Maura O' Brien
Senior 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 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 Manager. She is also currently pursuing her doctorate in Science Education at UMass Amherst with a focus on helping students make meaning through talk.
She works closely with Project Manager, Maura O' Brien, and Director, Alan Giese, 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!
PLC CoordinatorDavid White is the coordinator of professional learning communities for the Vermont Science Initiative. He also works with schools and districts providing professional development and science curriculum support. Prior to joining the staff of VSI, David was the director of curriculum, assessment and instruction for the Lamoille North Supervisory Union. He served as Vermont’s state science coordinator from 2000 to 2005 and taught science for 25 years prior to working at the Department of Education. David also served on the National Science Education Standards development working group and currently serves on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) standing committee as well as the advisory board for the Next Generation Science Exemplar initiative. He has a MEd. in science curriculum and instruction from the University of Vermont.
VSI Staff AssociateDeanna Bailey joined VSI at the beginning of 2014 to facilitate pilot testing of the Next Generation Science Exemplars professional development pathway that is being created for use in school districts throughout the US. With Renee and Maura, Deanna will serve as a Pedagogy Specialist for VSI and co-instruct the summer Science and Engineering Academy.
Deanna fell in love with K-8 science instruction early, earning a BA in Biology and Education from Dartmouth College then teaching science to K-9 grade students in public and private schools. She went on to guide science education efforts for several non-profit organizations and a hands-on science museum, and worked with Maura at the Center for Science Education and Professional Development. Deanna brings to VSI a wealth of experience facilitating science professional development. Deanna currently consults regularly to the Barre district and teaches courses through LAPDA. Her passion for helping teachers guide outstanding science learning experiences also is evident in her current role as science curriculum specialist for the Vermont Energy Education Program.
Deanna will be awarded a Master of Education in Science Education from Montana State University in July 2014. Her thesis focused on the changes that occur for elementary teachers as a result of professional development that guides them to integrate student talk and writing into science inquiry instruction.
“(This course) has opened my mind to all the different aspects of teaching science.”