Aaron Mason spent his childhood in rural northern California, where white supremacy and prejudice was an unfortunate daily reality. Moving to Vermont with his parents at age 12 was a pivotal point in Aaron’s life, and helped mold enlighten his outlook on diversity, education, and inclusiveness in our communities. These early life experiences helped to shape Aaron’s views on the importance of the history of prejudice in our country and the need to incorporate these topics into our educational system.
Aaron is a 2003 graduate of Colchester High School and was one of just a few students of color there. He was voted co-Captain of the CHS football team by his peers and coaches, and was selected to play in the All-Star Senior Bowl for CHS at Middlebury College, and also earned many athletic achievement awards in baseball and football.
A graduate of the University of Vermont in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Psychology, Aaron was the Vice-President of the Mortar Board Honor Society and also a member of the National Scholars Honor Society. He tutored at Burlington’s Edmunds Middle School and, while working as a paraeducator at Burlington High School in 2009, also worked in the “Shades of Ebony” after-school mentoring program. He is a mountain bike camp coordinator for Essex Junction Recreation and Parks, and a youth football coach for the Colchester Youth Football organization (CYFO).
Aaron is currently completing the Teacher Apprenticeship Program (TAP) to attain his licensure, and student teaching at the Albert D. Lawton Intermediate School in Essex Junction. His passion is the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era with a specific emphasis on civil rights in America.
From a young age, Pierre Cotton’s mother taught him the value of education. As a single mom, working two jobs and also assuring that her two boys were well taken care of, his mom always said, “Don’t be like me, use me as an example, a motivator, to go to college and make something of your life.” Pierre took those words to heart, and became the first person in his family to go to college and receive a Bachelor’s degree. From what he describes as his childhood in “the ghetto of Williamsburg, Virginia” to his adult life in the beautiful Green Mountain state, Pierre has strived to better himself daily and better the lives of those around him.
Pierre first attended Norwich University, and finished his undergraduate studies at the Union Institute and University of Vermont College. Currently Pierre has re-enrolled at Union Institute, where is working on his Master’s degree in History and education administration. He currently works at Bellows Free Academy (BFA) in St. Albans where is oversees attendance and behavior issues for sophomore and senior students.
Pierre is an avid volunteer at the local Burlington Boys and Girls Club, and also coaches football at BFA. He is also raising a family with his wife, Stephanie. The couple has an eight-year-old son, Donyae, and a daughter Daisha who is 1.
Pierre cites these words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as guiding principles for his own philosophy: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
Irie Price comes from rural North Carolina but had her first teaching experiences in the urban schools of Durham. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Duke University and is currently pursuing her M.Ed at St. Michael’s College.
One of Ms. Price’s Duke University professors describes her as “easily the most engaged, enthusiastic, and erudite” of all his students. Another professor stated that “I can’t think of another student I’ve taught in the fifteen years I’ve taught at Notre Dame and Duke that I could recommend with more enthusiasm and confidence.” Ms. Price has volunteered at the Sara Holbrook Center and has participated in community outreach programs run by Champlain Vocational Services and Dismas House. She began working in Burlington as a substitute teacher at the Hunt Middle School, and is now a full-time English teacher at Burlington High, teaching classes that range from foundations to honors, grades 9, 10, and 12.
Throughout his career, Henri Sparks has served as an advocate for youth and families, and has demonstrated a strong commitment to ensuring social justice for all. Since 1996, Henri has worked for the Burlington School District as the Coordinator of Student and Family Support Services, and as the Director of the Alternative Day Program. Henri is also Co-Director of the “Shades of Ebony” program, a program designed to support African-American students and their families with academic achievement and any issues that may impede their ability to achieve academic success. Shades of Ebony is a state of Vermont approved Supplemental Educational Service provider and is serving over 60 students and families from all ethnic groups, with a primary focus on academic success and college preparation. Prior to joining the Burlington School District, Henri was the Neighborhood Planning Assembly Coordinator and Youth Advocate for the City of Burlington.
Henri holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and earned a Master’s in Community and Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University in 1998. In June 2008, he was accepted as an aspiring Principal to the Upper Valley Educators Institute, and successfully attained his Administrator’s licensure in July of 2009. Henri was selected as a VTDSP Scholar during the spring 2009 selection round, and we’re excited to have him as our first Administrator Scholar to benefit from our expanded loan forgiveness services.
