College selects Olmsted recipients

On April 8, the College announced the recipients of the 2013 local Bicentennial Olmsted Awards for Faculty Development: McCann Technical School, Mount Greylock Regional School and Williamstown Elementary School. According to the College’s press release, the three $4300 grants, which will be presented in a ceremony on May 21, will fund “professional and curricular development projects” at the three schools.

The awards are funded by an endowment from the estates of George Olmsted Jr. ’24 and his wife Frances. They were established in 1993 as an extension of the national Olmsted Prizes for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching, which are “awarded each commencement weekend to teachers nominated by graduating seniors,” Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs, said. The College “is pleased to be able to support faculty and curricular development at local schools,” Kolesar said.

The Olmsted award to McCann was granted to physics and math teacher Kim Bennet and math teacher Jessica Tatro. The two teachers submitted a proposal to certify two current McCann teachers for running McCann’s current course “Principles of Engineering,” a part of their Project Lead the Way (PLTW) pre-engineering program. PLTW was introduced at the school during the 2005-06 academic year as a way for students to receive college credit for a sequence of four courses in the engineering field. The grant will be used to train Bennet and Tatro at Worcester Polytechnic Institute to teach PLTW at McCann. According to Kolesar, this program was initially launched with the help of the Olmsted Award.

Mount Greylock’s award will be used for three different projects. Digital media specialist Richard Scullin proposed the first project, the Digital Media and Learning Speaker Series, which is designed to support a “cross-disciplinary speaker series regarding the significance and use of educational technology” and will include an archive. Second, the award will support “the development of formative assessments and the use of data surrounding instruction and curriculum,” led by Mary MacDonald, coordinator of curriculum, instruction and assessment, with the help of Assistant Principal Christopher Barnes and the school’s data team. The final project will aid English teacher Katherine Brown in developing “a collaborative writing project between Mount Greylock and the Williams Center at Greylock.” The College established the Williams Center at Mount Greylock in 2008 to promote collaboration with the high school.

Finally, Principal Joelle Brookner of Williamstown Elementary School proposed two projects that will be funded by their Olmsted Award. The first, “Teaching the Teachers in Order to Enhance Student Learning: Continuing the Quest to Infuse Technology into the Classroom,” will allow three teachers, the principal and the technology coordinator to attend the International Society for Technology in Education conference in San Antonio, Texas. This conference will cover “a variety of topics regarding the relationships between education and technology.” The second project, “Teaching All Students by Differentiating Instruction,” will provide the school’s staff a “professional development day” featuring a workshop addressing “grouping for success.” Teacher, researcher and author Vicki Gibson will lead this workshop on the “challenges and importance of teaching children with a wide range of comforts and abilities with personalized instruction plans.”

“The College is gratified by the ways schools have put these funds to use” in the past, Kolesar said. “[The grants] managed to mount countless initiatives.”