Rita & Alva MacWilliam: Educator

Rita & Alva arrived on the island from Montana via Arizona, Connecticut, Washington State and the oceans of the world. Oh, and they arrived with 5 rescue dogs. Rita visited the Island Institute and noticed a posting School Teacher Needed on Remote Island, or words to that effect. Rita replied! She brings years of experience in hands-on education and an innovative and positive view of children and their capacity to learn. She also knows that our island community is a learning resource.

Alva worked as an engineer on Tall Ships, and as a boat and house carpenter. Therefore, life on an island with the need to repair your own things – was a good fit. In addition, he studies the political landscape and writes daily challenging people to check the news for accuracy and to be aware of propaganda. He was elected to be one of our three Selectpersons, the town leaders. He has taken on the island job of “Garbage Collection”. This entails picking up our recyclables (sorted) and non-compostable garbage, then loading and unloading from a boat, and finally delivering it to the Transfer Station in Stonington. Thank you!

Now back to the School Teacher Rita. It has long been the school’s mission to ensure that island students have the experiences and social skills necessary to succeed wherever life takes them: it fully supports this mission through appropriations at town meetings, grant money, and private funds raised at the school’s annual Pie Auction. So, while IAH is a public school, the town offers a budget that requires Rita to think unusually big when it comes to educational enrichment. In addition to her work as a teacher, she is also the acting principal, which means coordinating the efforts of a full-time ed tech, and multiple adjunct educators who come in to teach weekly lessons in art, music, and physical education. She is a believer that education is a community endeavor and involves the community in Weekly Book Buddies at the Town Library where adults and students read together and share a snack; and the biweekly Know Your Neighbor – the goal is to interview all full or almost full-time residents, write reports, present them on the Sunbeam and poste them in the Island Store.

She has also embraced the community by joining the church and serving on the library and store boards. Balancing her work as lead teacher while negotiating community relations as a year-round resident often seems like a 24/7 occupation: “Living is 24/7 and everyone must live it to the fullest; appreciating the community you are a part of, the environment you’re blessed to live in, and to continue to learn about yourself.”

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