Rowland Foundation

Annual Teacher's Conference

We welcome applications for hosting a workshop at our annual conference. Applications are due by June 15 using this application form.



Morning Workshops:

Child Poverty: The Primacy of Teacher Leadership in
Closing the Achievement Gap—SPECIAL WORKSHOP

The extraordinarily high rate of child poverty in Vermont represents a critical challenge for teachers in the public schools, but the achievement gap can only be closed by the innovative inspiration of empowered teachers; the empowerment of teacher leaders will be the focus of this 90-minute session. After more than twenty years of patronizing and unsuccessful top-down mandates that have virtually dismissed the autonomy and judgment of those who do the real work of democracy every single day in the classrooms of our nation, it's time at last to elevate the agency of teachers as the quintessential factor in bringing equity of outcome to children who will otherwise be left to lead an economically and socially subordinate existence. The intended outcome of this workshop is to foster wise and critically irreverent interventions on the part of the teachers whose lives will be devoted to the goal of simple justice.

Presenter: Jonathan Kozol

Teachers Leading the Way to International Excellence:
Leveraging the OECD Test for Schools (Based on PISA) as a Catalyst & Guide to Change

Educators are the most important lynchpin in any effort towards higher standards of excellence. Using data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Test for Schools (Based on Program for International Student Assessment), teachers are armed with data that catalyzes the change necessary to ensure every student is college or career ready. Additionally, we discuss different measures that school systems have taken to address achievement gaps. Expected outcomes of attending this workshop include:

  • Understanding the critical role educators play in the quest toward international excellence
  • Understanding that the achievement gap exists worldwide;
  • Identifying strategies that have been used to address the achievement gap.


  • Richard Li, Analyst, America Achieves and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
  • Rehva Jones, Senior Director, America Achieves and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

The Promise of Equity in Our Time

Vermont's Act 77 and Personalized Learning Plans provide us with the opportunity to actualize equity as it relates to access of a high quality education where all students believe in their capacity as learners in partnership with adults. Communities can share a commitment to that belief as realized in structures/systems that promote equity in access to and quality of learning experiences. Schools are poised to mobilize students to take full advantage of their choices for pathways to meet the goal that ALL students graduate career and/or college ready to pursue their dreams.

However, despite this promise, we know that Act 77 could create a greater equity gap, perhaps the greatest potential discrepancy being by socioeconomic variables. We realize some students take full advantage of flexible pathways while some do not based on doubts about their capacity as learners and community resources. And we know their doubts mirror teachers' & others' perceptions of their capacity/potential and vary by access to opportunities. The implementation of new learning avenues for students reflect two separate trends - some pathway designs reflect rich and varied learning experiences, while others rarely avail themselves of new alternatives.

With this reality, of both challenges and opportunities afforded by personalized learning and flexible pathways, students are poised to be responsible for not only of their own education but also act as guardians of and messengers for equity.

(This is a student-only workshop for all students at the conference.)

  • Brian Boyes, Teacher, Cabbot School and Rowland Fellow 2014
  • Jason Finley, Work-based Learning Coordinator at Randolph Technical Career Center and Rowland Fellow 2009
  • Mary Schell Whalen, Director of UP for Learning and Rowland Fellow 2010
  • Asia Bernatchy, Senior at Twinfield Union School, Singer Songwriter of Our Time
  • Henry Burke, Senior at Cabot School, Singer Songwriter of Our Time
  • Grace Ecklund Gustavson, Junior at U-32, Singer Songwriter of Our Time
  • Dorothy Whalen, Junior at Lyndon Institute, Singer Songwriter of Our Time

Avoiding the Equity Traps: Giving Students the Support They Need for Personalized & Proficiency-Based Learning

In order to improve student outcomes, schools around Vermont are working hard to make the shift to personalized, proficiency-based learning. There is a growing concern, however, that without thoughtful implementation, Flexible Pathways & Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements could actually exacerbate the achievement gap. This session will explore the potential "equity traps" posed by these changes and examine the new systems & structures needed to provide all students with the resources they need in the areas of community-based learning, learning goals, and social-emotional learning.


  • Mike McRaith, Principal, Montpelier High School and Rowland Fellow 2013
  • Mike Martin, Director of Curriculum and Technology, Montpelier School District, Senior Rowland Associate and Rowland Fellow 2009

Education Inspired by the Wisdom of Nature

Renowned systems thinker, Gregory Bateson, suggested that the major problems of the modern world are a result of the difference between how nature works and how most people think, learn and lead. This workshop will look to the wisdom of nature to examine organizing principles and patterns that healthy living systems have developed and fine tuned over 3.8 billion years of evolution. Together we will explore what these principles might teach us about how to create equitable learning environments. Participants will be invited to actively consider how they might apply equity-based ecological principles, practices, and mindsets to their own schools, classrooms and learning environments.

Presenter: Matt Kolan, Director, Leadership for Sustainability M. S. Program, The University of Vermont

Universal Design for Learning Immersion Experience

The brain research is compelling, the premise, career changing, but what does it feel like to be a student in a UDL classroom? Come find out! In this training, educators will experience how even the most mundane topics can set the room abuzz when curriculum is planned without the presence of traditional barriers. Throughout the presentation, participants will receive concrete tips to help them implement UDL in their own learning environments. This training is perfect for teachers and administrators who want to see how the research translates into a challenging and unforgettable experience for all learners.