An accomplished violinist, Lan Nguyen graduated from Johnson State College with a major in English and a secondary licensure and minor in Psychology. Even before she began her stellar academic career Ms. Nguyen already had classroom experience, substitute teaching at Lamoille Middle and Union High Schools in subjects ranging from Advanced Chemistry and Calculus to Dance and Advanced Composition. The Substitute Teacher Coordinator reported that Ms. Nguyen “has a natural ability to lead and control a classroom” and noted that students frequently requested her when told that their teacher would be absent.
Born to a Korean mother and a Vietnamese father, Ms. Nguyen’s goal is to become a high school English teacher. While a student at Essex High School, she was nominated by her guidance counselor to attend a two-day leadership conference at UVM to promote diversity. Additionally, during high school she was certified as a Peer Mediator and was a runner-up in a UVM sponsored writing contest. Ms. Nguyen did her student teaching at Essex High School and also worked there as a para-educator while completing her B.A. at Johnson State College.
Following her graduation in 2007, Lan quickly secured a position teaching ninth grade English and Honors English at Enosburgh Falls High School. Lan also teaches in the C.A.S.T.L.E. alternative education program for students struggling with delinquency or emotional issues, and created a secondary writing and literature curriculum for use with these students. She works as a Homework Club Instructor in an after-school program for students in grades 5-12, and as a member of the ninth grade intervention team she provides academic and social support to at-risk students. Additionally, Lan was nominated by the intervention team to be a Case Manager for a set of particularly challenging students because of her strong teacher-student relationships. Lan was also asked to participate in a school and district-wide curriculum mapping project currently underway at the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union.
In her own household, Gordana Pobric can see a fine example of the merits of diversity. Within her immediate family there are members of the Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim faiths. Fluent in Serbo-Croatian, German, and English, Ms. Pobric arrived in Vermont in 1998 and immediately immersed herself in her community. She graduated from CCV-Burlington with a GPA of 3.82. It was while working at CCV as a lab monitor that she first recognized her love of teaching. She has completed her B.A. at University of Vermont and was asked to speak at the graduation ceremonies for the UVM College of Education and Social Services.
Ms. Pobric did her student teaching at Burlington High School where she served as a long-term substitute in 2006. During the 2006-07 school year, Ms. Pobric taught Geometry and Algebra II at Essex High School , and served as a long-term subsitute teacher at Burlington High School. In 2007, she began teaching Math at Burlington High School. Ms. Pobric was a presenter at the 2007 Creating a Welcoming Community conference as a member of the morning’s powerful Community Pane.
Ervina Kuckovic immigrated to Vermont from Bosnia in the early 1990’s. During her undergraduate career, Ms. Kuckovic was a reporter and editor for the St. Michael’s College Defender and has employment and internship experience at other Vermont newspapers. Recognizing how important cultural understanding is to children, Ms. Kuckovic helped organize a Bosnian youth dance group which performed throughout New England. Her beliefs in the value of education have been fueled by her work as an Educational Assistant at the Hunt Middle School in Burlington,and as a Home-School Liaison for the Burlington School District.
Ms. Kuckovic received her B.A. from St. Michael’s College. During the 2005-06 school year, she split her time between teaching ESL and continuing her work as a home-school liaison. In the 2006-07 academic year she worked full-time as an ESL teacher at Burlington’s Barnes Elementary and Hunt Middle Schools, and in the fall of 2007 she began working full-time at Hunt Middle School where she has added classes like Sheltered Social Studies to her portfolio.
Melita Sedic-Lawton is a Bosnian refugee who came to Vermont in 1994. She began her education at Community College of Vermont in Burlington while working full time as a cashier. She subsequently transferred to St. Michael’s College and graduated in 1998 with a major in psychology and minors in drama and international business.
Following her graduation, Ms. Sedic-Lawton began work at the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program as a financial support specialist, a case manager,and an interpreter/translator. In October of 1999, she was hired by the Burlington School System as a bilingual home-school liaison.
Ms. Sedic-Lawton received her B.A. from St. Michael’s College with licensure in elementary education. In 2005-06, she taught ESL classes at Flynn Elementary School in Burlington, and for the 2006-07 school year, she taught ELL to students at Williston Central School. One of her proudest achievements has been collaborating with other world language teachers to organize a Multicultural Celebration, the first such event at the school.