Two South Burlington teachers, Raechel Barone and Phil Surks, were selected as Outstanding Teachers for 2019 by the Vermont Agency of Education College of Education.
Barone is a kindergarten teacher at Orchard School and Surks, chair of the science department, teaches AP Physics at South Burlington High School.
Surks is in his eighth year teaching in South Burlington, having previously taught at Champlain Valley Union High School for 11 years.
He noted that SBHS has become more student-centered over the years, saying, “We have incorporated more engineering and design (making) and project-based learning into our curriculum.”
Surks also recently received the 2019 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. He is one of two educators selected to represent Vermont at the national level.
“It is now in the hands of the National Science Foundation to see who will be selected as the national finalist,” said Surks. “I have heard that this can take up to two years.”
Principal Patrick Burke said, “Phil Surks is known for his kindness, leadership and commitment. He is very skilled in his classroom and provides advocacy for the profession, public relations and day-to-day support for all SBHS science teachers.”
This is Barone’s fifth year at Orchard. She previously taught at Chamberlin School before a 10-year break from teaching.
“I feel very fortunate to be part of the South Burlington School District,” said Barone. “Knowing that my colleagues, who I respect deeply and enjoy working with every day, were the folks who nominated me is what makes it feel like a true honor.”
At Orchard, Barone is currently completing a reading workshop unit called Old Favorites.
“I tell the children that this collection of stories is so good people want to read them again and again until they live in their hearts,” shared Barone. “Watching my very beginning readers go back to that bin over and over and retell, then eventually reread those stories is so gratifying.”
Orchard School Principal Mark Trifilio said, “Raechel Barone is a kindergarten teacher who is always updating and improving her instructional skills and challenging her thinking on how to meet the learning needs of each student. Raechel has a strong commitment to teaching positive social-emotional skills, citizenship and healthy lifestyles. Whether teaching about gardening, yoga, physics or literacy, Raechel is an outstanding teacher.”
Barone is planning a collaboration with Kristen Courcelle, an elementary tech integration specialist, to combine mindfulness work with tech skills.
“It may sound cliché, but I love guiding them through new learning, watching them make connections, gain independence, discover their own strengths and recognize strengths in others,” said Barone.