Playoff Season Is Upon Us!  BFA Fairfax Athletic Teams Look To Make Strong Showings As The Fall Season Comes To A Close

The end of October most often brings cooler weather, shorter days, and changing leaves.  Additionally, it brings one of the most exciting times in the Athletic Department at BFA Fairfax.


The final week of the fall athletic season is embodied by senior celebrations, school spirit, community support, and the thrill of competition.  The Bullet athletic teams have been rounding out their regular season events, and eagerly awaiting their post-season pairings and competitions.  The final week of regular season play for all sports brought with it thrilling victories and well-deserved recognition for our many graduating seniors.  As the playoffs begin there are still a few opportunities to see our fantastic athletes in action before the season comes to a close!


The playoff/postseason schedule for this week is as follows:

  • Tuesday October 25:  #15 Varsity Boys Soccer at #2 Lake Region 3pm
  • Wednesday October 26:  #6 Varsity Girls Soccer hosts #11 Winooski 3pm
  • Friday October 28:  Possible Boys Soccer Playoff TBA (pending win on Tuesday)
  • Saturday October 29:  Cross Country NVAC Championships at Missisquoi 1:30pm / Possible Girls Soccer Playoff TBA (pending win on Wednesday)


We wish the best of luck to our students and school community during this exciting week!  Go Bullets!

Co-Teaching: Part of the Continuum of Specialized Instruction and Intervention to Meet Needs of all Students

Co-teaching is a method of providing services and direct special education instruction within the general education classroom. It is one component in the continuum of specialized instruction and intervention services to meet needs of all students. This model allows general education teachers and special educators to collaborate while meeting a wide range of learners more effectively with targeted interventions and providing meaningful small group instruction. The special educator has the ability to target interventions while making on-the-spot adaptations or modifications to the general education curriculum. Special educators and general education teachers can collaboratively develop alternative learning targets based on readiness and student needs.


The focus of this method of service delivery is to build capacity to better serve students. FWSU is dedicated to increasing co-teaching opportunities district wide. Providing ongoing professional development will ensure successful implementation of the district’s co-teaching plan. We will continue work to increase and expand co-teaching classes in all schools.  


The Freshman Core Team at BFA Fairfax is the first cohort implementing the co-teaching service delivery model. Thoughtful care and planning was taken when designating teaching partnerships along with ongoing professional development and supportive coaching.  


Sara Villeneuve and Danielle Kicsak shared the following examples of successes they have experienced so far with co-teaching:

  • Students access both educators as equal teachers in the classroom
  • Sharing of ideas and resources
  • Differentiation for student learning
  • Small reading and writing groups with targeted instruction
  • Smaller student/teacher ratio
  • Improved progress monitoring of student achievement


The next step is to explore differentiated co-teaching models. This will facilitate movement to a fully integrated co-teaching service delivery model across the district. Co-teaching helps remove barriers for students with disabilities and creates access for all learners.

Target 3 – FLEXIBLE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS: FWSU maximizes flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom and fostering creativity, innovation, and personalized learning opportunities for all.

Congratulations Sue Tougas, GEMS Teacher of the Year!

“Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth.” Helen Caldicott, author and peace activist


The 36th Annual Vermont Outstanding Teachers Recognition Day was held on Tuesday, October 18, 2016 at the Grand Maple Ballroom in the Davis Center at the University of Vermont. This ceremony seeks to thank outstanding teachers and publicly honor them for educating the next generation each day, helping children to become smarter, more creative, and more humane. The day recognizes the long hours, the patience, the perseverance, and passion defining the important work of an educator. We honor them for their commitment, their successes as well as their trials, and the powerful impact they have on the children of Vermont and our future.


Recognized at this ceremony was GEMS Teacher of the Year, Sue Tougas. A leader among her colleagues, Sue has taught at the Georgia Elementary School for the past 24 years engaging kindergartners in becoming readers, writers, scientists, mathematicians, and historians. As a true advocate for children, Sue’s approach takes into consideration the whole child socially, emotionally, and academically. Sue is a valued educator within our community across all facets of her work and she is a proven GEM!

Global Projects Transport Fletcher Students Worldwide


Preschool Postcard Exchange

In preschool, students are participating in a global postcard exchange. Fletcher’s three and four-year-olds have begun corresponding with eight other preschool classes in various locations around the world including New York, Oregon, Bermuda, Pakistan, Texas, Belgium and two parts of Canada.

The project began with the installation of a world map in the preschool classroom. According to preschool teacher Nancy Hurt, the map serves as a “provocation” for students and elicits their questions, curiosities, and interests. The students began by identifying Vermont on the map, as well as locations the children have visited. They have also discussed how the colors on the map represent land or water.


