Dr. Elizabeth Dolci
Professor of Biology, Johnson State College and Director of the VSILiz Dolci coordinated the development and implementation of the VSI and is currently director of the program. She is a professor of biology at Johnson State College.
Maura O' Brien
Project ManagerMaura O’Brien has worked closely with the Director, Liz Dolci and Project Co-Manager, Renee Affolter to grow and expand the VSI. Since coming on board in 2005, the VSI as added the one-year Tier II professional development program, and the Leadership Academy as ways to further the mission of the program.
After earning a Masters in Education with a concentration in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont, Maura has built on a degree in Biology and over 30 years of experience of teaching science at the middle and high school levels, and science methods courses at the college level, as well as, filling the role of co-principal investigator, manager, and pedagogy specialist of series of NSF funded grants (VESP, VISMT, and CASP). The principles of a professional development model practiced during these years continue in the VSI: learning opportunities for teachers as adult learners in inquiry-based, content-rich science, the pedagogy of formative assessment, and opportunities for practice in a context of sustained support. “I have the greatest respect for teachers and their contributions to the lives of children, says Maura. They are the professionals that know each of their students’ strengths and weaknesses and use developmentally appropriates strategies to work with them. What we can offer is an opportunity to expand their science content knowledge, and their view of teaching, assessment and learning to include science as practice and assessment as a formative process.”
Maura is an outdoor enthusiast, enjoying hiking and cross-country skiing. In the summer, you can find her in her perennial garden.
Project Co-ManagerRenee Affolter joined VSI in 2003 as a Mentor for VSI Tier I participants. Since then, she has worn many hats for VSI including Instructor for the Issues in Science, Action Research, Assessment, and Best Practices Courses as well as continuing to serve as a Teacher Mentor, Pedagogy Specialist, and Project Co-Manager.
She works closely with Project Manager, Maura O' Brien, and Director, Liz Dolci, to develop and manage the VSI as it continues to grow and change. Renee's love of science, background in Biology, Marine Biology, and Environmental Education led her to the University of California at Berkeley to earn her Masters in Science Education. During that time she focused on inquiry based science teaching at the secondary level. She taught middle and high school in the Bay Area for five years before moving to Vermont. After a short time teaching at Main Street Middle School in Montpelier, Renee joined VSI and loves the opportunity to work with such thoughtful teachers. She is often quoted saying, "I have the best job in the world-I get to work and learn with students and an amazing group of teachers." When she is not working, Renee is kept busy with her 3 daughters that require a whole other kind of managing!
Course Instructor and Site CoordinatorHelen has been a huge asset to VSI with her ability to connect with teachers and deliver content in an engaging and inquiry based way. She has worked with VSI since 2003 as instructor and site coordinator. Helen has taught the geology and chemistry to four VSI cohorts so far with Stephen Wright of the University of Vermont. They make a great team, and it's not just because he is over a foot taller than she is! Helen states, that "While it is a challenge to cover the necessary aspects of two major science disciplines in one course, what makes it manageable is the fact that there are so many links between geology and chemistry. Concepts in one discipline almost always have examples in the other. We go out on LOTS of field trips, and do LOTS of laboratory activities, because the very best way to learn about science is to DO science."
Helen has been teaching geology and chemistry at Castleton State College for almost 20 years. Her courses include the two-semester General Chemistry introductory courses, a chemistry class for pre-service teachers called Chemistry in the Classroom, and the geology courses Dynamic Earth (introductory physical geology), Environmental Geology, Geochemistry, Hydrogeology, and special topics courses on Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Ore Deposits, and others. She has also taught a number of geology travel courses, taking students to Costa Rica, and, most recently, to Iceland. Her research over the years has involved silver deposits in Mexico, basic geologic mapping in Vermont, arsenic contamination of groundwater in Mexico and, currently, arsenic contamination in groundwater in southwestern Vermont.
“(This course) has opened my mind to all the different aspects of teaching science.”