LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Louise Levy

Position: Biology Teacher
School: Belchertown High School
School District: Belchertown School District
City, State: Belchertown, MA

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Louise Levy was nominated by her colleague, David Monroe.

Ms. Levy has done so much more than the duties required of a Biology Teacher at Belchertown High School. At the heart of her work has been the $10,000 Toyota Tapestry Grant that she was awarded, called “Belchertown Biodiversity…Let’s Get Outside." As program director, she has demonstrated exceptional leadership, organization, versatility, determination, and ability to work with students of all ages. This project is ongoing and expanding.

She continues to put in many extra hours each week to make sure that the program continues to succeed. Her time is spent on many different activities; most of which have occurred more than once. She has incorporated outdoor activities into K-12 science, and has helped teachers to develop curricula that can be used perennially. Ms. Levy created a multidisciplinary approach to the lessons that allowed all teachers to accept the place-based learning. The differentiated instruction associated with projects is now being used at all levels. Many K-8 teachers who did not already participate in the past have volunteered to learn.

Ms. Levy continues to be ready, willing and able to personally lead groups for activities. She lets people get their feet wet at many locations, including Lake Wallace, Belchertown Public School Sites, Belchertown Public Buildings, Harvard Forest and other public sites. She created and led the ongoing after school Eco-Mentoring Program, bringing together younger students, high school students, parents, teachers, and community members. They tour the site, collect specimens, evaluate them on site and head back to the classroom to collect data. Partnering high school and elementary students for joint field trips to Lake Wallace and other school sites allows for the collaboration and teamwork of many different age groups. The woodland ecology students continue to partner with elementary students, and her biology students partner with the kindergarteners.

Ms. Levy's behavioral and endpoint expectations result in very successful lessons and field trips. Last year, she coordinated activities with her high school students, and over 400 second and third graders as well. Ms. Levy collaborated with the high school geography teacher to create a Lake Wallace topographical map making lesson. Most recently, she and her Life on Earth students are collaborating with the Town Planner, sharing their creative ideas toward the development of an educational space and ADA compliant trail.

Working with her school, community, and professional groups, Ms. Levy has spread the program even further. The LEAF (Local Environmental Action Force) Club led and participated in the annual Lake Wallace/Foley Field trail maintenance. The Student Council donated hundreds of flower bulbs that students and faculty planted to improve the landscaping at BHS. Students helped Ms. Levy prepare a Belchertown Biodiversity informational board that was presented at the Humanities Club booth at the Belchertown Fair. She also assisted the Daisy Troop with an activity at Lake Wallace.  
For the Beauty and Biodiversity of Belchertown Exhibition, Ms. Levy connected students, teachers, administration, support staff and community members. At each exhibition, she delivered contained artwork, poetry and photography created by Belchertown students. Exhibitions were displayed across town in each school library, the Clapp Memorial Library, Belchertown Town Hall, The Belchertown Senior Center and Easthampton Savings Bank. Ms. Levy has also engaged in a cooperative program with a graduate student from Northern Illinois University Center, for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy. They created a secondary interdisciplinary English and Science unit for grades 7-12. She has also become the district coordinator of the New England Outdoor Writers Association Youth Writing Contest. Over the years, two students won prizes at the state level and others earned an honorable mention.

In terms of her teaching, Ms. Levy embraces differentiated instruction for any student; especially in her woodland ecology and Life on Earth classes. Her teaching style allows students from all levels to succeed. Students recognize their direct and indirect interaction with the environment. Students are given the time and tools to develop a sense of responsibility, allowing them to respond not only to the challenges that the environment faces, but challenges in their lives as well. The woodland ecology and Life on Earth courses have significant academic rigor as well.

In biology, Ms. Levy has developed a program that allows her to get through the multitude of concepts and content areas covered by engaging the students in many STEM activities. She is part of the reason why Belchertown High School continues to rank in the top five schools in Western Massachusetts in Science MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) exams. Ms. Levy is able to connect with some of the most reluctant learners. She loves what she teaches, and her efforts have helped students to remain in school.

For the last two years, Ms. Levy has also focused her energy on expanding the local elementary organic garden into a town wide program. She was instrumental in organizing the Belchertown Public School Garden Parent Teacher Organization. Recently, they gathered 40 individuals of all ages to build 26 raised beds, prepare the soil and begin planting. They are coordinating with the town to establish a new watering and electrical supply. One of the Boy Scout recently earned his Eagle Scout badge by completing an extensive composting system.

