It Begins with the Name
Thaddeus Stevens was born in Danville, Vermont in 1792 and attended the Peacham Academy until his entrance to Dartmouth College. Stevens overcame physical disability and an impoverished youth, and went on to become a powerful Representative in the U.S. Congress. He was known as a fierce advocate of equality for all: rich or poor, black or white, Christian or Jew. He argued against the Fugitive Slave Act both in Congress and in the Court. During Reconstruction, Stevens advocated for the voting rights of freed slaves and equality for all; he was a primary author of the 14th Amendment, known today as the Civil Rights Amendment. Over 20,000 people attended his funeral in 1868.
The legacy of Stevens inspires the School’s deep commitment to civil and human rights that permeates the School’s beliefs about education, its curriculum, its behavioral policies, and its community of parents, students, teachers, and friends.
In keeping with the legacy of its namesake, a deep commitment to civil and human rights permeates the School’s curriculum, its behavioral policies, and its community of parents, students, teachers, and friends. The School fosters citizenship awareness and cultivates respect for the voices that reflect the diversity found in the Northeast Kingdom, the nation, and the globe. The School uses Orientation Week to introduce the values that guide behavioral expectations. Small group discussions focus on issues of bullying, stereotyping, and prejudice to help students recognize harmful behavior and to offer ways to eliminate it.
From the Director
Students flourish at Thaddeus Stevens School. Our teachers love their subjects and bring great passion and commitment to the classroom. We believe that children can learn every day. These are creative, curious, energetic years, and our rigorous curriculum inspires students to question and to pursue knowledge with fervor.
Our approach to education embraces three important elements:
- A curriculum rich with diverse approaches for intellectual growth and achievement. Intellectual growth is best achieved through a curriculum, rich with diverse approaches, that uses the authentic tools of each discipline and evokes thinking beyond memorized data. This empowers students to pursue learning with curiosity and excitement at a critical time in their development.
- An atmosphere that values children and encourages civic development. The best way to ensure the civic development of pre-adolescents is to value them as citizens who bear the torch of the future. Young adults have a strong desire to learn about the real issues they will face as they become full participants in the world, and they respond eagerly to teachers who believe that they are capable of doing so. They are ready to explore their values and to test their beliefs through discussion and reflection. Offering students literature that includes novels, short stories, poems, speeches, diaries, and newspapers from the present and past, and that reflects a variety of ethnicities and classes, raises their awareness of the variety in the American experience. The true stories, the arguments, the paradoxes, and the great moral struggles of our nation inspire students to believe that their voices and knowledge will in fact make a difference in the world.
- A safe environment for fostering emotional health. A rich and diverse curriculum and an atmosphere that values children cannot succeed without an emotionally safe environment. In order to grow intellectually, students must feel safe enough to test their ideas out loud and take intellectual risks. Students must feel certain that administrators and teachers will protect them from any degree of harassment from their classmates. Leaving students to resolve their own conflicts or employing a “kids will be kids” approach is a sure way to stunt growth. Students need to know that, as one of our students said: “Teachers keep an eye on everyone.” Knowing that adults maintain a high level of behavioral expectation allows students to pursue their interests and their ideas freely.
At Thaddeus Stevens School, we have a vision of what education can be. I encourage you to visit and ask lots of questions. I’m sure you’ll enjoy meeting our students and teachers, and you’ll be excited by their genuine enthusiasm for learning.
Julie Hansen, Director
First Amendment Schools Network
In 2005 the Thaddeus Stevens School joined the national network of First Amendment Schools. The network schools are “designed to transform how schools teach and practice the rights and responsibilities of citizenship that frame civic life in our democracy.” Their vision that the “five freedoms protected by the First Amendment are a cornerstone of American democracy and essential for citizenship in a diverse society” dovetails with the Thaddeus Stevens School mission to prepare students who fulfill their “civic duties; embrace human diversity; and thrive in a complex world.” The following section describes the ways in which that commitment is visible at the Thaddeus Stevens School.
Curricular: the four grades study the ideas and events that have influenced and shaped contemporary ideas of self-governance. The fifth and sixth grades look at early world civilizations and the pre-Columbian Americas. Seventh grade focuses on early America, the creation of the Constitution, and the use of the Constitution to build American democracy. Eighth grade examines comparative cultures and governments.
Classroom: seminar-style classes promote the critical, analytical thinking that is incumbent upon citizens of a democratic system. Teachers provoke thoughtful responses by emphasizing the tensions inherent in a diverse society, layering the discussion with opposing viewpoints and encouraging alternative interpretations of ideas.
Methodology: students respond to a variety of texts and primary documents through discussion and extensive writing. Students practice what Mike Schmoker calls “argumentative literacy,” working toward developing a point of view that incorporates their values, knowledge, and experiences.
The following activities are designed to help students develop their understandings:
- Unscripted mock trial based on a real case;
- Legislative simulations;
- Model U.N.
- International treaty-making simulations;
- Candlelight Vigil, Dartmouth College, to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.
- African American Read-In to celebrate African American authors.;
- Dialogue on Freedom.
School culture: the School accepts that in any human interaction conflicts will arise. Acknowledging those conflicts and working together to resolve them develops accountability in both teachers and students. The School meets daily to discuss the events of the day and to address any issues that have developed through the course of student interaction. Teachers work to ensure that all voices are heard and students participate in the resolution of any problems. The School mission, the idea of responsibility necessary to maintain democratic ideals, and the importance of respect for self and others are all used to reestablish the intellectual and emotional safety that promotes critical thinking.
The following are examples of broad-based decision-making:
- Music appreciation course: students designed a course that allowed each student to investigate a specific genre of music to then present to the entire school;
- Attire guidelines for handbook: student committee worked with faculty and board;
- Student committee reconvenes upon discrepancies or disagreements with the guidelines.
Civic Engagement: students participate in a variety of community service activities.
The following are examples of projects and activities:
- Annual: Walk for the Northeast Kingdom Youth Shelter; host Martin Luther King Candlelight Vigil; Simple Gifts (faculty and students staff craft tables that provide materials for community children to make their own Christmas gifts); host Memorial Day Ceremony for the town of Peacham; participate in Veterans Day activities
- Election years: “Get out the Vote”; “Meet the Candidates” night
- Disaster Relief: Clean up of local farm after a fire; Pet Food Drive
- Time Sensitive: Volunteering for Special; painting kindergarten room at local church
Board of Trustees: the Board consists of parents, members of the community, and teachers from neighboring schools. The School hopes to increase board membership to alums as that population grows.