Ethan, the Regional Director for Chittenden County, has been with VAL for around thirteen years. He began by working as a High School Completion Plan Manager where he worked with students to create individualized programs to help them achieve their diplomas. After that, he became the High School Completion Program Manager where he oversaw the program on a state-wide level. Ethan has always recognized the significance of education; his parents instilled its importance into him from a young age. However, he says he was not very invested in his traditional educational experience, which is a big reason he values VAL’s work. Adult education is different, he says, because it is geared towards students whose previous school experience was not a good fit for them. When students come to VAL, they are making an active choice to continue building their skills. As he says, “adults have to be invested.”
Ethan grew up in Queens, New York, and knew early on that would not be his home forever. Although he still enjoys visiting family in NYC, he always thought he would end up somewhere closer to the outdoors. As a child, he spent his summers at camp in Vermont and decided to head to Massachusetts for college. He studied American Studies and Education at Wheaton College and went on to receive his teaching license in Social Studies for grades 7-12. After college, he saved to take a year-long cross-country road trip where he says he learned that place is of huge importance to one’s happiness. Afterward, he made his way back up to Vermont where he worked at his old summer camp and as a nanny. Eventually, he moved to Burlington where he worked as a basketball coach, athletic director, and paraeducator at a local middle school. After working several different jobs throughout the years, he was introduced to VAL in 2007 and was immediately intrigued by the high school completion program.
When asked what gets him excited about working at VAL, Ethan said, “the opportunity that it presents.” He enjoys helping students “breakthrough” and understand what did not work for them in a traditional high school setting and explains why “education and learning can be something that can happen in so many different venues.” Through his work at VAL, Ethan emphasizes the need to understand information. He says since technology gives us the ability to access so much of the information out there, students don’t have to be stuck remembering all the details. In other words, “proficiency is the name of the game.” It’s not about time spent in the classroom or credits earned, he says, but rather about getting the necessary skills and being able to demonstrate them. All in all, Ethan loves to see students get excited about taking the next step. “Let’s try to bring excitement and energy to learning and high school completion,” he says.
For Ethan, “it’s all about work-life balance.” He says he needs to find time to himself to do the things he loves. In his free time, Ethan enjoys spending as much time outdoors as possible. “I came to Vermont for the snow,” he says and is passionate about snowboarding. In the summer, he likes to camp and mountain bike. He also enjoys sports, specifically basketball and softball, and loves to walk and hang out with his dogs. Ethan finds joy in sharing these experiences with his wife and ten-year-old daughter. As the Regional Director, Ethan encourages his colleagues to prioritize finding their work-life balance as well.
This article was written by Sarah Plaut, VAL Development & Communications Intern.