Graduate Profile: Ben LaRoche

Ben LaRoche has lived on both sides of the country and in a couple of places in between. But when it came time to settle down to a teaching career, he chose to “come back” to Thetford, Vermont. And he’s very happy he did. “I graduated from Thetford Academy in 2006,” he said. “My two younger brothers went to Thetford Elementary School (TES) [where Ben now teaches 6th grade] and my mom worked here as well, so I was a frequent visitor.”

“After graduating from Thetford Academy,” he said, “I went to college at the University of Victoria (“UVic”) on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, majoring in writing and minoring in psychology. Having lived in the midwest and the east, I was curious about what it might be like to live out west. When I saw UVic, I knew I’d found the right college for me.”

That said, when college breaks came along, Ben always ended up back in Thetford. “Canadian universities get out for the summer earlier than American ones,” he said, “so I was always back home by late April, long before any of my friends were done. For something to do, and to make a little extra money, I started to substitute teach at the elementary school. I’d worked summers as a camp counselor, so working at a school seemed like something I could do. What I didn't realize was how much I would end up loving it. It got to the point where I was more excited to come home to Thetford and substitute teach than I was to go back to college!”

“After graduating from UVic, I was encouraged by some of the teachers to pursue a teaching career. I learned about the Upper Valley Educators Institute, applied, and was accepted into their program the following year. During that year, I student-taught at TES with Joe Minichiello and also at Richmond Middle School with Kristen Downey. When it came time to apply for jobs, there was an opening at TES and I jumped at the chance to work at the school where I had learned how to teach. I’ve been teaching here for the last five-and-a-half years.”

We say that graduates of UVEI’s Teacher Intern Program (TIP) who choose to continue their education through UVGSE’s masters programs “come back” to Lebanon because they expect and ultimately experience a connected community of teacher learners that mirrors their experience in TIP. So just as Ben came back to Thetford, he decided in 2017 to “come back” to UVEI for further growth as a teacher.  "One of the great strengths of this program is that it brings together educators with such diverse backgrounds and experience, and provides us with the opportunity to not only learn together, but also from each other.”

Ben graduated from UVEI in 2012 and teaches third grade at Thetford Elementary School.  He is expected to earn a masters in teaching from UVGSE in 2019.

Commentary by Kristen Downey and Ben Merrill

Kristen Downey is UVEI’s Associate Director for Teacher Education.   Ben Merrill is a consultant to the Thetford (VT) School Board.