Williams Announces 2014 Olmsted Awards to Local Schools

Media contact:  Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: Noelle.Lemoine@williams.edu

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 6, 2014—Williams College has announced its 2014 local Bicentennial Olmsted Awards for Faculty Development to Williamstown Elementary School, Mt. Greylock Regional School, and McCann Technical School. Each school will receive $4,300 to fund professional and curricular development projects. A ceremony will take place on Thursday, May 22, on the Williams College campus.

The projects that will be funded at Williamstown Elementary School are implementing the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment (MKEA) system and preparing for a new website launch. Principal Joelle Brookner proposed both projects. Massachusetts has created an assessment requirement to measure and monitor the progress and development of kindergarteners across multiple domains. Beginning in fall 2014, Williamstown Elementary teachers and staff will begin to implement the MKEA system. The principal and kindergarten staff will use Olmsted funds to attend training sessions, continue to learn the process, share results, and upload data to the assessment tool. The second project, the new website, is being done in collaboration with Mt. Greylock Regional School and Lanesborough Elementary. The tri-district website will be launched this summer and will provide one stop shopping for visitors and enhanced aesthetic and technological tools for administrators and teachers.

At Mt. Greylock, the award will be used for three projects. First is a tri-district choral festival for elementary- and middle-school choral and music students in the region. The event, proposed by Kate Caton, director of the choir, will recognize talented vocal music students, contribute to the community through performance, and encourage participants to pursue future choral opportunities. The second project, proposed by ninth-grade English teachers Kellie Houle and Rebecca Tucker-Smith, is to revamp the ninth-grade English curriculum. They will add a unit on the memoir Positive co-authored by Paige Rawl and Ali Benjamin, which is about living with HIV. All ninth-grade students will participate in this new unit. The Olmsted grant will be used also to train teachers to develop individual course websites compatible with the school’s upcoming new website. Webmaster and trainer Peter Niemeyer will work with teacher volunteers on this project.

The award for McCann was granted to Perry Burdick of the Information Technology Program. McCann will use Olmsted funds to help cultivate interest and talent in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) areas by purchasing three robotic kits and offering instructor training in the programming language used for the robots. The robotics kits will enable students to participate in the Berkshire County Robotics League and compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge. In addition, McCann will organize a robotics summer camp for middle-school students to foster engagement in STEM activities at an early age.

The local Olmsted Awards are funded by an endowment from the estates of George Olmsted, Jr. ’24 and his wife Frances. The awards were established during the 1993 Williams Bicentennial Celebration. They are an extension of the national Olmsted Prizes, which are administered each year to secondary school teachers from around the country, nominated by students of Williams College’s senior class. Olmsted, a lifelong advocate of superior teaching, was the president and chairman of the board of the S.D. Warren (Paper) Company.

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Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.

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