The Shader Croft School and summer learning program was established in 2000 by Steve Hyde and Eric Mortensen who had been colleagues at Edmunds Middle school in Burlington Vermont. They both had found their calling as educators working with early adolescent students. Students who were just beginning to discover both themselves and the challenges of adult living that lay ahead. These years have often times been referred to as tumultuous and trying but these two gentlemen saw great energy and potential. What many youth of this age needed were opportunites – opportunites to discover themselves, explore the world and build competence. Eric and Steve also felt a deep commitment to helping those students who were lacking in any of those areas. Eric and his colleague, Larry O’Keefe, had developed a model that incorporated all of these ideas and ran a program for many years at Edmunds Middle School, the Paradise Project, putting those ideas into action.
Shader Croft has developed a similar model but turned to focus its attention on those young adolescents who were struggling to develop necessary competencies particularly in the area of literacy. To help with that particular focus Suzanne Davia, a special educator in the Montpelier school system was recruited to join the team to help with developing instruction models and approaches that were effective with students struggling to develop competency in reading, writing and speaking.
The summer of 2001 saw the inaugural program which served seven middle school students. Those seven students participated in a four week program that centered on trips to venues around the state that the students selected, organized and led. They also received hours of reading instruction using materials that prepared them for these adventures and spent many more hours learning how to write about what they did so they could share their experiences with others. Many summers have followed since then with many more student organized trips to places all over Vermont and beyond meeting interesting people from whom we learned at every stop. All of which provided the focus for developing the student’s reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.