On October 20, 2021

A Mill River librarian/robotics coach is Vermont Teacher of the Year

By Peter D’Auria/VTDigger

A Mill River librarian and technology specialist has been named Vermont’s 2022 Teacher of the Year.

The award went to Karen McCalla, who has spent nearly two decades as a librarian and technology integration specialist at Mill River Union High School in Clarendon. State officials made the announcement at a ceremony Monday, Oct. 18.

By Mary Peterson, Vermont Agency of Education
Karen McCalla, a librarian and technology specialist at Mill River Union High School, is the 2022 Teacher of the Year.

McCalla will be Vermont’s delegate in next year’s national Teacher of the Year program, competing for the nationwide Teacher of the Year award.

In an interview, McCalla called the award “humbling” and “a little bit awkward.”

“I don’t think anyone goes into teaching to become a spokesperson or whatever,” she said, noting that Vermont has “so many amazing teachers.”

In addition to being the high school librarian, McCalla runs the school’s “makerspace,” a multipurpose do-it-yourself engineering and design space.

Under her supervision, Mill River students explore 3-D printing, electronics and basic game design and computer programming.

Outside of her work, McCalla coaches multiple robotics teams at various schools in the rest of Rutland County. During the Covid-19 pandemic, those teams manufactured thousands of homemade face shields for first responders and medical workers.

Her focus on technology, she said, allows students to explore forms of learning that do not appear in traditional schooling.

“Sometimes at school we get really locked into the idea that, in order for kids to show what they know, they need to write it down,” McCalla said. “I’m really excited to present kids with a lot of different opportunities to show what they know.”

McCalla’s resume includes stints at Castleton University and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She has worked at Mill River High School for 19 years.

Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French said Monday in a press release that McCalla “is providing her students with the tools and the confidence to pursue real-world solutions to real-world problems.”

“The STEAM focus on technical skills and a creative mindset provides lifelong benefits for our students, in their careers and everyday lives,” French said, referring to the subject areas science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

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