By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Three finalists for director of the Maritime Discovery Initiative presented to the public last week their visions of the development of a program integrating maritime instruction into the standard public school curriculum.
“Place-based learning is all about taking our students out into the community to do real learning on real projects with fellow community members,” said Kelley Watson.
“It asks students to learn about the world that is immediately around them and embeds this learning with relevance to their own lives.”
She and the other two candidates — Sarah Rubenstein and Judith Rubin — spoke to a rotating group of about 60 people at the Cotton Building on Thursday night.
Each gave a presentation followed by a question-and-answer session.
Port Townsend Schools Superintendent David Engle said he will take into account the feedback forms that participants filled out about each candidate while making the final choice.
He expects to announce his decision early this week.
In a partnership with the Northwest Maritime Center, the district seeks to infuse all educational programs with maritime elements, increasing the offerings for high school juniors and seniors to offer more specialized instructions for those who want to enter the maritime trades.
The program director is essential to the process, Engle said, as she will serve as a liaison between the schools, the Northwest Maritime Center and the community.
Since each 40-minute presentation was separated by a 15-minute break, the candidates did not interact and were not present for the other presentations.
The candidates in order of appearance were:
■ Rubenstein, 33, a science and math teacher at Blue Heron Middle School, who has experience in the development of place-based learning programs and has integrated maritime instruction into her classes, her resume says.
■ Rubin, 47, stewardship director and lead educator for the Northwest Watershed Institute, is experienced in field education programming, publicity and program management, according to her resume.
■ Watson, 40, who will have earned her masters' in teaching when the position commences, has worked at the Northwest Maritime Center and as a longboat captain and trainer and has experience in program management, according to her resume.
While the director will manage the program, all the candidates said they would not direct teachers how to teach.
“Teachers can get a little apprehensive when things are changing,” Rubenstein said.
“You can't force teachers to teach in a way that isn't within their style.
“They will need to find their own way to make this work for them.”
Said Rubin: “It will take time to build relationships with the teachers.
“They will need to know that I am here to work as their partner and not dictate to them.
“They are our boots on the ground.”
Fifteen people applied for the position. Five of them were interviewed before the three finalists were chosen.
The job is expected to represent about half of a full-time-equivalent position, with the salary based on a $32,000 to $35,000 annual range, Engle said.
Toward the end of 2014, the position will be evaluated and could be expanded to full time, he said.
All three candidates said that students engaged in education retain more, earn better grades and test scores and get into better colleges.
“When kids are having fun, they learn more,” Rubenstein said.
“When you connect what they are learning to the world around them, they know what they are doing and why they are doing it, which can help them to succeed in the future and learn the skills they need to go onto college and continue on to their careers.”
Rubin called the program is “a game changer for Port Townsend.”
“Kids will do real work on real projects, turning them into crew and not passengers.”
She said the reward system could provide recognition for maritime skills in addition to athletics and the continued exposure to these experiences would sustain learning more effectively than going on a one-day field trip with no follow-up.
Watson said that place-based learning “means that education no longer has to take place primarily within the box that we call public school.
“We don't want to throw the box away, but simply reframe the way we see schools and the way we work with students.”
The selection committee consisted of Engle, Port Townsend Mayor David King, Police Chief Conner Daily, teacher Tanya Rublaitus, Northwest Maritime Center Executive Director Jake Beattie, Jefferson Land Trust Executive Director Sarah Spaeth and Port Townsend Education Foundation board President Caitlin Harrison.
“We have three really good candidates,” Engle said.
“This is going to be a really hard decision.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.