Growing up in Westport, Stacy Jagerson was fortunate to have many superb teachers: “legends” like Dave Harrison, Sarah Herz, Nancy Roche and George Weigle.
She also had Jo Ann Davidson and Karen Ernst, at Kings Highway Elementary and Bedford Middle School, respectively. Both are former Westport Public Schools Teachers of the Year.
Stacy — now Stacy Fowle — moved back to Westport nearly 20 years ago. Her children have gone through the Westport schools. Last year, Enia Noonan — Fowle’s daughter Addy’s Staples High Italian teacher — was selected as district Teacher of the Year.
Every fall, a different educator is chosen Teacher of the Year. The newest honoree comes from Greens Farms Elementary School: 5th grade teacher Stacy Fowle.
She’s clearly learned a lot from her former instructors and current colleagues. But her career path was not always clear.
At Staples she captained the 1984 soccer team, and sang in choir. But although she looks back on her 13 years in the Westport schools “very, very fondly” — and calls her education here “amazing” — Fowle was not always a standout student.
“There were some rough patches,” she admits.
She attended St. Lawrence University, but dropped out before graduation. She traveled in India for 6 months, then volunteered as an English as a Second Language instructor in New York City.
That inspired her to take grad school courses to become a teacher. But first, she realized, she needed an undergraduate diploma.
She completed her degree at Sacred Heart University, then entered the Bank Street program.
Fowle calls the school’s progressive approach “transformational.” Her educational philosophy — “very child-centered, not top-down lecturing” — was honed there.
Fowle taught for 7 years at PS 234 in Tribeca. She spent the next 7 as a literacy consultant, helping teachers build reading and writing curriculums.
She was living in Brooklyn on September 11, 2001. By December, Fowle, her husband and 3 young children had moved to Westport. “We were ready,” she says.
She was ready too for a new challenge.
“Consulting is lonely,” she notes. “You’re an outsider. And you’re not always received well by teachers.”
Fowle missed having her own class, and “being on a team with colleagues.”
Meanwhile, she wanted to put all the ideas she was talking about into practice.
Fourteen years ago, she got that Greens Farms 5th grade job. She’s been there ever since. This district is a great fit, she says, for her child-centered approach to education.
Teachers of the Year do not know who nominated them, or why. But Fowle suspects she was selected in large part because of her work around sustainability, and the composting program she helped develop at her school.
Students, staff, parents, cafeteria workers and custodians — all are involved. The concept has spread to other schools in the district. Non-school organizations have taken note too.
Fowle’s environmental consciousness comes from her family. Her mother, Sherry Jagerson, began composting in the 1970s. (Decades later, she was a driving force behind the creation of the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve). Her brother Ty is a leader in the solar energy field.
Fowle praises Westport school administrators — at her school, and the town school office — for their “full support” of Greens Farms’ composting initiative.
And — much like Miss Americas take on causes like civil rights or HIV education — Fowle is using her Teacher of the Year platform to raise awareness of sustainability.
In her speech at the public schools’ convocation — the first district-wide event of the year — and last night, when the Board of Education feted her, Fowle spoke passionately about the power of students to take on “hard work” like climate change.
“It’s real. It’s our future,” she says. “We need to talk about Westport schools as a leader not just in academics, arts and sports, but the environment.”
Her words have already had an impact. At a restaurant the other night a Staples teacher recognized her, and came to Fowle’s table.
“She said she’s composting now. And she’s changing the way she works,” the Teacher of the Year says proudly.
Of course, Fowle adds, the school district honor is not hers alone. It recognizes “our initiative, and the work being done by so many kids and colleagues.” She also cites administrators, parents and community members, for their support.
So what’s been the reaction of her students, to the news that their instructor is Teacher of the Year?
Not much. After all, they’re only in 5th grade.
Besides, they’re too busy composting.