The Fletcher preschool is one of approximately 150 preschool programs worldwide to participate in the postcard exchange, which will also include sending some mementos that represent Fletcher students and Vermont. As the students receive postcards from their preschool counterparts from around the globe, they will discuss the locations and mark them on the classroom map. While the project is comprised of mostly preschoolers, there are a few two-year-olds groups and kindergarten classes around the world that are also participating.

The Fletcher preschoolers have chosen to send one large mailing envelope to each of the eight partner programs they have been assigned. Each envelope will contain one Vermont-themed postcard from each of Fletcher’s three preschool groups, photos of the preschoolers harvesting their class garden, and a few small art projects, including colorful fall leaves painted on linen.

“It is important to raise children’s awareness that the world is far greater than our Fletcher community,” Hurt said. “The process of writing postcards has encouraged our children to reflect on things they enjoy doing at school as well as what they wonder about the groups receiving our messages.”

The preschoolers’ first correspondence was with a class in New York City.

Second Grade Indonesian Pen Pals

In second grade, a pen pal project that is connecting Fletcher students with students in Jakarta, Indonesia, is the collaborative effort of art teacher M.C. Baker, librarian Emily DiGiulio and second-grade teacher Rebecca Cardone.

The project aims to connect literature, writing, geography and art into a learning project that affords each student their own year-long pen pal from across the globe. The goal is to build cultural competence and international friendships while gaining increased writing fluency and art skills and appreciation.


The Royal Primary Academy, in Jakarta, Indonesia, is comprised of 85 students in first through sixth grade. About 50 percent of the students are Indonesian, while the other students come from countries such as Australia, Canada, the U.S., Japan, Korea, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, U.A.E., Spain, China, and Singapore.  

Based on the children’s book, Flat Stanley, Fletcher students will have a photograph of their pen pal and will take photographs of themselves doing everyday events alongside their international friends. The students will use the photographs as writing prompts to describe life in Vermont and to discuss global similarities and differences.

“We live in a very rural place,” Cardone said. “Global projects like these broaden students’ horizons and take down borders. Even if students can’t travel, we can still provide a cultural experience.”

The students will use art classes to discuss art materials and techniques that are native to Indonesia, as well as to create culturally-related works.

Fifth Grade Global Read Aloud, IVECA, and Farm Tour

The Global Read Aloud project was created in 2010 with one goal in mind: to connect the world using a single book. Starting in early October and lasting for six weeks, teachers worldwide select a book to read aloud to their students. This year, Fletcher’s fifth-grade teacher, Cassie Underwood, has chosen the Roald Dahl classic, The BFG, the story of a ten-year-old girl who teams up with a Big Friendly Giant to help rid the world of his not-so-nice counterparts.


Classes from around the world connect via the Internet platform Edmodo to discuss the story and complete projects to share along the way. To date, more than a million students from 60 countries have participated in the Global Read Aloud project.

Fifth graders have also begun to participate in the Intercultural Virtual Exchange of Classroom Activities program, also known as IVECA. The program is an online exchange of ideas for K-12 students, aimed at bringing cultures together in a learning atmosphere via the World Wide Web. Classes engage in weekly activity topics and complete projects that are suggested by IVECA staff. The classrooms exchange feedback and ideas each week via Internet conferencing . The goal of the program – this year Fletcher’s fifth graders are connected with a classroom from Korea –  is to promote an understanding of various cultures and support students in living and working together with their counterparts in another country for the greater good of the global community.

IVECA leaders aim to educate students on the many cultural differences around the world and support students in developing respectful, courteous interactions.

“When students become more aware of other cultures, they are more respectful of their ideas and traditions,” Underwood said. “The IVECA program begins to break down prejudices and stereotypes that might exist between my class and our partner class. We hope that this type of acceptance for difference also transfers to our own classroom, school, and community.”

Fletcher’s fifth graders held their first live internet session with their Korean partner classroom on October 17th. Simultaneously, their families were invited to attend an Internet safety and appropriate use workshop with Emily DiGiulio, the school’s librarian and technology specialist.

Underwood’s fifth graders also recently participated in a virtual field trip using Discovery Education. Based on the class’s study of sustainability last year, students took a virtual tour of the Hertzfeld Poultry farm in Grand Rapids, Ohio. Using Discovery Education’s interactive online format, students were able to ask questions of the farmers and learn about how the farm has reduced its carbon footprint.

“The key to making this engaging for kids is to make it interactive,” Underwood said. “Not only do they get to see and hear what is happening on the farm, but they get to ask questions of experts that they wouldn’t likely otherwise meet.”

