National Teacher of the Year

2001 National Teacher of the Year

NameMichele Forman

School Information

School Address
Middlebury Union High SchoolMiddlebury, VT
Teaching AreaSocial Studies
Teaching Level9-12

Vermont Social Studies Teacher named National Teacher of the Year

"Each student is a unique person and a powerful learner capable of great achievements. I truly marvel at my students' capacity for learning, accomplishment and growth."

Washington, DC - April 23, 2001. Broadening students' world views, encouraging them to take on new challenges and helping students learn from each other is a daily journey in Michele Forman's classroom. Because of this commitment to students and her passion for their learning, Forman was named by President George W. Bush today as the 2001 National Teacher of the Year. The ceremony also honored the 2001 State Teachers of the Year.

The National Teacher of the Year Program is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Scholastic Inc., the global children's publishing and media company. The program focuses public attention on teaching excellence and is the oldest and most prestigious awards program for teachers. Forman, the fifty-first National Teacher of the Year, begins a year as a full-time national and international spokesperson for education on June 1, 2001. She is the first Vermont educator to receive this honor.

"The rewards I find in teaching are rooted in the joy of not only watching but also being part of my students' learning and development," said Forman, who teaches social studies at Middlebury Union High School in Middlebury, Vermont."A good teacher needs not only a good understanding of what he or she teaches, but also a sense of excitement in learning and a clear vision of how the key elements of a subject can be conveyed to students."

With this philosophy Forman emphasizes an incredibly strong teacher and learner relationship. "Without mutual trust, students are wary of accepting the risk and vulnerability of learning," she said. "For them, the threat of feeling or appearing inept or incompetent is best overcome with the support of a teacher in a caring, accepting and respectful relationship."

Among Forman's many beliefs about education, she is especially passionate about classes that include students with varied backgrounds and ability levels. "Education is enriched for all students when learners bring their different experiences, perspectives and skills to the group," she said.

Wanting to help students feel less bound by rigid learning expectations, while increasing their acceptance of new challenges and differences in others, led Forman on her own recent learning journey. As part of her continuous study of world history, she learned the Arabic language. The experience helped her realize how difficult it can be for students to understand complex subjects, and how they must remain focused and determined during a learning process that is very challenging.

She began an Arabic course that met before school, expecting a "handful" of students. Eighteen enrolled and the next year even more. Now in its fourth year, the class is an institution at the school.

Forman's commitment also extends to extracurricular activities. Twelve years ago, she and a group of Middlebury Union High students started the Student Coalition on Human Rights. Each year the students select human rights issues on which to focus, ranging from the celebration of diverse cultures to the elimination of poverty to projects with Amnesty International. Activities have included bringing a portion of the AIDS quilt to the community and leading a commemoration in Middlebury of the statewide Holocaust Days of Remembrance. Richard Seubert, a team-teaching colleague, marvels at the depth of Forman's subject knowledge, her tireless pursuit of material that can be incorporated in daily lessons, her passion for life-long learning and her effective ability to communicate -- all part of her investment, he said, in the whole education of her students. "There is little she wouldn't do for her students," Seubert said. "Along with high expectations, she cares for them as human beings first, which helps kids appreciate their potential and set goals that push them to higher levels. She doesn't talk down to them but promotes a dialogue which honors their ideas and celebrates their uniqueness as human beings."

One of Forman's students, Timothy Wickland, says her ability to bring a class of students "to the point where everyone is eager to learn, together, everything that she could teach us" is just one reason he admires her. "Through time spent working with her in the Arabic Club, in the Student Coalition for Human Rights and above all in class, I have developed enormous respect for and admiration of Mrs. Forman and all of her work," he said. "She is respected by all students who have taken a class with her. Nearly all have felt inspired by her teaching."

Gordon Ambach, CCSSO Executive Director, is excited by Forman's selection.

"Michele has the exceptional combination of a sharp and creative intellect, a commitment to help students address the major political and human rights issues of our times, and the personal warmth that nourishes growth and confidence in her students," Ambach said. "Every student should have the opportunity to learn from a teacher like Michele."

Forman was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, on April 7, 1946. Leaving Sylvan Hills High School in Atlanta, she went to Brandeis University and in 1967 earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. She holds a masters degree in teaching from the University of Vermont.

In the late 1960s she served as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching health in Nepal. Forman was an alcohol and drug education curriculum specialist for the Vermont Department of Education before coming to Middlebury.

Professional activities include memberships on the History and Social Studies Academic Advisory Committee and the Academic Council of The College Board, and the Vermont Department of Education Task Force on High School Reform. She has helped develop history teaching standards for several organizations and is certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Forman lives in Salisbury, Vermont, and is married to Dick Forman, a semi-retired professional musician. They have three children, Elissa, a psychotherapist in Florence, Massachusetts; Laura, a University of Vermont student; and Tim, a student at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The other 2001 National Teacher of the Year finalists are Tonya Perry, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Berry Middle School in Hoover, Alabama; Derek Minakami, a science teacher at Kailua High School in Kailua, Hawaii; and Christa Compton, an English teacher at Richland Northeast High School in Columbia, South Carolina.

View the complete candidate application for Mrs. Forman.