It doesn’t matter how much wind there is in the sails. Without a steady hand on the tiller, a boat’s rudder won’t stay true. As we close the books on our eighth semester of BCL, it feels timely, even overdue, to honor a few key individuals who have helped crew this vessel.
Our goal has always been to steer towards student empowerment, community-building, and deeper learning. From the very beginning–even before we launched our first semester–the BCL Steering Committee has helped keep us on course. We wouldn’t be where we are today without Jocelyn Fletcher Scheuch, Miriam Ehtesham-Cating, Walter Poleman and Jen Cirillo. We feel blessed and lucky to have these four along with us on this journey.
We often reminisce about how we ended up with this particular crew. The BCL Team did its homework and researched who might be a good fit, but luck won out, and these four arrived ready to help us launch. All four had been involved in local initiatives to transform education, invest in equity, build community, and design a sustainable future. Several had already been in conversations with the BCL Team (before it was a BCL team!) about how we could offer more place-based learning to BHS students.
It’s worth getting to know these remarkable people.
Jocelyn works for the Burlington School District in the role of Associate Director of Teaching & Learning. She brings a decade of experience as a classroom teacher, as well as deep involvement in school redesign through her work to detrack and integrate the BHS 9th grade Humanities program, her engagement with the Partnership for Change, her years at the Proficiency-Based Learning Coordinator for BHS, and her current leadership role, stewarding the growth of deeper learning initiatives in the BSD. She embodies steadiness, wisdom, and insight–and offers all with a warm smile.
Miriam is the Director of Programs for Multilingual Learners in the Burlington School District. With a career of more than 30 years of experience working with English Language Learners, Miriam always puts each language learner at the center of her work. She is constantly thinking about how to make school accessible to all learners, no matter where they come from. She is a lighthouse for universal design and heterogeneity. She also refuses to accept current limitations. In meetings, she is often the voice that slices through perceived constraints by asking “Why not?” or “Why can’t we _______?” She pushes us to think deeper and break down barriers, and helps us keep our eyes on the North Star of inclusion and belonging.
Jen has been with Shelburne Farms for more than a decade as the Director of Professional Learning. She has helped build an organization that is now a leader in Education for Sustainability. Jen brings passion to whatever project she is working on. Long before Act 77, she led the design of the Vermont Agency of Education’s sustainability standards. Today, she juggles initiatives that invest in authentic curriculum, place connection, food systems education, and professional development. She directs the Sustainable Schools Project, oversees the Pathways to Sustainability program, and convenes regional and global networks. But as gifted as she is as a leader, she maintains a natural ease with students. Everyone who works with Jen feels truly seen.
Walter might just be the hardest person in Burlington to summarize–for all of the right reasons. He is a senior lecturer and has directed the Ecological Planning Program at UVM. Currently, he directs the Field Naturalist graduate program, and serves as faculty advisor to the Sustainability Learning Community. He has deep expertise in natural history, place-based landscape analysis, and conservation science, however his investment in the PLACE Program shows that he is just as passionate about cross-disciplinary problem solving. He is also a catalyst for community-building, both local (e.g., Burlington Geographic, the City Nature Challenge, etc.) and global (e.g., establishing the U.N. University’s Education for Sustainability Regional Center of Expertise). He is currently cultivating global partnerships in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Hawai’i, and New Zealand. Most importantly, Walter helps everyone feel like a learner. His presence is deeply grounding, and his questions awaken the inquiry mind of whoever is lucky enough to share space with him.
We would be remiss to not honor a few other principal crew members who have kept the ship afloat for the past five years. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Peter McConville and Andy Barker have helped make Burlington City & Lake Program what it is. Both were part of the early conversations, in 2016, that helped the BCL program get underway. After half a decade, both Andy and Peter are stepping away, to shipwright other vessels and to pursue other adventures. BCL will weather the transition, but we will always be grateful for their vision, energy, and spirit.