Sixth Grade Digital Promise Global

Sixth-grade students in Fletcher have begun to work with Digital Promise Global, an initiative that supports innovation by providing students worldwide with cutting edge technology to solve real-world problems. The goals of the program are to accelerate innovation and increase opportunities for students to learn.

The program is based on four guiding principles: (1) connecting students with people and ideas (2) inspiring ideas and action (3) informs, grounds and supports decision-making and (4) motivates learning for life.


The Fletcher School received a 3D scanner, 3D printer, 10 HP Notebooks, a large format printer and large format display to create a Learning Studio in the classroom. Students use the equipment to participate in tasks provided by Digital Promise. The initiative is part of a study that looks at how teachers use technology in the classroom. There are currently just 60 Learning Studios across the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The effort is part of HP and Microsoft’s Reinvent the classroom initiative, which aims to provide and support next-generation learning, international collaboration and the “maker” movement in education.

Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments. FWSU maximizes flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom and fostering creativity, innovation, and personalized learning opportunities for all.

Indicators of Success: (1) Staff, students, and community embrace digital, social, mobile learning styles. (2) Flexible learning environments are the context for collaboration and extend beyond the classroom. (3) Students and staff integrate technology to redefine educational experiences.

Action Steps: (1) Provide students with access to content, resources, and methods for learning beyond the school day and beyond the school walls. (2) Develop opportunities for students to demonstrate transferable skills in authentic settings.

BFA-Fairfax Middle School: Where We Are and Where We Are Heading

Think about what your grandparents did for work. Did they have one career or many? Work for one company or a slew of them? What sort of education did they receive that led them to their career path?


The trouble with thinking exercises is that sometimes they defeat the purpose — perhaps your grandparents worked as doctors, police officers, farmers, or teachers; these jobs have provided consistent job opportunities for centuries. Exceptions aside, the education and career path of your grandparents is likely quite different than the one your child will experience. On the first day of our district’s inservice, all FWSU educators watched the movie Most Likely to Succeed, based on the book of the same name, by renowned educators Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith. Every single educator I spoke with came away floored by one inescapable reality — the 21st-century job market our students will enter is likely to be unrecognizable to us. It will contain jobs like “drone manager,” “self-driving car mechanic,” and “atmospheric water system architect.”

Black and white footage from “Most Likely to Succeed” showed World War II-era students sitting in rows, carefully practicing their manuscript according to a teacher’s cadence. Many of us can remember doing something similar in our elementary school classrooms. That scene begs a question: Does that kind of learning serve students in 2016?  And it begs a more critical question: What have we learned about education since our grandparents went to school and what do we do to prepare students for the economy they’ll enter after high school or college?


What We KnowStudents learn best when their learning is authentic (related to real-world problems and skills) and they know exactly what is being assessed.

What We’re Doing About It

Two years ago, in response to the State of Vermont Legislature’s passage of Act 77: Flexible Pathways to High School Graduation, BFA-Fairfax Middle School eliminated grades and transitioned to a new reporting paradigm called Proficiency Based Learning. No longer do students receive a 91% on a Language Arts essay, smile gleefully, and politely recycle their essay on the way out the door. If a student received a 91%, that student still had room to improve upon certain skills. Teachers now tie student performance to specific knowledge and skills. The skills teachers want to see in their classrooms are similar to those required by 21st-century thinkers – creativity, critical thinking, clear communication, collaboration, technological literacy, leadership and cross-cultural skills.


Teachers draw their intended learning outcomes from documents like the Common Core of State Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the Vermont Agency of Education’s Transferable Skills. Students receive learning scales at the outset of units that dictate the precise knowledge and skills that will be assessed at the unit’s conclusion. They go into learning opportunities with their eyes wide open, the intended learning outcomes explicit and unambiguous. Students can assess their learning at multiple junctures throughout each unit before having their skills assessed at the unit’s conclusion. Since the learning outcomes are explicit, students can learn, re-learn, and attempt to meet the learning outcomes multiple times, if they so desire. This framework for learning aligns with an economy that is focused on complex skills rather than on rote knowledge retention and repetition.


What We KnowStudents learn best when their learning is relevant to their lives, their interests, their passions, their challenges, and their aspirations.

What We’re Doing About It

The 21st-century skills referenced earlier are the same skills that students need to demonstrate in order to graduate from Vermont high schools. Act 77 mandates that, starting in the year 2020, in order to graduate high school, students must demonstrate proficiency in:

  1. Five high-leverage skills that cut across content areas (the Agency of Education calls them Transferable Skills).
  2. Several content-specific Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements (PBGRs) in each subject area.

Frankly, this is alphabet soup, even to professional educators.  What is important is that Vermont is one of the few states in the nation in which students do NOT graduate high school by reaching a specific number of credits. Instead, they graduate by demonstrating proficiency in skills and knowledge.