Outcomes: As a result of this training, participants will:
  • Understand the fundamental concepts of UDL, how it differs from differentiated instruction, and how it aligns to multi-tier systems of support.
  • Recognize that traditional instruction may prevent some students from learning and engaging in the curriculum.
  • Appreciate the relevance of UDL and its capacity to create better learning opportunities and outcomes for students.
Presenter: Katie Novak, Assistant Superintendent, Groton- Dunstable Regional School District, Massachusetts

The Restorative Power of Trauma-informed Schools: How Educators Become Bridge Builders

Chronic trauma exposure often casts a debilitating shadow over the developing child, impacting fundamental capabilities such as cognitive, relational, neurodevelopmental and self-regulatory, which are critical to learning. By understanding the consequences of chronic trauma, educators can be important stakeholders in the process of recovery and restoring hope. Attendees will learn:

  • The "Domains of Impairment in Children Exposed to Chronic Trauma" (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
  • Strategies to address the unique needs of these students
  • How trauma informed approaches help to build upon existing school initiatives like Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) and the Responsive Classroom.
Presenter: Dave Melnick, LICSW, Director of Outpatient Services, The Family Center, NFI, Vermont

Integrating All Students: New Americans in Vermont Schools

As Vermont embraces those escaping the horrors of war and oppression as a refugee resettlement destination, our communities and schools feel the impact of neighbors and students with unique backgrounds, strengths and needs. In this workshop we will define integration, look at current literature on refugee and immigrant integration and discuss how this research applies to our changing schools. From there we will split up into working groups to discuss a framework for understanding integration within our schools based on that research. The discussions will address: different dimensions of integration, how our schools currently address the needs of our changing clientele, where we see the greatest needs, and first steps to begin making cultural and system changes to provide a healthy and beneficial environment for all students and faculty within our systems. We will come back together at the end to share as a large group some of the ideas and concerns. The goal for this workshop will be to provide tools to begin a positive discussion within our teams of how we continue to provide not only adequate but excellent learning environments as those very environments change in fundamental ways.

Presenter: Gabriel McGann, Graduate Teaching Fellow and Ph.D. Student, The University of Vermont

Equity, Independence, and Success Through Community-Based Learning

To ensure that students succeed in our complex world, they need to be in that world, not separated from it in a school building. For our students who have been traditionally marginalized, it is particularly important to receive mentoring from adults outside school and to create professional networks. In this session, you will hear statistics and student stories that make the compelling case for community based learning for all students. Through exposure to successful community-based learning programs and attention to your own context, you will determine your next steps. These will be concrete, specific actions that you can take to ensure that more students have these critical experiences and that they lead to equity. This session is appropriate for all stakeholders, inside or outside of a formal setting. Come join us for an interactive, inspirational session with practical application!

Presenter: Sarah Bertucci, Deeper Learning Equity Fellow, Eagle Rock Professional Development Center, Colorado

Eliminating the Grading Game: Providing Equity through Proficiency-Based Learning Practices

The deeply entrenched traditional grading practices present in many schools do not provide an accurate and meaningful picture of student learning. The point-based grading paradigm creates a sort of "game" that some students play well and others do not. For many students, grading practices are inequitable and further drive social reproduction. Proficiencybased learning provides an alternative grading paradigm that is equitable and accurate. More than just a primer on PBL practices, this workshop aims to provide strategies for classroom implementation of proficiencybased learning and explanations of how it can provide a more equitable schooling experience for all students.

Presenters: Andrew Jones and Gabe Hamilton, Science Teachers, Mt. Abraham Union High School, 2015 Rowland Fellows

Reaching the Advance Vermont Goal for Post-secondary Attainment and Equity

There is an increasingly urgent consensus among leaders across Vermont that a more educated workforce (70% of all working-age adults by 2025) is necessary to sustain Vermont's economy and provide more equitable opportunities for our citizens. A key strategy will be the expansion of pathways and opportunities that support first-generation and low-income high school graduates in earning a postsecondary credential of value or degree. Vermont's preK-12 educators, in partnership with higher education partners such as VSAC and CCV, have been at the forefront of supporting such opportunities as CCV's Introduction to College Studies course and the Flexible Pathways Dual Enrollment and Fast Forward programs in CTE centers. This workshop will provide an overview of the "70% by 2025 Advance Vermont" goal and partnership, present disaggregated data on current high school students' aspirations to and readiness for postsecondary education, share successful strategies from around the state, and engage workshop participants in a structured discussion of the key challenges and potential strategies related to the goal. Participants will learn about the collective impact model of addressing social needs and ways they can become part of the Advance Vermont Partnership.

  • Katie Mobley, Executive Director of Winooski, St. Albans and Middlebury Academic Centers
  • Yasmine Ziesler, Chief Academic and Technology Officer, Vermont State Colleges

Afternoon Team Time: Action Planning

Please note: The entire afternoon of this year's conference is devoted to reflective time for school teams with the support of trained facilitators provided by The Rowland Foundation to discuss the implication of the conference theme on your school and to plan appropriate action steps. When you register your team, please indicate if you wish to take advantage of having a trained facilitator. The assigned individual will meet with you or your team sometime in the weeks leading up to the conference. Participants who are not part of school teams will likewise have the opportunity to debrief and discuss the keynote address and workshops from the morning. See conference materials to determine your team's assigned location for the afternoon session.


Register now!


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