A couple of outstanding teachers

Williston husband and wife awarded

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

What are the odds that two of Chittenden County’s most outstanding teachers live in the same Williston household?

Apparently the odds are pretty good, as Pat Troxell and her husband, Dr. William Grover, recently found out. In the last month, each has been recognized for their exceptional teaching abilities.

Troxell, a special education teacher at Williston Central School for 17 years, was one of two Chittenden South Supervisory Union teachers recognized last Wednesday at the 25th annual Vermont Outstanding Teachers’ Day hosted by the University of Vermont. Only three weeks prior, Grover was selected by his colleagues to receive St. Michael’s College’s top instructor honor, the 2005 Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award. Grover has taught political science at the college for 18 years.

Colleagues indicate that both have an intense passion for teaching.

Carter Smith, director of student services for the Williston School District, said Pat Troxell is “an advocate for kids and families who are in need, and that is rare these days.” To be selected as a Vermont Outstanding Teacher, an instructor must demonstrate excellent practice in one of five standards, one of which is advocacy. Learning; professional knowledge; colleagueship; and accountability are the other factors considered by each supervisory union or district in selecting their two top teachers.

Special education exhausts many professionals, Carter said, but “Pat is somebody that really enjoys her job … She enjoys having even the small successes.” As a result of her advocacy and attitude, Troxell is “always the first we think about” when a new professional needs a mentor, said Carter. Troxell supervises eight paraeducators.

Grover, too, is noted for his mentoring skills as a St. Michael’s College faculty member and former political science department chair. Dr. Kristin Novotny, a colleague of Grover’s for twelve years, wrote in an e-mail that Grover “ excites and challenges his students because he takes their intellectual growth seriously. … This is evident in the devoted following Bill has attracted over the years: by the students who take every class he offers, by the students who keep in touch with him for years after they graduate.”

Grover and Troxell met at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., in the mid-1970s. Grover majored in political science and journalism.

“I started college about three weeks after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency,” he said, so it was “an exciting time to think about politics.”

Troxell majored in psychology and social work because, she said, “I wanted to work with people who needed more than the average support.”

After spending her first year out of college working in a residential program for adults with mental impairments, Troxell realized teaching enabled her to spend more quality time with people. Both went on to further education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Grover earned his Ph.D. in political science while Troxell earned a master’s in special education and taught in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts schools.

The couple moved to Vermont in 1987, and eight years ago they moved from Huntington to Williston. They have two sons – Luke Grover, a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School, and Sam Grover, a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Grover said his love of teaching stems from his desire “to help young people develop the ability to think critically and think clearly,” which he says promotes citizenship necessary for a successful democracy.

What Troxell loves most about teaching is “the energy of the students; the wonder of the students,” noting that middle school students’ transition from childhood to adulthood is particularly rewarding to witness.

Stephanie Robitaille, a Williston resident and paraeducator on the Williston Central School special education team, said that Troxell has told her and the other staff Troxell supervises that “a child who feels successful at the end of the day will come back and try a little harder the next day. And that’s our job – to help each and every child find that successful time.