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Peter Booth, a faculty member at CVUHS, has been involved with Special Olympics Vermont for 20 years. He is the parent of an athlete, the gold medal winning coach of the Vermont Unified Basketball Team at 2018 USA Games, and most notably a driving force of the CVU Penguin Plunge team. Peter's positive energy radiates throughout his community and his impact is evident by the enthusiasm of his students and fellow faculty!

As he approaches retirement, we wanted to shine the spotlight on him and recognize the impact he has had in championing our mission in the CVU community.

Can you share bit about your background at CVU?

Peter Booth: I’ve been working at CVU since 2001. For most of that time I have taught math in all grades. Pre-Algebra up through Calculus. For the past 6 years I’ve been working in CVU’s Nexus Program. Nexus is our school’s hub for flexible pathways for all students. We tell kids, “we’ll help you build any elective that you WISH our school offered.” That could be motorcycle repair or learning Mandarin or equine biology or blacksmithing. We help kids build their own education.

How long have you been involved with Special Olympics Vermont?

PB: I’ve been involved in Special Olympics for probably close to 20 years now. I have several children with disabilities and one of them, my son Jesse, did Special Olympics for years. He did bowling, snowboarding, basketball, and track. At the moment he isn’t doing any Special Olympics sports but my wife and I are always putting the idea back in front of him, hoping he’ll get back into it.

You have been a huge part of the success of CVUs Penguin Plunge team, how did that team and your involvement begin?

PB: Our team began around 15 years ago. It started when a paraeducator in our building, Tim Rich, approached me and said, “Hey, if the school raises $15,000 for Special Olympics Vermont will you shave your head?” I thought to myself, there’s no way the kids will be able to do that. We’ll they raised $27,000 and I ended up shaving my head. Since then we’ve always had a huge Penguin Plunge team and we’ve raised over $400,000 for Special Olympics Vermont. The energy created by the Penguin Plunge really blossomed throughout the school. When we added a Unified Basketball team in 2017 (I think that’s the year) the school REALLY embraced this. Our stands were packed for home games and it was just amazing to hear the kids all just completely EXPLODE when a student with down syndrome hits a three point shot! The next day in school, that kid is the big man on campus and suddenly the students who are so often pushed to the side in a high school, socially, become the center of attention. It’s just an unbelievable phenomenon.

What is your favorite part of the Penguin Plunge?

PB: The moment RIGHT before we plunge when the warming tent is packed with over 100 kids and they’re all chanting together and jumping up and down with excitement and anxiety. And the moment right AFTER the plunge. I absolutely HATE water and I dread those 10 seconds of jumping in and climbing out. It’s such a relief to have it over.

You’re retiring! Congratulations! What are you going to miss most?

PB: It’s a cliche, but without a doubt the thing I’ll miss the most is the kids, my advisory in particular. Our advisory is a group of kids from all four grades and they stay with their advisor for all four years of high school. Just last week one of my 10th graders realized I’d be retiring next year and would not be here for his Senior year. “Wait,” he said. “If you’re not here in my Senior year, what am I going to do?!?!” We laughed but his disappointment was really touching.

What words of wisdom do you pass on to your students and/or your fellow educators!

PB: Take a chance. Take a chance academically. Take a chance socially. There’s a whole big world out there and you need to take chances to find what’s out there and what you love.

What would you say to someone to encourage them to get involved with Special Olympics Vermont?

PB: If you ask anyone at all who has participate in Special Olympics in ANY capacity, athletes, partners, parents, volunteers, penguin plungers, sponsors... all these people who participate in all these different ways, ALL come away better for the experience. You can’t be a part of Special Olympics Vermont and NOT have fun. It’s just that good.

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