News & Events

It’s Not Rocket Science

CJS-headshot1-200-300Our culture is obsessed with the cutting edge and innovation––and almost automatically assumes that newer is better. I’m not moved to argue against change; life is change. And many changes are good. Instead, I want to have more thoughtful conversations, especially in education, about recognizing and valuing what’s tried and true, while still supporting progress.

There are some wheels we don’t need to reinvent, and I’m concerned that in our rush to change and innovate, core principles get overlooked––because they’re not new and “sexy.” Simply put, they don’t have a lot of market value. This is one of the downsides of living in a consumer culture, where we start applying consumer values to just about everything.

In my more than twenty-five years in educational settings, and especially at Rock Point School, the things I’ve seen work consistently are:

  • recognizing that all learning is always cognitive, social, and emotional
  • building community
  • providing strong mentoring
  • creating a culture of kindness
  • giving meaningful responsibility to students
  • encouraging trial and error
  • rewarding both success and effort
  • noticing small gains, not just large ones
  • holding students accountable
  • measuring progress based on where a student starts
  • honoring students for who they are, even as we’re encouraging growth

I know these things work, because I’ve watched students thrive, learn, and grow for 25 years here at Rock Point School, with these principles guiding us.

None of this, of course, precludes place-based education, differentiation, explicit executive-function skill-building, scaffolded essay-writing instruction, or project-based inquiry––all of which are vibrant parts of a Rock Point School education. And while the concepts and tools that make rocket science possible are also an important part of our curriculum (Physics, math, computers, communication skills, etc.), what really makes me proud of this school are strong mentoring and our culture of kindness.

As the Head of Rock Point School, I am always interested in what’s new and how we can change for the better. I’m proud that we have the largest solar orchard in Burlington, and that our students can use it as a laboratory. At the same time, I know it is our ability to keep the core principals above at the center of what we do––and what we have done so well for many years––that enables Rock Point School students to become their best selves and to go into the world with more competence and confidence.

To Build a Fire

15066071218_5ea538e123_oOne of our beginning of the year traditions occurs the first weekend at school when the boys and girls split up to go camping! We have found there is nothing like snuggling together in a lean-to and eating s’mores by a fire to bond people together. This year, the girls went to Branbury State Park, located on the eastern shore of Lake Dunmore at the base of Mt. Moosalamoo. After a cold Friday night by the fire, the girls were glad to explore nearby Middlebury, get fries and shakes and the A&W, and thrift shore shop. The boys stayed at Ricker Pond State Park, in Groton, Vermont. Although the park is located on the shore of the pond, none of the campers were eager to dive in! On Saturday morning, per boys floor tradition, they explored the wonders of the Tunbridge World’s Fair, where they bought some kitschy t-shirts.         15072876658_f806974f35_o      

2014 Ooky Spooky 5k October 18th

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Saturday October 18th come join Rock Point School as we host our annual Ooky Spooky 5k Run. All proceeds of the event benefit C.O.T.S. (Committee on Temporary Shelter) of Burlington. This fun and challenging 5K is an all-terrain course comprising the trails of Rock Point property, the Burlington Bike Path, as well as North Beach. Race begins at 9:00 A.M.  Race registration can be done online, or in person the day of the event from 8:00 A.M. to 8:50 A.M. Prizes given for best costumes! Registration page is currently under construction, but will be up ASAP! Any questions call Rock Point School at 803-863-1104, or e-mail Joe Ainsworth at


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Nice to meet you!

We’d love to introduce you to our new staff members! We are so excited to welcome these awesome women to our community. Already, they are bringing great, positive energy to the school and we can’t wait to see what changes they bring this year!

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 (Left to right: Marika, Allison, Kelsey)

Marika Dalton (Science Teacher) has taught science in many different venues, including teaching undergraduates at Bates College, Johnson State College, and Michigan Tech. She’s also taught summer youth classes in engineering and outdoor adventure. As a geologist and researcher, Mari has traveled all over the world visiting volcaonos, most recently in August of 2014 to Iceland! She loves getting outside whenever she can, hiking, skiing, and kayaking. She can’t wait to get students outside to explore science in the natural world.

