The Charlotte News

Champlain Valley Union High School visual art teacher Abbie Bowker and librarian Peter Langella. Photo by CVU Senior, Caroline Averill.

Champlain Valley Union High School visual art teacher Abbie Bowker and librarian Peter Langella have been named to the 2017-18 class of fellows by The Rowland Foundation, located in South Londonderry, Vermont.

The foundation receives many applications from educators across the state each year for these highly sought-after fellowship grants. “Each year up to ten Vermont secondary school educators are selected as Rowland Fellows from among all qualified applicants. The foundation provides grants up to $100,000 to each of their schools for the Rowland Fellow to implement a vision to transform an aspect of the school which will positively impact its culture and climate,” said Charles Scranton, the Foundation’s executive director.

Bowker and Langella’s fellowship comes with a $75,000 grant for CVU. A portion of the grant money will allow Abbie and Peter released time from their daily jobs to research school transformation initiatives and create an interest-based, embedded program at CVU that allows students to practice skills, gain knowledge and meet proficiencies through regularly scheduled experiences of their choosing.

Principal Adam Bunting said, “The beauty of Abbie and Peter’s proposal is that it is elegant in its simplicity… this is the thing I am most excited about right now.” In fact, he is not the only one excited about this at CVU. “I have had so many congratulatory remarks and great conversations already stemming from this award—from faculty, staff and even students,” said Bowker. “It makes me realize what an amazing and supportive school and community we have. We are always looking for ways to bring betterment to our school, for our kids. I’m thrilled that we are going to be able to have the time to really dig in and work on this next year.”

The work that Bowker and Langella are taking on directly fits with CVU’s current vision and the State of Vermont’s Act 77, also known as the “Flexible Pathways Initiative,” which encourages and supports personalized learning processes and alternative pathways to graduation. The idea might be “elegant in its simplicity,” but it really holds up as incredibly innovative in approach.

Langella recognizes the charge that is set in front of them. “It’s exciting. There isn’t a research and development department in our school. To be awarded the opportunity to research, build and implement new programming from the bottom up is quite special.”

Bowker recognizes the role of the whole community in this process. “I grew up in Williston. I went to CVU. I know this community very well. I recognize the importance of community involvement and voice when working through new programs and making adjustments to a system—especially one that is so dear to our community. I recognize that we must work with our faculty, our students and hear voices from our full community to understand the best path for our school. We want to form relationships and partnerships within our school and community. We are planning on taking our time to do this right.”

Bowker and Langella begin their Rowland journey this spring at a series of orientation events and will be fully involved for the 2017-18 school year. They will be sending us updates throughout next year, but if you are interested in what they are working on please feel free to contact them – Abbie or Peter.