Lincoln teacher lauded with statewide award

LINCOLN — Lincoln Community School teacher Alice Leeds has been named this year’s recipient of the Governor’s Heritage Award for Outstanding Educator, earning the commendation in large part because of the rigorous “place-based” learning she encourages among her fifth- and sixth-grade students.
Leeds, a veteran teacher of more than 20 years at the Lincoln school, was one of two Vermonters to earn the Heritage Award this year. The second, recognizing the Outstanding Traditional Artist of the year, went to Montpelier artist Stephanie Ashworth-Krauss. The award program is in its 11th year, and was established by the Vermont Folklife Center and Vermont Life magazine to recognize exemplary Vermonters whose work as artists or educators encourages the cultural traditions that make up Vermont’s heritage.
The awards will be presented by Gov. Jim Douglas at a public ceremony at the Vermont Statehouse on Thursday, May 13.
Lincoln Community School Principal Tory Riley applauded Leeds’ hard work, especially her tireless interest in learning new teaching methods and content over her long career.
Together with her teaching partner Donna Wood, Leeds built a “middle-school model” at the elementary school for the fifth- and sixth-grade students, looking for new ways to challenge the older students at the community school. She also employs “place-based” learning, using stories from Vermont to illuminate literature and history lessons. 
Leeds’ colleague at Lincoln Community School, Nancy McClaran, said, “Alice uses place-based teaching to root students in their immediate surroundings by engaging their hearts and minds.”
Examples of that approach include a 2008 project focused on Franco-American culture and child mill workers in Vermont, as well as this year’s unit on dairy farmers and Mexican farm workers in Addison County.
“She has a tremendous amount of integrity in the way she teaches and also in the way she approaches content,” Riley said. “She really explores topics in depth, and she doesn’t shy away from exposing children to issues that are controversial.”
Riley also applauded Leeds for the high standards she sets for her fifth- and sixth-grade students.
“Students enter Alice’s class wondering if they’ll be able to work to her standard, which is simply the best that they can each find within him or herself,” Riley wrote in her nomination for Leeds. “They leave full of pride, confidence and a solid optimistic view of both self and their place in community.”
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at kathrynf@addisonindependent.com.

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