New staff ready to meet students and get started with new school year
Aug 31, 2017 | 4485 views | 0 0 comments | 138 138 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtney Primmer
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Editor’s note: Every year we profile new staff at local schools. This week we look at schools in the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union.


Courtney Primmer

Courtney Primmer joins Readsboro Central School this year as the school’s first- and second-grade teacher. Primmer grew up in Clarksburg, MA. She attended college at Russell Sage in Troy, NY, where she says she received an amazing and rewarding education that gave her knowledge and whole world perspectives.

Primmer says she hopes to bring her love for community, caring, and mindfulness to the classroom, along with a positive energy. “I believe that teaching students is about far more than just curriculum,” says Primmer. “I place a strong focus on building them up as good people, as happy, positive, mindful, and thoughtful people who learn to take care of themselves and others in their life.”

Primmer has family in Readsboro, and she’s excited to join what she sees as a supportive and beautiful community. She says she wants her students to know that her classroom is a safe space where their opinions and voices always matter. “It should be a place they consider a family,” says Primmer. “We all love and respect each other and will work together to help each other grow.”

Primmer says she hopes her students’ parents will think of themselves as being on a team with her. “We all want the same things for our students,” she says. “We want them to grow, to succeed, to laugh, to learn, to fail and get back up, and to know they are loved and supported on their journeys.”

Sarah Lake

Sarah Lake joins Readsboro Central School this year as the school’s third- and fourth-grade teacher. Lake is a Vermont native; she grew up in Springfield and earned an undergraduate degree in elementary education at University of Vermont. She earned her graduate degree in literacy at State University of New York Plattsburgh, and then lived in Saranac, NY. Lake took a leave of absence from teaching when her children were born and was a stay-at-home-mom for 13 years. During that time, she was always involved with school, volunteering in her children’s classrooms, and she says that having school-aged children herself has given her a new perspective as a teacher. She’s excited to join Readsboro Central School because it brings her home to Vermont, and because she loves the school’s small size. “I’ll be able to meet the needs of all my students better with the small class size,” says Lake. “Each student will receive more one-on-one attention.”

Lake says that students shouldn’t expect to be stuck in their chairs all day in her classroom. A big believer in hands-on work, Lake plans to encourage students to learn through reading, writing, math activities, and science experiments. To that end, parents shouldn’t expect their students to come home with too much finished work. Lake believes in the power of doing over the power of worksheets, and activities and projects will take a front seat in her classroom.

Laura Campagna

Laura Campagna joins Readsboro Central School and Halifax Elementary this year as each school’s librarian. She grew up in Albany, NY, and still lives in the Albany area, in Niskayuna. Campagna brings with her a passion for reading and a background in social studies, which she taught in New York for many years. Campagna became interested in library science when she started bringing one of her children to the library a lot and decided to take library science classes.

Campagna says she loves meeting students and helping them embrace reading as a part of their daily lives. She also loves to teach information literacy skills and technology, and is excited to work with students on the inquiry process, helping them to learn more about research and how relevant technology may be used.

Campagna says she’s been impressed by what Readsboro Central School and Halifax Elementary are accomplishing for their students and their community. “The work they do seems progressive, connected to the real world, personal, and relevant,” says Campagna.

Campagna says she’s very moved by what has happened in Houston with Hurricane Harvey and she would like to find ways to connect those events to learning this year. She also plans to teach her students about the Caldecott and Newberry Awards and to dive into Vermont’s reading initiatives with the Red Clover books and the Dorothy Canfield Fisher books.

Cherie Giddings

Cherie Giddings is coming out of retirement for the beginning of this school year to teach math and science to grades five through eight while the school’s new science and math teacher, Brittani Sprague, is on maternity leave. Although Giddings taught at Readsboro Central School briefly in the late 1990s, she spent the majority of her 36-year teaching career at Deerfield Valley Elementary in Wilmington, where she taught third and fourth grades, music, and kindergarten.

Giddings says she decided to come out of retirement to fill the maternity leave spot at Readsboro Central School because she is passionate about education and wants Readsboro’s kids to have the best.

“I want the kids to get a good start on the year and I thought I could help them do that,” says Giddings. “The beginning of the year is really important to establish routines, learning habits, and attitudes.”

Giddings says that with the first day of school under her belt, she is completely impressed with the students at the school. “On a scale of one to 10, the kids were at a 10 most of the time in terms of behavior and attitude,” says Giddings. “They were so positive and ready to go.”

Giddings says the faculty and staff at the school, too, have been welcoming and have a positive attitude that is infectious. “They’re so dedicated, enthusiastic, and happy to be there.”

Giddings says she hopes her students know that learning is fun, exciting, and rewarding, and that the harder you work, the more fun you have.

Ryan Sgroi

Ryan Sgroi will be at Readsboro Central School two days per week this year as the school’s music teacher. He will also spend one day in Halifax and one in Stamford each week. Sgroi grew up in Rome, NY, and attended the College of St. Rose in Albany, where he studied K-12 music education and minored in music performance, concentrating on jazz performance. As a performer, his primary instrument is saxophone and he also plays clarinet and flute.

Sgroi worked as a teacher in New York state for many years and is drawn to the experience of learning more about Vermont’s education system through teaching here. “My wife grew up in Rutland,” says Sgroi, “and I know the amazing things that Vermont education is capable of through her and her siblings.”

