Carson City teacher one of 40 nationwide in student empathy program
Fifth-grade teacher Steven Vradenburg at Fremont Elementary School in Carson City recently was selected as one of 40 teachers in the country and the only teacher from Nevada to participate in a nationwide fellowship program from Empatico.
The fellowship, titled “Empathy in your Backyard,” focuses on working with the students in Vradenburg’s classroom on developing empathy skills both at school and out in the community. The program allows for his students to work collaboratively with others around the world through video interactions and activities designed to foster meaningful connections among students ages 6 to 11.
Vradenburg’s class will connect with a classroom on the East Coast. They will work together to identify societal problems that lack empathy skills and develop solutions for those problems.
“What makes this an amazing opportunity is over 1,000 teachers nationwide applied for their classrooms to participate in it, and only 40 were selected,” Vradenburg said. “Our classroom is the only one from Nevada to be chosen.”
The fellowship will involve teachers throughout the country in a yearlong classroom exchange, engaged in a research project to measure the impact on the development of empathy in their students. Empatico is a nonprofit that provides a free online platform similar to Skype for teachers to connect their students with children in other parts of the country.
Earlier this year, a teacher from New York penned an article for Education Week. The article detailed how his students, following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, held stereotypes on Muslim people. The writer/teacher detailed how the Empatico fellowship could help teachers break harmful stereotypes their students might have and provide added empathy.
“Mr. Vradenburg is a great teacher and deserving of this high honor,” said Richard Stokes, superintendent for the Carson City School District. “Helping our students draw upon commonalities, interests and forms of play often build friendships and breakdown underlining biases and often unknown stereotypes. We’re happy he is representing Nevada in this endeavor.”