Awards and Recognitions

Our Rising Star Winners

The Vermont Association for Middle Level Education (VAMLE) honors a Vermont middle level educator who has been passionate about teaching young adolescents and uses middle level best practices for three years or less. Three educators have been recognized by the VAMLE Board for the Rising Star Award this year based on their outstanding efforts and successes as relatively new middle level educators.

Grace Chris

Stowe Middle School

According to Principal Morrison, “When most schools were limiting music access during the pandemic she [Grace Chris] dug into to figure out how to teach everything from twenty students in general music to over 50 in a chorus. She created a culture of belonging that continues to grow into a solid music program, and now has brought forth the school's first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). If that wasn't enough, she identified a need for students to have a platform to show their talents and develop social skills through our very popular coffee houses. Like the classroom, these coffee houses show how her students are courageous, building their self-esteem, and willing to take risks.”

Melissa Holzman

Albert D. Lawton Middle School

Her colleague, Rachel, and principal, Jennifer, go on to say, “Melissa routinely

checks in with her students to gain an understanding of their perspectives and adjusts her curriculum to reflect their voices. Melissa is constantly evaluating her curriculum to reduce barriers and provide her students with windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors, ensuring that students have opportunities to see themselves, see others, and develop empathy through their work in her classroom. Melissa’s positive energy and joy for teaching and learning makes a daily impact on all of her middle level colleagues as well.” What broad spectrum of learning that Melissa affects—from motivating students via their personal interests and having such a positive impact on her colleagues.



Andrew Lounsbury

Charlotte Central School

Allan Miller notes in describing Andrew’s effects on students, “‘Relationships first’ - as we know middle level students are unique, and not all educators have the passion to connect with them in all their quirkiness, emotions, and energy. But it’s clear from being online or in-person with Andrew that he ‘gets’ them and that he is about connecting with them. Students show up to his office hours just to tell jokes, to share about their new dog or come to be part of the online Chess Club he started just because they enjoy being around him.”



Our Masters in the Middle

The Vermont Association for Middle Level Education (VAMLE) honors a Vermont middle level educator who has been passionate about teaching young adolescents and using middle level best practices for 10 or more years. Due to the nomination of exceptional candidates, three educators have been recognized by the VAMLE Board for the Master in the Middle Award this year based on their consistent advocacy and support for their students and their unique actions as innovative middle level teachers.

Liz Clements & Jeremy DeMink

Edmunds Middle School

Lance and Quin provide the following details about these two team members, Liz and Jeremy, who facilitate and direct the Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) program at Edmunds Middle School: “Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) is a transformational framework that seeks to (a) elevate the knowledge and expertise of youth through authentic partnership with professional researchers in order to gather data connected to issues of social injustice that are relevant to youth, and then (b) engage and initiate activism and advocacy work to redress injustice. In keeping with the radical tradition of YPAR, the goal of the Edmunds YPAR Collaborative has been to research, interrupt, and redress racist and sexist dress codes, teacher racist microaggressions, structural ableism, sexual harassment of fem identifying students, and transphobia within their school.”

Emma Vastola

Mount Holly School

Principal Hutt Vater uses the following words to denote Emma’s exceptional teaching: “Student voice is central to Emma’s pedagogy, and she supports student exploration of identity and community in deep and complex ways. Her students develop personalized learning portfolios rooted in collaborative inquiry and ongoing reflection.” Craig added, “Emma is an educator deeply committed to social justice and racial equity. She helps students to grapple with complex issues in a way that is supportive and non-judgmental. By fostering a learning community that is open to multiple points of view Emma encourages students to take

risks and listen to one another with empathy.”