Sgroi says that already, he’s inspired by the camaraderie he sees among students and teachers in Vermont schools. “There is a sense of community and of helping each other out that is inspiring,” says Sgroi. “It’s about helping somebody be successful.”

On that note, Sgroi says he looks forward to supporting his students’ growth and learning through music this year. He wants his students and their parents to know that he hopes to instill a lifelong love and deep appreciation for music in his students through learning about all types of music and the cultures that produce them.

“I want to be there for my students in any way I can,” says Sgroi. “I want to help their needs be met in the way they want them to be through music this year.”

Twin Valley Elementary

Crista Yagjian

Crista Yagjian joins Twin Valley Elementary School as the school’s literacy coach. She grew up in Baltimore, where she always had a love for the arts. She earned a BFA in theater from State University of New York Purchase and, after discovering a passion for teaching reading and writing, earned a reading and writing specialist certification and M.Ed. at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire, where she was named the school’s first diversity fellow, affording her the opportunity to facilitate discussions about equity and diversity in education.

After moving to Vermont, Yagjian got a job at Deerfield Valley Elementary School, where principal Kathy Larsen became her mentor and encouraged Yagjian to get a special education certification, which she did.

She went on to work in Conway, MA, and in Guilford before returning to Wilmington for this position at Twin Valley Elementary.

Yagjian fills a spot previously held by Karen Chase, the school’s beloved literacy coach who died last year.

“Karen was a dear friend, colleague, and mentor to me,” says Yagjian. “She was also godmother to my son Nate. She was brilliant and embodied kindness like no other. She was a passionate teacher and coach. I hope to continue her work to help the children of TVES become strong readers and writers who have a deep love and appreciation for words.”

Yagjian says Nate, who has Down syndrome, is a daily inspiration to her. “He reminds me of the importance of celebrating every success, and that our students need to be championed, loved, and challenged in school.”

Hope Phelan

Hope Phelan joins Twin Valley Elementary as the school’s art teacher. Phelan grew up in Hingham, MA, near Boston. She went on to study art at Washington University in St. Louis. Since then, she’s taught art in a variety of classroom settings in Boston, the Pioneer Valley, and now at Twin Valley. She is also involved in community events and is currently working with Girls on the Run Vermont to create a mural in downtown Brattleboro.

Phelan relocated to Halifax a few years ago, when she and her husband decided to pursue more space for their art studios and start a small homestead farm. She is excited to be able to combine her love for art and teaching close to home through working at Twin Valley Elementary.

Phelan says as a teacher, she wants to foster an atmosphere of support, where risks aren’t feared but rather are embraced. “I encourage my students to take risks in my classroom,” says Phelan. “I don’t want students to be afraid of making a mistake, because there are no mistakes in art.”

Phelan says things can get messy in art classrooms, so she encourages students not to wear their nicest new school clothes to art class. “They might just come back with paint on them,” says Phelan.

Twin Valley Middle High School

Jessica Fisher

Jessica Fisher joins Twin Valley Middle High School as the school’s social studies teacher. Fisher has a multilayered history with history:she holds a BA in Latin and in history, an MA in history, she studied Irish history at Notre Dame, and she is currently in the process of completing her Ph.D. in history. Fisher’s time as a graduate student and researcher has afforded her the opportunity to travel a great deal, including the United States, Ireland, and around the UK. She has presented research in a range of cities including New Orleans, St. Louis, and Fargo, ND. “In my travels, I’ve met a lot of people, from fishermen in Galway to carnies on the road in Fargo,” says Fisher. “Those experiences help me relate to people from all walks of life.”

Fisher was drawn to Twin Valley Middle High School because of its size. She previously taught in a school with 1,600 students, and is excited to have smaller classes. “I felt like I could do so much more if I could build relationships with my students and their community,” says Fisher.

Fisher wants her students to know that she works hard to keep classes interesting, relevant, and fun, and that she’s genuinely interested in her students as people.

“My previous students used to say that I was ‘a real person’ and they knew that they could rely on me to see them as people rather than numbers or grades,” says Fisher. “I am genuinely interested in what they think and in what they want to learn.”

Jolene Mahon

Jolene Mahon joins Twin Valley Middle High School this year as the school’s nurse. For the past 18 years, Mahon has worked as a registered nurse at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. Mahon attended UVM and ultimately transferred to Greenfield Community College, where she earned an associate degree in nursing. A few years ago, she began pursuing her bachelor’s degree and last winter, she earned it. Last year, she began to substitute as a school nurse in the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union.

Mahon is excited to be working in a community, and at a school, that she has close ties with. “I came to Twin Valley because I felt over the years it had been calling my name in a whisper,” says Mahon. “My school nurse was Jane Boyd, who is kind of a legend in most of our eyes. I don’t think I realized until I began subbing recently that I wanted to continue her legacy. I have strong ties to this community having grown up here, walking the halls of the old school building.”

Mahon wants her students to know that her door is open for health needs, conversation or even just a hug. She’s excited to get to know her community and to get ahold of the many logistics and requirements that come with the new job, such as filling out health forms, updating medicine orders, and getting records.

“I’m new to school nursing,” says Mahon. “So hopefully everyone will bear with me.”
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