the Vermont Agency of Education by June 30, 2018. A volunteer committee comprised of previous Vermont Teachers of the Year will assess the applications, interview candidates and recommend the top three finalists to the Agency of Education.

The finalists will present a brief speech to the Vermont State Board of Education in August 2018. The Agency of Education will make the final determination for the Vermont Teacher of the Year and the runner-up. The new process hopes not only to recruit more candidates but to recruit candidates that were already recognized as outstanding teachers by peers, administrators, parents and/or students as part of the UVM Outstanding Teacher Day for exemplifying across the Vermont Core Teaching Standards.

The recipient of the Vermont Teacher of the Year Award will become Vermont’s candidate for the National Teacher of the Year award, sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers. The VT TOY will travel to Washington, D.C. in the spring for a reception at the White House.

For nearly 40 years, the University of Vermont has annually recognized outstanding teachers throughout the state through a ceremonial event that takes place in October. Each participating supervisory union or school district can nominate one teacher at the elementary/middle school level, one teacher at the secondary level and one technical center teacher.

Although the teacher will continue to teach full time during this year, she/he is available for speaking engagements and content consultations in her/his area of expertise when possible. The Vermont program is sponsored by the Agency of Education. The Vermont Teacher of the Year also becomes a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year award. For more than 40 years our nation has honored teachers with the National Teacher of the Year Program. The National Teacher of the Year Program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers and receives several sponsors.