Allison Cannon (School Nurse) has worked with adolescents throughout her career, even before she became a nurse. She has worked locally at the University of Vermont, in the student clinic and as a professor in the nursing program, and Burlington High School. Additionally, Allison has worked with the migrant worker community in Vermont and speaks Spanish. She is also mom to a teenage son and a RUN Vermont Coach for young athletes. In her spare time, she is a fiber artist and enjoys running, skiing, and biking. Allison is really looking forward to helping our students at Rock Point learn about themselves, their health, and mentoring them to become good self-advocates, in and out of the health care system.

Kelsey Guarino (Dorm Staff) was an intern at Rock Point as part of her work as an undergraduate at UVM. She quickly decided she’d like to make it a more full time gig, and became a fully fledged dorm staff during summer session 2014. Kelsey studied health and movement science at UVM and is really excited to bring her passion for wellness to Rock Point. She loves playing rugby, biking, and hanging out with her sweet dog Andie.



Back to School!


On Sunday, we welcomed students and parents to Rock Point for the beginning of the 2014-15 school year! We were so excited to meet new students and families and greet our familiar faces. Parents, students, and staff members shared their hopes for the year in our annual convocation service and students began the process of getting to know one another during orientation meetings.

Monday, the new students stayed at school to learn the ins-and-outs of the program, followed by a tour of Burlington and some “creemees.” Returning students took off for the woods, and hiked up to Sterling Pond. In the evening, the groups came together to camp out in the Smugglers’ Notch Cabin.

It’s been a great start so far, and we can’t wait for more camping when the boys and girls split up this weekend!

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Rita Pierson & Adele Diamond: Ideas in Education


If you haven’t yet had a chance to listen to these great educators speak about the value of relationship in education and new ideas about attention, we encourage you to have a listen.  Great food for thought and action!

Thanks for a great summer session!


We had a blast learning, sailing, playing on the beach, writing poetry, gardening, doing research and making presentations.  Looking forward to seeing many of you soon for the fall semester.

Having a ball at summer session!


Summer in Vermont.  Beautiful Rock Point School property.  Having fun!

Arts & Letters


Rock Point School’s beloved, long-time English teacher (now retired), Marylen Grigas, has a new poem, “About Muscle” forthcoming in The New Yorker.  Paul Muldoon, the poetry editor of The New Yorker, wrote to her saying that he was “very taken by this poem.”  In addition to featuring the poem in an upcoming issue, the magazine is also making a sound recording of Marylen reading the poem.

And …

Former staff Becky Kinkead has a show of her paintings on display through the month at the Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury, VT.  To get information about gallery hours or to see Becky’s paintings, click here.  Becky worked as a dorm staff at Rock Point School, at which time, she was already an accomplished ceramicist.  She then went back to school to pursue an education in painting.  She has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, won awards and fellowships, and her paintings are in the collections of Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King, and several major hotels and business.

Congratulations to Marylen and Becky!

Live Free or Die!

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For the first weekend of summer session, we set off to New Hampshire! The first stop was Littleton, where we went to Chutter’s Candy Store, home of the world’s longest candy counter. As we enjoyed our sweet treats, we made our way to Bob Copeland’s studio. Copeland is a former weatherman and current painter, whose work is focused on the New England Landscape. Our next stop was the Frost Place, former home of poet Robert Frost and now a museum dedicated to his life and work. We ended our day with a swim in ECHO Lake and then settled in for the night at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Redeemer in Plymouth, NH.

Sunday morning brought breakfast at a local bagel shop and a hike to Franconia Falls. The hike to the falls was over three miles, but the swim at the end was worth it! After eating lunch by the falls, we headed back home to school. What a way to start the summer session!