Deidre Toole: 2019

Mystic Seaport Museum has named Deidre Toole from Stonington High School the recipient of the 2019 Orion Award.

The Orion Award recognizes teachers who use the resources of Mystic Seaport Museum to illuminate history, and create a living record that reflects America’s present and future as well as its past. This annual award recognizes stellar teachers who are inspiring to their students and to their colleagues. And, perhaps most importantly, teachers who radiate the joy of learning, as well as of teaching. It is named for one of the most familiar constellations — the Hunter Orion, son of the sea god Poseidon — which has often marked the course for seagoing vessels.

Toole, the Transition Counselor and Work Study/Community Classroom Coordinator, has been a teacher in the Stonington Public Schools since 1985. She has taught regular and special education in the elementary and middle schools, and for the past decade, Deidre has been at Stonington High School.

Deidre Toole

She and her husband have raised three sons in Stonington. They have cherished memories of them growing up on the Museum grounds, which she calls a “piece of heaven.” Toole was the Stonington Public School “Teacher of the Year” in 2007 and was recently awarded the Rotary Club of the Stonington’s “Nancy Zabinski Young Award” and named a “Paul Harris Fellow” by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.

“Deidre has a passion for finding ways for individuals with disabilities to be meaningful members of the community, ” said Sarah Cahill, director of museum education and outreach. “It was Deidre’s vision to partner with Mystic Seaport Museum staff a few years ago to develop a program for the Community Classroom students to help them enhance life, social, and work skills. The program pairs students with Interpreters in exhibits to learn how best to interact with and engage visitors, and to learn about the exhibit. Students have worked in the Shipsmith, Cooperage, Print Shop, Buckingham Hall House, and on the Demonstration Squad.”

Cahill went on to note that the success of that program led to a discussion between Toole and Museum staff about the need for more engaging afterschool programs. The Education Department worked with Deidre to develop a pilot afterschool boatbuilding program this year. Four students built and successfully launched a Bevin skiff while learning about woodworking, boat design, and teamwork.

“Deidre is an absolute joy to work with, and she clearly cares deeply about each and every one of her students,” Cahill added. “She has such a positive and optimistic attitude, and is always flexible and willing to try new things. She is also very organized and ensures that every student is prepared for success with their time at Mystic Seaport Museum. It is an honor to bestow Deidre with this year’s Orion Award for her dedication to making students’ lives better.”

The award was given Saturday, May 18, during the Museum’s Annual Meeting.

About The Orion Award

The Orion Award for Excellence in Experiential Education was introduced in 2005 in honor of the Museum’s 75th Anniversary. Named for one of the most familiar constellations–the Hunter Orion, son of the sea god Poseidon–Orion has often marked the course for many seagoing vessels. This annual award recognizes stellar teachers who are inspiring to their students and to their colleagues. Teachers who are willing to take chances, to take full advantage of the resources that are available to them, to be creative and to be ready to turn an unexpected moment into a spectacular teaching opportunity. And, perhaps most importantly, teachers who radiate the joy of learning, as well as of teaching.

Each year, Mystic Seaport Museum celebrates one or more teachers for their commitment in utilizing the Museum’s collections, programs and learning resources to create meaningful and innovative learning experiences for their students. The Orion Award recognizes teachers who infuse history, math, science and literature with a maritime focus. Teachers who use museum resources to illuminate history, and create a living record that reflects America’s present and future as well as its past. Through the Orion Award, Mystic Seaport Museum acknowledges the unique skills and abilities of teachers to link disciplines and communicate ideas with their students, helping their students navigate the course of life.