Contributed by Lauren A. Curry
Most days in this job are pretty great. Today was extra great.
This morning I watched as Rich and Deb Tarrant announced a second $5 million investment in Vermont kids. The funds will go to the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont to support up to 60 new partnerships with middle schools statewide over the next five years. The Institute works with schools and teachers to create learning that is technology-rich, personalized, relevant and – most of all – engaging for today’s youth.
As a professional, that’s a pretty exciting moment. It’s as a parent, though, that I find myself most grateful for this extraordinary investment.
More than 9 years ago I sat down for a conversation with Rich and Deb Tarrant. I was meeting them for the first time, and was interviewing for a position with their new foundation. I was also 8 ½ months pregnant with my first child.
Rich asked me during that conversation what I thought of an idea he had to use technology to modernize education and improve learning opportunities for kids. Our discussion was exciting and, while I confess to focusing a bit much on the challenges involved, Rich’s passion and determination were compelling.
Not long after, I had a job offer … and a baby. And the Foundation had a new partner: Dr. Penny Bishop and her remarkable team at UVM’s College of Education and Social Services.
In 2006, after a long hot summer spent huddled around desks with a gifted group of teachers from Milton Middle School, we piloted our first student cohort. In 2009, with both Edmunds and Manchester Middle Schools on board, we formally launched the Tarrant Institute.
The Foundation’s gift to create the Institute was the largest in our history – by a lot. It marked a major turning point for us as an organization. Today marks an even bigger one. Rich told the audience gathered at the press conference this morning that we are “doubling down”, investing a further $5 million in a strategy that works.
Which brings me back to my perspective as a parent.
That beautiful baby boy born those many summers ago is now a 4th grader. He is smart, creative, and sometimes a handful in class. He thrives on technology. He is one of many kids who I think would chafe in a traditional middle level classroom. And he – along with every kid – deserves to learn in a setting that values his individuality, challenges his intellect, puts relevant tools in his hands, and positions him for success in his life ahead.
I am grateful that my son’s school and so many other middle schools in Vermont now have the opportunity to draw on the expertise, resources, and supportive partnership of the Tarrant Institute. Thank you Rich and Deb. Thank you Penny. Thank you to all of the wonderful, committed educators who bring this work to life. As Rich said, “writing the check is the easy part … without these people we would be nowhere.”
You can listen to the complete press conference here, including remarks from a remarkable young 7th grader at People’s Academy in Morrisville. Educators can learn more about partnership with the Tarrant Institute at joinus.tarrantinstitute.org.
Lauren A. Curry has been the Executive Director of the Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant Foundation since 2005.