Some final reflections from former TIIE staff

John Dewey once famously said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” As the Tarrant Institute for Innovation Education (TIIE) sunsets as an organization, we found it appropriate to reflect and share some tidbits of what we have learned.

Here are some thoughts and reflections from former TIIE staff (alphabetized by last name) when asked:

“What is one important thing you learned through your connection with TIIE that you’d like to share with middle level educators?” 


Penny Bishop, Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at University of Maine & former Founding Director at TIIE

TIIE helped me understand the extraordinary nature of middle grades educators. They literally change the world each day they believe in, connect with, and elevate young adolescents.

Katy Farber, Assistant Professor of Education at Saint Michael’s College & former Professional Development Coordinator at TIIE

TIIE taught me that school change is possible, that small groups of people — when connected, when encouraged, when joined with instead of told — can create schools that work against the systems that have dominated for so long — and grow community, grow connections, purpose, engagement, and meaning. Centering the voices of students, amplifying their stories and brilliance. 

I learned about the strength, power and persistence of VT educators, who show up in all the ways they can everyday for their students. To help them, in any way, was the purpose and privilege of working at TIIE. 

Susan Hennessey, Technology Integration Coach at Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union & former Professional Development Coordinator at TIIE

In reflecting back on my time at the Tarrant Institute, I am struck by just how much can be accomplished when a team commits to meeting norms, working agreements, and protocol driven structures to complete complex and creative tasks. Our collective commitment to the work in this way allowed us to be innovative risk takers.

Emily Hoyler, Operations Manager at UVM’s Institute for Agroecology & former Managing Director at TIIE

I learned and grew so much during my time with TIIE. I think the most important thing that I will carry with me is the importance of nurturing relationships and tending to “the container,”  whether that “container” is our classroom community, the adult culture in our building, or any community that we find ourselves in. I’ve learned that how we do the things we do is as important as what we do and that showing up with self-awareness, compassion, and vulnerability are essential ingredients for thriving. I feel so much gratitude for being part of such amazing work in the Vermont education community over the past six years.

Life LeGeros, Equity Scholar in Residence at the Institute for Liberatory Innovation, former Professional Development Coordinator at TIIE

I have deepened my understanding and personal interpretation of the beautiful struggle. The day to day work of teaching, school and district leadership, systems transformation: these are incredibly hard things to do. The products of our efforts aren’t often readily apparent and don’t always manifest. But the power of this work lies in its potential: working together based on shared values rooted in equity, learning to better love ourselves and others, freedom dreaming about a better tomorrow, and showing up every day as our true selves striving to make each moment as human/e as possible. Successfully changing social systems is not guaranteed, so the struggle itself may be all we have; and that’s okay because when we enact hope together, it’s beautiful.

Rachel Mark, Director of Academic Support at Vermont State University- Castleton & former Professional Development Coordinator at TIIE

As a result of my time working for the Tarrant Institute, I’ve learned so many things. Perhaps what strikes me most of all is what I’ve learned about attending to the way we work in teams and systems. The process of working together as people in systems is just as important as the content of the work. Perhaps we learned this together because we lived and worked through a pandemic, when so much of our world was unpredictable and in turmoil. I learned that we needed to surface our emotions and take care of one another as we worked through this time. Fortunately, we never let go of working this way.

Our agreements and working norms as a Tarrant team are extraordinary, and I hope to carry them with me into all of my future endeavors. Two of my favorite agreements are “Take space, make space, hold space” and “Welcome our fully human selves”. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to learn from and with you all. 

Steve Netcoh, Coordinator of Extended Learning Opportunities at Farmington High School in Connecticut & former Postdoctoral Associate at TIIE

​The most important lesson I learned through my work with TIIE is that the community is an invaluable source of meaningful learning opportunities for middle grades youth. From offering relevant questions and issues that can serve as the foundation for curriculum to providing experts who can help youth explore their passions and interests, the community is essential for helping to foster purpose, identity, and engagement for young adolescents within and outside school walls.

Mark Olofson, Director of Educator Data, Research, and Strategy at Texas Education Agency & former Graduate Research Fellow at TIIE

Often I think about how middle school is a transformative time period for students, where they change and are changed – but working with TIIE I saw educators and other professionals change, and be changed through collaborative and purpose-driven action. I guess – it’s not just the students having transformative experiences.

Jeanie Phillips, Senior Associate at Great Schools Partnership & former Professional Development Coordinator at TIIE

The biggest takeaway I have from my time at TIIE is RELATIONSHIPS! This work allowed me to develop deep, meaningful, lasting relationships with my colleagues, educators around Vermont, and students.  I learned so much from all the people I worked alongside in schools and beyond, and I cherish those connections. AND I watched as educators nurtured relationships with students, colleagues, families, community members, and those of us at TIIE – building strong learning organizations rooted in belonging and care. I’m deeply grateful for Vermont educators and students for the opportunity to connect and learn with you! 

Scott Thompson, Director of Curriculum at Franklin West Supervisory Union & former Professional Development Coordinator at TIIE

Middle School Matters! Developmentally, academically, socially, and emotionally it is such a unique time that has had long impacts on YA’s. In my time with TIIE and as a middle school teacher, when students feel welcome, cared about, and involved in their education is where I have seen the most benefit. Despite all the pressures of testing and rigor, I’d offer to focus on the students. The rest will fall into place, 

2 thoughts on “Some final reflections from former TIIE staff”

  1. As former TIIE members reflect on their experiences, it’s evident that the journey shapes individuals beyond academics. Such insights are invaluable for students aiming for excellence, whether in the best 5 B.Tech colleges in Greater Noida or top MBA colleges in Greater Noida, emphasizing holistic growth and lifelong learning.

  2. Reflecting on our experiences with TIIE, we’ve learned that innovation in education isn’t just about new tools and methods—it’s about reflecting on what works and why. As we move forward, let’s carry forward the lessons of adaptability, creativity, and collaboration that TIIE has taught us.

What do you think?