Learning Pioneers is a chance for K-12 teachers in Rhode Island to make their voices heard and to use their classroom experience to inform policy around personalized learning for all Ocean State students. This summer fellowship will help educators translate their classroom work into policy visions that will inform RI-CAN’s statewide policy campaigns in 2017 and beyond. Meet these pioneering fellows below!

Mary Bush
Veazie Elementary School

Mary is a 32-year veteran of the Providence School Department. She is currently an English as a second language kindergarten teacher at Veazie Street Elementary School. Having been an ESL student herself, she has a strong connection to English-language learners and is constantly seeking new ways of customizing instruction so that ELLs can reach their learning potential.

As a Learning Pioneer, Mary will use her years of experience to address the growing challenges of diverse learners. She’ll dive deep into best practices and blended learning models to shape a forward-thinking vision for personalized learning in Rhode Island schools.

Mary on her classroom: “My kindergarten classroom is multisensory. Guided by the Chinese proverb ‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand,’ my students are exposed to various tasks throughout the day that allow them to learn through various modalities. Students navigate through activities they are involved in using iPads and computers, listening centers, hands-on activities and role-playing.

Kathryn Dusel
Thompson Middle School

Kathryn has been teaching eighth-grade English language arts in Newport, RI since 2005. In addition to teaching, Kathryn is working with her school committee, community and other educators to write her district’s new strategic plan.

She also serves as the public outreach chair for the Teachers’ Association of Newport. Kathryn works on an interdisciplinary team at her school to determine strengths and needs of students, collect and examine data to inform student placement and instruction and meet with parents and school support staff to bolster student achievement. She lives in Bristol, RI with her husband and two children.

Kathryn will use her work as a Learning Pioneer to increase opportunities to provide personalized learning to students in her district. Newport encompasses a diverse community of learners, and Kathryn is excited to help create policies that will provide tailored learning experiences to her students’ unique needs.

Kathryn on her classroom: “My students begin each class with a do-now activity to either activate prior knowledge or pique interest for the day’s activity. In addition to reading and synthesizing texts together as a class, students are asked to provide creative responses to independent reading selections.”

John Boutcher
North Kingstown High School

John is a 26-year veteran teacher in North Kingstown, RI. He has taught high school math for the last 17 years and is currently the mathematics department chair. He enjoys music performance and also learning various world languages.

John is excited to work in the Learning Pioneers program to synthesize the personalized learning opportunities that are appearing in Rhode Island regularly. He feels that working to develop and promote policy around personalized learning is important and timely.

John on his classroom: “Class starts with student questions on the previous assignment, followed by a review of student-generated notes from the next section. Then I model a few representative problems on an interactive whiteboard. For the remainder of the class, my students work in small groups or individually, as desired, and I serve as a coach and mentor for their problem-solving.”

RI-CAN advocates for the success of every Rhode Island student, from pre-K through college and career. We improve policy to help all students thrive and share promising practices and stories to demonstrate that all kids CAN succeed. 


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