Hockanum School teacher named town's Teacher of the Year

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Wed., Nov. 14, 2012
Stephanie Scribner recieves the Teacher of the Year award at a Board of Education meeting on Nov. 5. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Scribner. - Contributed Photo

When fourth-grade teacher Stephanie Scribner saw what she described as a stagnating curriculum at Hockanum Elementary School, where she has taught for 14 years, she took action and came up with her own. Scribner was recognized for her achievements at a Nov. 5 Board of Education meeting, where she was presented with East Hartford's Teacher of the Year award for 2013 for her changes to the school's curriculum.

Scribner - who began teaching at Hockanum after serving two and a half years with the Peace Corps in Africa and earning her master's degree in environmental education - had a simple idea: give the school's curriculum a focus on the environment. School administrators approved and had teachers trained by an environmental education group known as Project Wild. “The staff got so excited about it,” Scribner said, “I did not have a single day where a teacher did not come up to me and share with me what their class was doing.”

Scribner's own fourth-grade class has been able to experience lessons that would not normally have been done under the old curriculum. Scribner gave the example of each fourth-grade class making donations to the World Wildlife Fund and adopting an animal. Scribner's class adopted a sea turtle, then learned about how waste thrown into nearby Pewter Pot Brook could make its way to Long Island Sound and then the Atlantic Ocean, potentially being eaten by their sea turtle. “The kids saw that their lives have an effect on the bigger picture,” Scribner said.

The school also plans to use Pewter Pot Brook as an outdoor classroom. On Nov. 10, volunteers from the Hockanum School and a local church helped clean up the brook, removing tires and bags full of trash from the water and surrounding area. “It's looking good now, and we are all excited to get down there and do so many things,” Scribner said. Scribner's class will take water samples from the brook and learn how the water affects animals living in the brook.

Scribner said her life experience has also made an impact on how she teaches her classes. During her time in the Peace Corps, she served as a trainer for teachers in Mali, living without electricity or many other modern conveniences. In the fourth grade, students do a unit on early American history. Scribner said she uses her experience to show her students what life was like in colonial North America. “The kids can't imagine living without electricity or video games, but they can see the correlation,” she said.

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