Vergennes Phys Ed Teacher Named Vermont Teacher of the Year | Education | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Vergennes Phys Ed Teacher Named Vermont Teacher of the Year

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Published September 29, 2022 at 9:06 p.m.


2023 Vermont Teacher of the Year Robyn Newton (right) with Education Secretary Dan French - COURTESY OF THE AGENCY OF EDUCATION
  • Courtesy of the Agency of Education
  • 2023 Vermont Teacher of the Year Robyn Newton (right) with Education Secretary Dan French

Hundreds of students gathered in the Vergennes Union Elementary School gym on Thursday afternoon for their first big assembly since before the pandemic.

They had good reason to get together: Robyn Newton, a physical education teacher at the school for 27 years, was recognized as the 2023 Vermont Teacher of the Year.



The Vermont Agency of Education has been honoring outstanding educators with the award since 1964. During Newton's tenure as the titleholder, which begins on January 1, she'll travel the state as an advocate for education and will be Vermont's candidate for National Teacher of the Year.

A press release from the Agency of Education outlined some of Newton's accomplishments over the course of her long career. In 2008, she secured a grant of almost $1 million for the school to create three ropes courses and purchase sports equipment such as snowshoes, ice skates, disc golf equipment and elliptical trainers. She developed curriculum centered on the Olympics to teach students about sportsmanship and world affairs. And she started a program based on brain research to help kindergarteners develop their motor skills. She's also active in the local community as a member of the Vergennes Parks & Recreation committee, where she led a project to renovate the community's ice rink and basketball facility.

"She's a teacher who believes that learning can take place anywhere — in the classroom, in this gym, on the playing field and out in the community," Education Secretary Dan French said in a short speech before bestowing the award. When French finally said Newton's name, the gym erupted — with students clapping, jumping up and down, and even throwing their hats in the air.

"I'm as excited as you are," French told them. 
Students do a balance activity during the assembly - COURTESY OF THE AGENCY OF EDUCATION ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Courtesy of the Agency of Education ©️ Seven Days
  • Students do a balance activity during the assembly
Newton, who played softball as a student at the University of Vermont and coached the Saint Michael's College softball team for 18 years, thanked administrators, colleagues and students for their support.

"An active body equals an active mind ready to learn," she told them.

Then — in true gym teacher form — she asked the kids in the audience to get on their feet. She directed them to balance on one foot, then try to touch their nose with their opposite hand while also closing their eyes — an activity she said helps with focus and attention.

She wrapped up her comments with what she said was her favorite Albert Einstein quote: "Play is the highest form of research."

The Agency of Education also announced three Teacher of the Year distinguished finalists this week. They are Abbie Bowker, a visual art teacher at Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg; Amy Clapp, a fourth-grade teacher at Salisbury Community School; and Aziza Malik, a fifth-grade teacher at Champlain Elementary School in Burlington.