September 26, 2018

Teachers’ fellowship envisions transformed CVU schedule

Observer courtesy photo
Abbie Bowler and Peter Langella are devising new scheduling ideas for CVU to enhance personalized learning opportunities as part of a Rowland Foundation fellowship this school year.

Observer staff report

Champlain Valley Union High School educators Abbie Bowker and Peter Langella have convened a team of teachers, administrators and students to help with their grant-funded work enhancing personalized learning opportunities at the school.

Bowker, a visual art teacher, and Langella, a librarian, were named to the 2017-2018 class of fellows by the Rowland Foundation. The fellowship includes a $75,000 grant that allows each of them release time from their daily jobs to work on school transformation initiatives. They are working with their team to create an interest-based program at CVU that would allow students to practice skills, gain knowledge and meet proficiencies through regularly-scheduled experiences of their choosing.

Bowker said there were more people interested in joining the team than there were spots. The 15-member team includes Carly Rivard, CVU’s personal learning coordinator, math teacher Mark Pogact, Jennifer Bickel-Hayes of the direction center, language teacher Rachael Birch, math and technology teacher Charlie MacFadyen, business teacher Tamie-Jo Dickinson, science teacher Sarah Malcolm, humanities teacher Katie Kuntz, technology teacher Jeff Tobrocke, science teacher Dave Trevithick, Allan Miller of the Champlain Valley School district personalized learning office, and students Jonathan Walsh and Lauren Kovacik.

“We want every voice to be heard in the development of this new programming, and the people who have expressed interest already are sure to be tapped for their thoughts and expertise regularly even if they aren’t meeting weekly with us,” Bowker said.

Langella has been researching different school scheduling models to understand the ways schools incorporate personalized learning.

“Many schools around Vermont and the country are changing their schedules to allow students to have more choice and voice,” he said. “For example, Baxter Academy in Portland, Maine, allows students to completely design their learning each Friday, and Harwood Union High School in Vermont has an “Extended Learning Opportunity” block every other day.”

Joan Spasyk, a parent from Williston who was present at a “Dessert with the Principal” event in October where Bowker and Langella explained the project, said the work “will take the spirit of graduation challenge and create opportunities for personalized and engaged learning for all students, all four years, not just during the senior year.”

CVU Principal Adam Bunting added: “I’m excited for Abbie and Peter’s proposal because it will increase the number of students who have a deeper sense of purpose. We will provide students the opportunity to explore their interests and their values through learning that they find personally relevant, meaningful and applicable.”

More information about the project is available at Contact Bowker and Langella by email at or

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