Creativity & Innovation for Vermont educators: Course inspires entrepreneurial mindset in the classroom and beyond
3 minute read

The lakeside conference room hummed with creativity and innovative ideas as VtSBDC Advisor and Student Entrepreneurship Specialist Laurel Butler and VtSBDC Consultant and CVU faculty member Tamie-Jo Dickinson facilitated the kickoff of Creativity and Innovation, a course that offers three graduate credits from Castleton University. 

More than 20 Vermont educators and workforce development professionals gathered at the beautiful Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, VT on Oct. 18 and 19, 2021 to collaborate, learn, and reflect on entrepreneur education for high school students statewide. Virtual sessions will continue through May 2022, providing educators with abundant resources and curriculum to bring back to their classrooms, and to tomorrow’s Vermont workforce.

The Creativity and Innovation course incorporates curriculum adapted from VT REAL (Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning), Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) resources, the Business Model Canvas, Design Thinking and other tools and resources.

Dave Culver, Internships Director at River Valley Technical School, was deep into a group project building a paper airplane that would go faster and farther than the others in the room. “The highlight for me is the collaboration,” he said. “We have never met each other prior to this conference, and here we are working closely on concepts and content that we can bring back to our students. For example, connecting innovatively and as a team on the best way to design a paper airplane. In Vermont’s “mom and pop” economy, getting kids to think creatively and to consider owning their own business is extremely important.”

Arne Hagman of Hazen Union points to the high level of activity as the highlight of the sessions. “The activities in this course show how entrepreneurs can work effectively in the real business world,” he explained. “I am really looking forward to bringing these ideas back to my Makers Space classroom.”

Jen Olson and Sarah Keener agreed. “The team work we are sharing in provides us with the perfect simulation of what we can do with our students.”

Natasha Troop an Innovative Coach from the Hazen District appreciated the openness to a change in mindset. “We are learning what education really means. For many kids, college is not an option and this course is empowering us to help students open new pathways. The best opportunity is to have the best opportunity.”

Her team mate and new acquaintance Christa Valente from Green Mountain Union High School said, “Networking and finding commonalities has been the best part of this course for me. I have benefited from hearing everyone’s ideas and learning how to present them, and I am looking forward to bringing the pitch presentation guidance back to my workplace.”

Arlington art teacher Christy Wood discovered ways to connect with kids that she will actively use in the art room. She was already planning how to integrate new concepts into her modeling/ceramics curriculum.  Her table cohort, Peter Oliver from North Country Union High School agreed and added that the course will help him give students more options with an entrepreneurial mindset, offering them ways to think bigger.

“Facilitating entrepreneurship education is incredibly rewarding,” explained Butler. “Our program focuses on helping educators be engaged in highly effective, fun interactive learning experiences and lesson plans that they can immediately integrate into their programs of study – any program of study or academic discipline. No matter what a person’s career pathway may be – the entrepreneurial process and mindset crosses all disciplines/fields – and helps individuals either be more successful in creating their own venture and/or being a more focused and knowledgeable employee.”

“We believe in the entrepreneurial spirit,” added Dickinson. “Most of us have an internal desire to explore and achieve—but it has to be awakened.  We’ve developed entrepreneurship and leadership curriculum to complement the core subjects, specific career and tech programs and standards that students are exposed to every day – elevating the impact of traditional schooling. The program takes teachers through the entrepreneurial process, idea generation, imagination, design, pitching, execution and adaptation – using problem solving, leadership, teamwork/collaboration, communication skills and abilities in an ever-changing environment to find solutions; all areas considered to be imperative in the workplace.”

VtSBDC State Director, Linda Rossi, concluded “VtSBDC’s role is to collaborate in the creation of a pipeline of future entrepreneurs and/or workforce leaders, and the continuation of seamless statewide educational and business assistance networks. These are essential objectives for Vermont’s economy, beginning with our youngest generations, and continuing through all stages of entrepreneurship.”

More about Creativity and Innovation    

The program is sponsored by the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) and Vermont Business Education Corp (VBEC) and co-facilitated by Laurel Butler, VtSBDC Business Advisor/Student Entrepreneur Specialist and Tamie-Jo Dickinson, Champlain Valley UHS Business/Entrepreneurship Faculty/FBLA & DECA Advisor and VTC & Castleton Adjunct Faculty.

VtSBDC and VBEC host statewide student and teacher entrepreneurship programs throughout the year including teacher trainings and programs within schools and showcases annual entrepreneurship events such as Entrepreneurship Day in February in Montpelier (or virtually) for high school/career technical center students, and the annual business model canvas plan and pitch competitions. 

Interested in learning more?  Visit or contact Laurel Butler, VtSBDC Advisor, at

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