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Kristin Lizotte, a teacher at Kearsarge Regional Elementary School, was awarded the 2019 Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Kristin Lizotte, a teacher at Kearsarge Regional Elementary School, was awarded the 2019 Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Teacher Kristin Lizotte reflects on her McAuliffe Sabbatical year

Each year, the Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical awards a year-long leave of absence to an exceptional New Hampshire public school teacher. The sabbatical provides the teacher with the time, space, and funding to explore, through a self-designed project, new ideas and ways to enhance classroom teaching. Here, Kearsarge Elementary School teacher Kristin Lizotte, who was awarded the McAuliffe Sabbatical in 2019, reflects on her experience.

I was the Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical Award recipient for the 2019-2020 school year, and who could have imagined the way the year would end! I set out to bring deeper learning to students in New Hampshire through providing professional learning activities to educators about project-based learning (PBL). Despite the challenges the pandemic brought, my sabbatical year was a year of professional growth, and a year of creating, collaborating and connecting with educators across New Hampshire.

Create

PBL is an instructional strategy that is guided by sustained inquiry into a meaningful question or problem, and involves students being actively engaged in their learning. I spent much of the year creating a website dedicated to project-based learning through synthesis of research and curation of open-source materials. The site has professional learning modules to aid in creating a project, a deep dive into student-centered assessment, book summaries and discussion guides, definitions of educational terms, and recommended books and websites. When schools shifted to remote learning, I created pages dedicated to tech tools for use in PBL as well as a page with resources for teaching with PBL remotely. I hope that the site will continue to be a professional learning resource for educators.

Collaborate

Meeting with other educators, both current and future, was an amazing privilege. I was able to share what I learned about PBL through presentations, small-group and individual activities. I worked with teachers and student-teachers to learn about how PBL can be used in instruction. I worked with groups and individuals to plan their own projects for classroom implementation. This was mostly done in person, but I also worked with teachers virtually.

Connect

I visited schools throughout New Hampshire that are engaging in innovative practices and talked with educators about the great things going on at their schools. Many of their profiles can be seen on the website. I have also highlighted projects teachers in New Hampshire have tried. In addition to visiting schools, I was also able to meet and learn from educators from different educational organizations dedicated to providing deeper learning opportunities for students.

While the sabbatical year did not end as I had hoped, I am truly grateful for the time I had to dedicate to my project, to visit other schools, and to collaborate with educators.

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