This is the first in a series of VEEP educator profiles, where we take a minute out of our day to chat with our amazing staff, learn about their lives, hear more about what fires them up — and share their story with you.
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Erin Malloy: ‘I would hope that all kids love learning’
Erin Malloy, educator for central Vermont, has been working for VEEP longer than almost all of our staff, and after 14 years, she’s still as enthused about energy education as she was when she started.
“I love it!” Erin says. “I think about it: Should I do something else? And then I’m like, ‘No! I love what I do!'”
An Ohio native who was raised in Maryland, Erin went to college in Arizona and Oregon and always thought she’d end up living in the Pacific Northwest. Then, in 1999, she took a job at Farm & Wilderness in Plymouth, VT, which also brought her to live closer to her extended family.
“It reminded me of Oregon [here],” she says. “I thought: ‘I should be in Vermont for a while — it’s a good place to be.'”
Not long after that, she met her husband, Jim, and they built a solar- and wind-powered cob home together, and surrounded it with over 150 fruit trees and bushes. (The arrival of their son in 2007, joined by their daughter in 2010, prompted a move to a larger space, but the homesteading bug is still alive: “We hope to get more chickens this spring!” Erin says.)
Two years later, VEEP found Erin when she wasn’t expecting it. One of the teens at a summer camp she directed was interested in energy, and after building a solar cooker in camp — a project that reminded Erin of a solar oven project with a middle school that she enjoyed doing in college — he asked Erin to be his mentor. He found out about VEEP, and when Erin contacted the organization to ask about resources, they offered some to her — and also offered her a job as an educator then and there.
“I wasn’t actually looking for a job,” Erin recalls, but her response was immediate: “‘Yes, I will take that, please!’ I said.”
It was the early years of VEEP’s work in schools; Erin and another woman were the first people hired to do education in schools. “She did Burlington and I covered the rest of the state,” Erin remembers. The huge geographic area didn’t faze her, though. “It was really cool to see the variety of schools,” she says.
Variety is what keeps Erin energized her work with VEEP. “It’s very different, week to week, month to month,” she says, noting that VEEP and the work she does has changed a lot since she started. “I love that about my job. I love that we’re expanding our programs, aligning them with NGSS, getting more in-depth, more interactive, meeting teachers’ needs.”
The Solar Challenge is one of Erin’s favorite programs amid all that variety. She likes the chance to work with students in a longer, more in-depth setting, getting to know them on a deeper level.
“It’s this powerful experience,” she says. “They are designing and creating this thing that can boil water! cook food! It’s really impactful.”
Last year Erin led the Solar Challenge in Northfield, and one student was so excited by the process that she took her solar cooker home and trained her mother how to use it. “She would give updates: ‘This week we made hot dogs; this week we made hot chocolate,'” Erin says. It was a reminder that when students teach something themselves — especially something they’re enthusiastic about — their learning becomes even more full.
Continuing to learn beyond lessons is something Erin is a firm believer in. “The motto of the college I went to was: Education as a journey, not a destination. I love that,” she says. “I would hope that all kids love learning, asking questions, finding out answers. It doesn’t stop when they’re out of school.”
When Erin herself is out of the classroom, she keeps learning and growing through a number of creative pursuits. “I have been African dancing for many many years — it’s a big part of my life,” she says. “I have been taking art classes again; I aspire to write and illustrate some kids books. And I really like to quilt. My grammy was a quilter, and she taught me to knit and quilt. It’s one of my secret loves.”
Want to bring Erin into your classroom, or just say hi? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.