Ms. Levy knows how to lead, delegate and support others for a greater cause. She has been actively involved in evaluating the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the 2016 Massachusetts Science, Technology and Engineering Curriculum. She continues to be an active member of the K-12 Science Curriculum Writing Committee. 

Ms. Levy is also a member of the Harvard Forest School of Forestry, where she has led teacher professional development meetings over the last eight years. Harvard Forest honored her this year with an award acknowledging her contributions. She is also a member of Massachusetts Environmental Educator Society (MEES). Ms. Levy presented a session on multidisciplinary lessons, using the local environment at a MEES convention. The presentation helped teachers in different school districts use the various activities that have been developed in Belchertown. She also presented a session at the Massachusetts Association of Science Teachers (MAST).

"Louise and I presented her interdisciplinary, multilevel program at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) convention in Boston," Monroe said. "Most recently, she presented at the MassSTEM Conference and continues to reply to interested participants. She is a contributor to eBird, which is a citizen scientist organization that identifies species of birds, their population, and migration."

Ms. Levy is active with the Massachusetts STEM Initiative through Worcester Polytechnic Institute. As an integral member of the STEM Integration Leadership Team, she is working to incorporate STEM K-12 into the district science curriculum. She also helps organize the annual STEM night for the elementary school. This year, Ms. Levy has been recognized for her contributions by Hampshire County Science Teachers, Massachusetts Association of Science Teachers and Massachusetts Audubon.

"Louise Levy has earned the privilege to be recognized as a Lifechanger of the Year," Monroe said. "She is respected by peers, students, parents, administration and community members. Her tireless enthusiasm is infectious. She continues to demonstrate professionalism and excellence via varied teaching practices, professional development, collaboration and cooperation at the district, community, state and national levels. I am privileged and proud to have her as a member of The Belchertown High School Science Department and as a colleague in Biology. She makes a difference."

Comments (8)

Sara Grillo Posted over a year ago

My kids got involved with Ms. Levy's "EcoMentors" program about 8 years ago, when the project was getting off the ground. I have since then participated in this hands-on science with all 3 of my kids, my niece and nephews, and most recently even my toddler! Ms. Levy has the amazing ability to teach 16 year olds one moment and 8 year olds the next moment. She engages the various age groups seamlessly. She has integrated the high school classes with the elementary grades not only in the context of the EcoMentors program but in the school garden as well. She is harnessing the best in her high school students and offering really valuable experiences to the younger students as well. Under her initiative our school garden has easily quintupled in size in as many years, and shows no signs of slowing down. From 2 rows of assorted veggies, the garden now includes handicapped accessible beds, a compost system, rainwater collection, an outdoor classroom, a pollinator garden and partnerships: with our school lunch program and community food banks. Louise puts in a great deal of literal, manual labor on the garden, but it's her ability to partner with others and grow a community effort that have truly allowed the garden to flourish. The ability to bring together those with time or ideas or skills to share and create such meaningful and long-lasting programs as the ponding adventures at Lake Wallace or the growth of the school garden is what makes Ms. Levy truly remarkable and a really life changing educator. I couldn't imagine anyone more deserving of recognition.

Fran Frederick Posted over a year ago

Louise demonstrated dedication not only to our students and community, but the the environment. Her thoughtful projects inspire young people to think about the larger world and their place in it. She allows them the opportunity to experience and connect with nature, while reinforcing that each of them have a role in protecting and maintaining our fragile ecosystem for themselves and generations to come. Louise's passion is easy to see and it inspires others to engage their own passions and leave the world better than they found it.

Brian Meehan Posted over a year ago

Louise is a great teacher. She is always thinking outside the box. (literally taking kids outside the school to study things in nature. She has pioneered working across grade level partnering her high school students with ones in elementary school. As a fellow teacher in the building I have gone to observe her teaching on several occasions for insight into new ways of reaching and engaging with the students. This money would go a long way toward funding the materials that our school budget has not been covering in recent years.

