Tuesday, December 10, 2019
For Immediate Release
Kathy Renfrew Honored by Vermont Science Teachers Association
Burlington, VT – Educating is rewarding work, and receiving an award in recognition of that work is a great distinction. Having an award named in your honor is uncommon and extraordinary! Kathy Renfrew, Education Specialist at the Wade Institute for Science Education, was happily surprised at a Vermont Science Teachers Association meeting when she was presented the first-ever, “Kathy Renfrew Early Childhood and Elementary Education Science Service Award.”
Kathy’s fascination with science education began when she was introduced to inquiry-based instruction in the early 1990s. As a teacher in Corinth, VT, she participated in the Vermont Elementary Science Project, a multi-year NSF-funded program that connected educators to scientists. Through the program, Kathy enhanced her classroom curriculum to include more hands-on, minds-on investigations to help her students think like scientists and take charge of their learning. This experience led her to the Vermont Institute of Science, Math, and Technology, where she refined her understanding of inquiry-based instruction for the science classroom.
An advocate for effective STEM education and avid learner herself, Kathy decided to further develop her understanding of the science of learning by earning a Masters in Education (M.Ed.) in Professional Teaching and an M.Ed. in K-8 Science Education. She maintained her teaching practice at a small rural school in Peacham, Vermont throughout her career as a graduate student. In her classroom, Kathy used proven teaching techniques to excite and engage her elementary school students in science, and she made it her goal to help students carry their enthusiasm for the discipline on to middle school. Her efforts were recognized in 2000 when she received one of the highest honors for educators in the United States of America, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).
In 2007, Kathy began working for the state of Vermont as one of their Science Assessment Coordinators. Since the Vermont Department of Education was an early adopter of the updated Next Generation Science Standards in 2013, Kathy became intimately involved in drafting, adopting, and implementing the standards during the state’s transition. “I just learned so very much,” she says, “That was when NGSS was being built.”
Kathy’s career picked up momentum as she worked to integrate the new learning standards into Vermont schools. She began receiving opportunities at the national level with organizations such as the National Science Teaching Association and Elementary Science International. “I was privileged to have all these opportunities and I really did take advantage of them,” Kathy says, “Because of it, I believe I became a much better educator.”
In 2017, Kathy decided it was time to support teachers by coaching them in science education. This choice prompted her to move to Massachusetts. At a professional development conference held by the Massachusetts Association of Science Teachers, Kathy reconnected with colleagues, including Wade Institute for Science Education Board members. She was intrigued by the Wade Institute’s mission to support inquiry-based STEM education through educator professional development, and soon thereafter joined the staff as an Education Specialist. As part of the Wade Institute, Kathy works with schools and school districts through our Customized Professional Learning Services. She has also enhanced her content knowledge and skill set by participating in Wade Institute programs, such as the Summer Professional Development Institutes and Professional Development Seminar Series.
Though she had moved away from Vermont, Kathy kept her connection to the Vermont Science Teachers Association (VSTA). She wanted to continue to support educators through professional development, conferences, and recognition! As thanks to and to recognize her many achievements, Kathy was honored with the first-ever VSTA “Kathy Renfrew Early Childhood and Elementary Education Science Service Award,” on October 24th, 2019. “You can’t even imagine. It was just such a surprise!” Kathy says. “This was so different and totally unexpected.”
The award acknowledges Kathy’s dedication to science education as an active learner and leader in the field. The award criteria are representative of Kathy’s demonstration of 1.) innovative teaching practices that support STEM learning, 2.) 3D instruction for all learners, and 3.) integration of transferable skills into classroom assessment.
Kathy continues to be active in the STEM learning community by volunteering, blogging, and more. When she is not developing Customized Professional Learning Services for K-12 schools with the Wade Institute for Science Education, Kathy enjoys reviewing books, attending professional development and networking events, and reading to elementary school children. To learn more about Kathy and her role at the Wade Institute for Science Education, visit: https://www.wadeinstitutema.org/customized-school-services-education-specialists/
The Wade Institute for Science Education specializes in providing inquiry-based, hands-on, minds-on, science, technology and engineering professional development for K-12 teachers and informal educators. For more information, visit www.wadeinstitutema.org or call 617-328-1515.