Behind Every “Outstanding Teacher” is an Outstanding Community of Educators


Honorees at the MAST 2017 Awards Banquet

During this year’s MAST Conference I was honored as the “2017 Science Teacher of the Year for Middlesex County.” I sat beside fellow educators from across the state being recognized for outstanding accomplishments, humbled by their stories of bringing their experiences on Antarctic expeditions to their biology and oceanography students, and their dedication toward some of the most diverse and neediest populations in the state. Descriptors like “exemplary” and “outstanding” were used in sincerity. But when reflecting on each of the merits for my own award I could not help but acknowledge that none of them would have come to fruition without the outstanding community of fellow educators and staff I work and collaborate with everyday.

The acknowledgement of my role as “facilitator of the K-8 robotics programs” could not be so without Chrissy Sheppard, Elana Snyder, and Krystel Anderson, classroom teachers who were willing to jump in and help facilitate our annual summer robotics programs, often  learning alongside the students. Nor would there be a FIRST Robotics LEGO team at the middle school without the dedication of Jourdan Marino and Jane Lynch, who offer hours of their lives after school for months during competition season.

The open source K-5 curriculum Wendy Pavlicek and I so proudly share on the Burlington Science Center website would not be nearly the quality product it needs to be for our students without countless educators from Burlington and beyond. Such educators include classroom teachers, specialists, and administrators who have spent time on both the Burlington curriculum teams and the North Shore Cross District Science Mapping initiative. Their work investigating the quality of small-group readers, facilitating curriculum pilots, analyzing student work, and providing feedback on student scaffolds and notebook designs has informed so much of the work our K-5 students now do in Burlington and elsewhere.

My own knowledge of classroom and curriculum best-practices as well as the exemplary resources that use them would be a fragment of itself without the tireless work of friends and colleagues from across the country. Volunteers like Massachusetts teachers, Janet MacNeil, Judith Hebert, Kathy Renfrew, Martha Harney, and Meaghan Cells who share their time with me on behalf of the the NSTA, participating in trainings while curating resources for their NGSS@NSTA Hub. Even the eBook I recently penned for NSTA Kids would not have been as rich in scientific content or multimedia without support from research and education institutions such as the Blue Hill Observatory and their programs coordinator, Don McCasland.

So while the plaque reads “Sean Musselman,” the application for me (submitted by my incredible partner-in-science-crime, Wendy Pavlicek) and every future “Teacher of the Year” will be a story of community and collaboration, people and partnerships, professional learning networks, critical friends groups, or whatever else you want to call them.

That being said, if you’re a Burlington teacher or resident reading this and you’d like to learn how you can promote, improve, and advocate for the expansion of collaboration amongst our teachers, administrators, and community members, don’t hesitate to email or tweet me… The district’s “Expanding Collaboration” committee is always looking for additional members!

One final word: Thank you to the Director of the Burlington Science Center, former EPA Environmental Educator Award winner, and dear friend, Wendy Pavlicek. Outstanding work in schools across the country goes unrecognized everyday without advocates and I am truly grateful for your voice and our partnership.

About MrMusselman

@BurlMAschools Science Specialist and @CambridgeCollg Science Methods instructor. @NSTA Professional Development facilitator and author of "Think Like a Scientist: Investigating Weather and Climate" NSTA Kids ebook.
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