Ben A. Posted over a year ago

Louise’s energy is clear from the many and diverse initiatives listed above. Her impact is evident from the statistics: we are a small district, a rural district, and among the most poorly-funded in the state, yet our high school students score far above average on standardized tests of biology. Louise consistently models a deep curiosity about the natural world and a commitment to protect it. My office is near Lake Wallace, where I often see her. Some days she is helping second graders scoop dragonfly nymphs from the water’s edge. Other days, she is leading her student volunteers in clearing litter and maintaining the hiking trail. I have found her walking quietly with her notebook just after dawn, cataloging the lake’s bird life. And I have gathered with dozens of others and stood long after dark on frosty nights, peering through her telescope at the night sky. In an era when our nation is mired in endless debates about well-established science, she is helping ensure that the next generation of citizens has the skills they need to evaluate scientific evidence for themselves. Perhaps more importantly, she is providing them with a rich storehouse of personal encounters with the natural world. Her students have felt the mud between their toes as they inventoried the burgeoning life in the waters of Lake Wallace, and they can weigh what is lost when such natural treasures are not protected. Louise is generous in sharing her time, her knowledge, and her sense of wonder at a world that is such an inexhaustible source of fascination. She defies the conventional understanding that educators work only with children, and that science is the province of highly-trained specialists. Neither I nor my office-mates have children in the schools, yet when she organizes activities, she welcomes us to take part as fellow explorers, fellow discoverers. It is thanks to Louise Levy that we have seen the moons of Jupiter with our own eyes. A greater gift and more life-changing gift I cannot imagine.

Rachel Griffiths Posted over a year ago

Louise Levy is a highly dedicated teacher who strives to impart not only a solid understanding of the subjects she teaches, but also lasting enthusiasm for the subject matter and the process of scientific inquiry. I feel most privileged that my son has been able to directly benefit from outdoor environmental education programs that Ms. Levy has initiated in the Belchertown school system, programs that I believe have had a strong influence on his career path. The Ecomentors program that Ms. Levy began at Lake Wallace allowed my son to develop skills in close, focused observation of wildlife, including identification and illustration starting in the elementary grades and up through middle and high school where he has now become one of the mentors for the younger students. My son has also participated in Ms. Levy’s Woodland Ecology class at Belchertown High School in which he created an extensive leaf collection that became a highlight of his semester, and point of pride in his high school career. He is currently applying to college programs in wildlife and conservation biology, a testimony to the lasting impact Ms. Levy’s teaching can have on a student.

Tammy Toad Ryan Posted over a year ago

I am a parent and have worked with Louise in the school garden program that she helps spearhead. Her dedication and commitment to creating amazing learning oportunities for kids of all ages is par none. She works tirelessly and is committed to educating our community about the natural world in as many ways possible.

Pamela Snow Posted over a year ago

I strongly endorse the nomination of Louise Levy as Life Changer of the Year. I have never met a teacher who goes further and deeper to expose her students to making this world a better place than Louise. I work with hundreds of teachers as coordinator of a Schoolyard Ecology program through Harvard University. While we offer lots of professional development opportunities to our wide network of teachers throughout the Northeast, not many teachers find or make the time to attend 3 teacher workshops a year here; add virtual land planning training in there; take a leadership role in STEM education statewide; incorporate a multilayered partnership with town planning projects; lead 2 ambitious field ecology projects; coordinate multiple field trips; apply for outside funding to support cross school and cross age mentoring partnerships; and volunteer to create new learning tools using land use change maps to provide students with a range of perspectives from closeup concrete field observations of individual trees, to 10x10 meter plots, to 1 square mile around school, to town wide changes in their world over time. All of this is done with a passion to better understand "Life on Earth" which significantly and appropriately, is the name of one of the classes she designed. No one is more dedicated to improving life on earth as we know it than Louise Levy. I hope you will seriously consider honoring her and her students with this award in order to provide her with more support to give what is needed to open windows for the next generation of life changers.

Jay Levy Posted over a year ago

Louise is always striving to bring 'hands on' learning in new and exciting ways to her classroom and beyond. She draws off of her students strengths and interests designing person centered learning activities. In fact, this coming Friday we are once again preparing for an astronomy outing/gathering, which welcomes students of all ages, along with their parents, teachers, and community members to view, appreciate, and learn about stars, nebulae, the moon, and planets... thereby gaining a greater appreciation of the earth, as well as our time and place within the cosmos. I remain in awe of Louise's boundless energy and dedication as she continues to fully embrace her mission of providing a first rate education and meaningful connections with her students and the greater Belchertown community.