Five Town education fund aims to grow donor base

LINCOLN / BRISTOL — Two decades after the passing of a beloved mother, community member and elementary school teacher, Tari Shattuck’s legacy lives on in Five Town Area schools.
The Tari Shattuck Education Foundation, which friends and family launched with Shattuck’s guidance in her final months as she fought chronic leukemia, is guided by the memory of its namesake’s innovative teaching, her objection to “false knowledge” (which, in an essay she wrote in 1981, she defined as “knowing answers but not the content behind them”), and her commitment to experiential learning.
Now in the foundation’s 20th year, board members are promoting the relevance of this locally focused organization and looking for ways to continue the mission for another two decades.
Though many Five Town Area residents may not recognize the foundation by name, most children who have passed through the five town elementary schools have benefited from its existence. The foundation has been hard at work in those schools funding creative educational projects across a spectrum of disciplines since it launched in 1992. Along with annually supplying the Mount Abraham Union Middle School with award-winning books and awarding college scholarships to Mount Abe seniors that plan to make their careers as teachers, Tari Shattuck Education Foundation awards mini-grants to teachers who want to pursue innovative projects in the classroom.
The mini-grants demonstrate a simple principle that is core to the foundation: that teachers are best situated to assess what is needed to enrich the educational experiences of students in their classrooms.
“It is so nice to have these resources that really enrich the students’ lives, and my own as a teacher,” said Ruth Beecher, who teaches at Robinson Elementary in Starksboro.
Beecher has received 13 mini-grants since 2000, and has used foundation funds to support projects such as a butterfly garden, yoga lessons, food and nutrition projects, and quilting. All of the mini-grants, Beecher said, allow students to interact with each other and with the natural world in new and original ways.
“Students love hands-on projects,” she said.
Robin Shalline, a teacher a Beeman Elementary School in New Haven and member of the foundation’s board, says that seeing teachers find the extra time to write grant applications on behalf of their students is moving.
“It’s really inspiring to see what busy teachers are doing,” Shalline said. “Despite whatever the climate is in the school or in the community, they never fail to be there for the kids, to really be thinking out of the box and dreaming big. It’s just so inspiring to see what teachers are doing with these resources.”
Foundation board member Joan Holloway seconded that.
“I’m touched by the grant requests (teachers make) on behalf of the students,” Holloway said. “I know how important just one thing, a kid discovering a new book or music or arts performance that they wouldn’t have had in their school, just one little piece of software or resource that they wouldn’t have had, that can just make such a difference to a student.”
Recent mini-grants funded by the Tari Shattuck Education Foundation helped finance such things as a school play at Lincoln Community School, a cooking project at Robinson Elementary that combined science and social studies, and a visit from a music ensemble to Beeman Elementary, among others.
For two decades, the foundation has subsisted on its existing donor base while spending little money on fundraising. This year, the foundation is using direct mail to send its newsletter to each residence in the five Bristol-area towns. Its board members hope that it will encourage people to support the organization so that even more projects in the schools can be funded.
“We think of ourselves as a very grassroots organization,” said board member Nancy Stevens. “We are as local as local can be. The money comes from here and stays right here. We’d like to see our donor base expand. We’re hoping that this will work.”
Tari Shattuck was, by all accounts, an inspiring and beloved teacher and member of the community. She taught for 15 years at Bristol Elementary School, where she was known for finding innovative and unusual ways to engage her students.
Shattuck was born in 1951 just outside of Paris, France. Her father was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows researching his first book; her mother had recently retired from a career with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. Shattuck was raised in Austin, Texas, where she attended a small, liberal Episcopalian boarding school. Her parents moved to Lincoln, Vt., when Shattuck was a teenager.
“My wife had an interesting and cosmopolitan upbringing,” said Shattuck’s husband, Bob Bernstein.
Bernstein met Shattuck when they were both undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1960s because he was reading her father’s books. He said that Shattuck’s diverse life experiences had helped form her both as a person and a teacher.
Shattuck, who succumbed in 1993 at age 41, was also a talented singer and self-taught guitar player, who used her diverse educational background and life experiences to think creatively, helping her find the solutions that worked best for her students. Tari’s mother, Nora Shattuck, is proud of her daughter and of her legacy.
“It is great to have people still interested in Tari,” Nora Shattuck said. “We all learned from her. She was a special woman, and not just because she was my daughter.”

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