June 2022 –
WEF was honored to present our 2022 David Trigaux Innovation Award to two wonderful teachers at Weston High School – English teacher Ionna Opidee and Environmental Science teacher Michael Aitkenhead.
Ms. Opidee has had a far-ranging impact on both students and staff through her innovative approach to teaching and learning in English classes and the Writing Center. Among many other efforts, she created an Identity, Culture and Society unit for English 10 Honors, as well as an Environmental Literature and Justice unit using Mona Hanna-Attisha’s book “What the Eyes Don’t See” – a text originally provided through a WEF grant. She was also instrumental in bringing to WHS a national poetry competition called Poetry Out Loud in which WHS sophomore Billy Stammer became the 2022 CT State Champion. Running through all her professional efforts is a thoughtful and caring focus on helping students reach their true potential in the manner most accessible to them. In her words, “it is a way of approaching each aspect of my work with the intention to serve and support all students holistically — not just as learners of content standards, but as full, dynamic human beings on a journey toward understanding themselves, their world, and others so that they can shape themselves, and their world, more mindfully, more deliberately, and with more care.”
Mr. Aitkenhead – fondly known in the WHS community as “Michael Recycle” – is a treasure trove of environmental knowledge, care, and creativity for both Weston High School and the larger community. He has transformed the content and approach of the Environmental Science courses at WHS and has created a new class for 2022-23 called “Sustainable Solutions”, which will enable students to identify and tackle real-world environmental problems in the community. In his view, in this new class “students will develop the skills of problem solving by actually solving real problems, and in the process, they will completely transform our school.” Mr. Aitkenhead was aptly described by Science & Tech Curricular Instructional Leader Jamie Charles as “an incredibly passionate, engaging and motivating teacher who strives to bring his curriculum to life for his students in ways that inspire them to be agents of change in the world.” While Mr. Aitkenhead’s accomplishments are too numerous to mention in full, one connecting thread is always a deep commitment to the environment and a belief in our youth as the vectors of change.
WEF applauds 2022 David Trigaux Award winners Ms. Opidee and Mr. Aitkenhead, two shining examples of creativity and innovation in teaching!