One teacher, one t-shirt

Hello friends,

The leaves have already peaked up here on the mountain where I live. And the thermometer reads a brisk 28°F this morning. I love the change of seasons, which is a good thing when you live in the place now known as Vermont. Sometimes seems that it changes season from day to day.

This time of year has me recalling a powerful learning experience I had in early high school.

I was taking an American Studies humanities class, and one October morning the teacher came to class wearing a t-shirt that depicted a scene featuring Native Americans that said ‘On this day in 1492, Columbus invaded America.’

(Aside: that’s what I would have called them then, but now I question what term to use and if these were accurate images or stereotypes?) I don’t recall my teacher saying much about it, but its message carried a powerful contrast to our textbook’s depiction of events. That shirt really got me thinking. A lot. (And isn’t that what we hope for as teachers?!) I was awestruck, and I recall my sudden mind shift, thinking “Whooooa! Yeah, I guess it was that way for the people who were already here.” It was the first time I remember being asked to hold multiple perspectives. (And my teacher didn’t even have to say a word!)

So this year, as Vermont celebrates its second official Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday, October 12, I’m thinking back with such gratitude to that teacher. They and their t-shirt helped me understand that our history is complex.  This teacher took risks because of her strong belief in social justice. I see you out there, doing the same for your students and for justice. Thank you.

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be co-hosting an upcoming webinar on Decolonizing Your Thanksgiving Curriculum featuring Judy Dow!


For reasons I can’t totally explain (but might be in part thanks to my teacher’s influence), I loved teaching Thanksgiving, and I tried hard to get it “right”. Or maybe I mean “just”.

As it turns out, I have more to learn.

I’m grateful to Judy, who will lead us in using primary sources to debunk some popular Thanksgiving myths. And the Tarrant Institute is thrilled to be partnering with Shelburne Farms and Vermont Learning for the Future (VTLFF) to bring this (free!) event your way. Join us!

Ok, now back to my regularly scheduled hot apple cider…


Emily Hoyler

Emily Hoyler is a Professional Development Coordinator with the Tarrant Insitute for Innovative Education. Part of Emily's role within TIIE is a collaboration with Shelburne Farms, where she is co-developing academic programming and professional learning centered on Education for Sustainability. She has nearly two decades of experience working as an educator, including five years as a sixth-grade teacher, and several years as the Curriculum Specialist at Shelburne Farms. Emily’s current interests include decolonization of education, contemplative practices in the classroom, systems-thinking/sensing, and creating rejuvenating professional development experiences for fellow educators. Emily is a nationally certified facilitator for The Origins Program’s Developmental Designs workshops and served as a Visiting Lecturer in Education Studies at Middlebury College where she taught community-connected courses on elementary methods and Education for Sustainability. Emily lives at the top of a mountain in Ripton, Vermont, with her husband and many Wild Things, including three children, 19 chickens, a dog, and various other untamed critters.

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