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Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award Recipient: Therese Arsenault, L&T'10

Therese ArsenaultAlthough teaching was her second career, Therese Arsenault hasn't looked back since setting foot into a classroom 10 years ago. With a passion for science, Arsenault came to HGSE to explore and deepen her understanding of how students learn, to enlarge her perspective on making learning visible, and to develop instructional leadership skills.

"Therese Arsenault's warmth, smile, generosity and care for students and her peers, and her fine citizenship in the Learning and Teaching Program (L&T) helped make the year more memorable for all our L&T students," says Senior Lecturer Katherine Boles, director of the L&T Program. "Therese, who took or audited every course she could possibly take this year, recognized the importance of her work at HGSE and gained immeasurably from her year in Cambridge. I must say that we gained equally from her intellectual curiosity, high optimism, depth of love for children, and her excitement about being a classroom teacher. She has been an inspiration to us all."

In addition to returning to teaching middle school science, Arsenault will be working with scientists at Cornell University in the BioMedical Engineering field, conducting research, cultivating relationships that will bring scientists into the classroom, and designing innovative science curriculum. Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for L&T, Arsenault answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?
Going public with your ideas, whether they are just tiny seeds or in the midst of percolating and growing, is a courageous step and a fruitful one. When we begin to look beyond our individuality and see ourselves as accountable to a group's learning, how, why, and what we contribute becomes significant. It is the beginning of creating change. [Lecturer] Daniel Wilson always asked, How do you think leaders can support group learning? [Professor] Bob Kegan spoke of accompanying someone along their journey as a precious and restorative gift. As I move onward, I will hold these ideas, not as distinct entities, but as integral to building classroom communities where teacher and student learn from and with each other.

Is there any professor who significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? Who and why?
Four capable, intelligent, and caring women -- [Assistant Professor] Tina Grotzer, [Adjunct Lecturer] Tina Blythe, [Senior Lecturer] Kay Merseth, and Kitty Boles - inspired me. Each opened their hearts and minds, offering windows into new ways of thinking, of pushing me to move beyond life as is, and being present when friendship and care was needed. If in my next journey, I can be for someone, what these women have been for me, then I will have paid a great gift forward.

How did you stay inspired throughout the year?
Writing elicited confusions. Cleaning house sorted the ideas out. Narratives expressed the fruits of intense thinking. I found inspiration in thought provoking conversations with friends over food and wine, in the solitude of walks along the Charles River, and in the wee hours of the morning while I was reading.

Any special study spots on campus (or off)?
Attending Morning Prayer Service at Memorial Church grounded me. In the silence of reflection, the song of youthful voices, and the sharing of life, these 15 minutes calmed my spirit. Beyond that, I loved early morning excursions to Café Crema where I read with a cup of tea and often followed this up with a visit to the flower shop. I reveled in the solitude of Widener Library, soaking up the light that streamed in those large windows where I sat comfortably in wide chairs taking in the smell and feel of the wooden tables!

What will you change in education and why?
A good friend of mine once said that "inches matter." To move education towards seeing the individual in the sea of many requires all of us to move inch by inch. In my particular corner of education, I will continue to ground learning and teaching in the particulars of a child, a colleague, or a community. I will open the conversation, not to persuade, but to listen, to push through assumptions, and to make what is unseen, visible.


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