In Search of The Spark

It wasn’t all that long ago that Beth White, MS ’03 was teaching in a rural public high school in Vermont. “I felt like I didn’t have the spark I needed to reach teenagers. I needed more tools, so I decided to go back to school. I researched some of the Ivy League graduate schools in the region, but felt they didn’t fit with my sense of community, and wouldn’t encourage my individuality. They clearly were not ready for a radical redhead! Then I remembered Antioch University New England, where some of my former colleagues had gone to school.” After a visiting day, Beth left very excited to begin her program the following semester.

Beth moved to Keene where she quickly became fully integrated with her program and the larger community. “I can’t describe how profound the Antioch experience was. I feel like something was opened within me. With my AUNE travels to the Galapagos Islands, the cloud forest region of the Andes, Nantucket Island, Swan’s Island in Maine, and throughout New England, my conceptions of the world were challenged by professors and colleagues. I was in a constant state of dissonance that led me to many ‘Ah ha!’ moments. I am forever changed because of Antioch.”

Her program maintained a rigorous academic standard backed by a safe place to explore ideas. “They asked me what I cared about and then identified the best way to reach me. My program integrated environmental and educational theory that was presented with vigor. They encouraged me to explore material thoroughly and creatively.

Because of Antioch, I now have the tools to reach others in the same way I’ve learned to meet students where they are, and integrate curriculum in a way they can appreciate. Antioch University New England enabled me to authentically engage teenagers and adults in my work.”
Beth says her experience was truly remarkable, but not unique among students in her program. “I continue to speak with colleagues on a daily basis; I have an intimate web of AUNE colleagues and faculty that I call on often. Collectively, our successes are remarkable. What an incredible resource.”

A Day in the Classroom
For the past two years, Beth has taught at Brattleboro (VT) Union High School’s Alternative program, an experience she calls unique and great.

“If you were to walk in and observe my hour-long science class, you may be greeted by a group of multi-aged teenagers, working in pairs, eagerly testing the acidity of household items in order to gain a clearer understanding of how pH relates to the Connecticut River. On another day, perhaps you would find them intensely listening to Dan Brown’s Deception Point to find clues of scientific technology and understand how authors deliver such information to lay audiences. Or perhaps you would visit on a day when they are setting up informational interviews or a class field trip to the local wastewater treatment plant, nuclear power plant, or paper plant to see for themselves how these businesses influence their lives and the Connecticut River Valley’s ecosystem.

On any day, you may be surprised as you witness students who were described by others as distracted and troubled, be authentically engaged, and working hard. You may even be shocked to know that many of these new scientists have failed science multiple times in the past.”

“Antioch University New England picked me up, took me outside, and opened up the world of education, ecology, biodiversity, and global and environmental issues so that I may share these lessons with others. They gently shook me up, gave me new lenses with which to view the world. And the best part is, I will always be a part of Antioch!”

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Antioch University

Since our founding 1852, Antioch University has remained on the forefront of social justice, inclusion, and equality – regardless of ethnicity, gender, creed, orientation, focus of study, or ability.

Antiochians actively reflect these shared values to inspire positive change in the world. Common Thread is where we document the stories that showcase our communities actions, so the change we work for can be shared widely.  

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