Implicit in proficiency-based high school graduation is flexibility. Act 77 requires that students graduate with a Personalized Learning Plan (PLP), which is a living document that serves as the vehicle that students use to plan and chronicle their learning.  Students set personalized learning goals that connect to the Transferable Skills; class content; and their own interests, strengths, or areas of growth. Students pursue those learning goals over time, updating their PLP with evidence they collect during or outside of school. Therefore, a PLP is a tool student’s use to make their school experience different from that of their peers. It is a tool to personalize learning.

Alex H and Rachel P work to build a fire to cook their lunch.

Students start working on their PLP in sixth grade, using Schoology as the platform. By June of their senior year of high school, students will have a document that shows their distinct path to graduation.  The Transferable Skills and PBGRs remain the same for each student, but every student can set different learning goals, use different learning opportunities as evidence, and reflect individually on their growth as a student and as a person.  Two students that take the same sequence of courses will still have different learning experiences, driven by their differing creativity, learning styles, passions, and aspirations. Their PLPs will look entirely unique!


In addition to acting as a portfolio of students’ learning experiences, PLPs are intensely introspective: students use their PLP to reflect meaningfully on their strengths, challenges, interests, values, communities, and short- and long-term aspirations. In fact, at the first student-led conference in December, you can expect your child to unpack some of the introspective components of their PLP with you. By the second student-led conference, students will have set academic learning goals that tie to the transferable skills. Students will continue to develop their PLP every day until they graduate high school.

What We KnowStudents learn best when their environment’s expectations, systems, and language are consistent, safe, and inclusive.

What We’re Doing About It

One of the best things about the middle school is the positivity and professionalism of the educators who work with students each day.  A recently-arrived member of FWSU remarked earlier this year that, “You guys don’t know what it’s like out there…people are nice here.”  The culture that has been built is one of enthusiasm for learning and genuine caring for our students.  The passage of Act 77 and the wording of the Transferable Skills, particularly Self-Direction and Responsible and Involved Citizenship, which call for collaboration, flexibility, ethical behavior, respect for diversity, and individual responsibility, provided the backdrop for the work the middle school faculty has done to formalize and make consistent school-wide expectations for student and adult behavior that reinforce the enthusiastic, caring environment that has persisted for years.  Beyond the legal mandate for students to demonstrate these habits of mind, it is just good practice for students and adults to create an environment that is safe, inclusive, and open to academic risk-taking. We know that students make good decisions when they feel supported by their teachers and when they are confident exactly where the boundaries are. Teachers have taken steps this fall to strengthen these relationships and boundaries, all with the goal of maximizing student learning.


We believe that it makes sense for a student in Mrs. Young’s math class and a student in Mr. Psaros’ social studies class to be held to the same fair, coherent behavioral expectations.  We also wanted to provide students with some guiding principles that they could take with them to all school environments, including the cafeteria, the hallways, the bathrooms, and the buses.  Teachers made some decisions centered on consistency:

  1. In all school environments, the essence of the rules is that students and adults will be safe, responsible, and respectful.
  2. In all middle school classrooms, teachers will follow a prescribed set behavioral interventions (except in the cases of violations of school policy such as harassment, fighting, etc.), including a teacher warning and opportunities for students to take a break and visit a reset space in another teacher’s classroom, all before a student is sent to the support center. These interventions have the intention of minimizing missed instructional time and of teachers having positive, purposeful conversations with students about classroom norms.
  3. All teachers will explicitly teach these school-wide norms to students, in much the same way math or history is taught.

Later this year, middle school teachers will receive training, as a school, in a school-wide system for supporting behavior known as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS; a system focused on teaching positive social behaviors that is already being used in Fletcher Elementary School and Georgia Elementary and Middle School), in an effort to more fully support students’ social and emotional wellbeing. The work that the middle school has done to establish simple, coherent expectations for students and adults is the first step in this process and will set up middle school students to feel immediately comfortable in this new behavioral framework.


In addition, PBIS encourages schools to develop positive, school-wide celebrations.  At the middle school, we are developing and refining different ways to meet this expectation. This year we will have six school-wide events to recognize and celebrate the positive contributions of our students.  This year we will have three All School Celebrations. Each grade level team will facilitate one student-led assembly where students will recognize academic performance, citizenship, and community involvement.  We look forward to having families joining us Friday, December 16 at 8:30 am for our first celebration. Also, we will continue to have school-wide trips off campus to celebrate our students making positive choices.  


To be clear, these are big changes to persistent norms in education. In fact, many educational structures – curricula, grading, and homework policies, for instance – have remained unchanged, even in the face of significant changes to federal and state education policy, over the past 50 years.  It is sincerely challenging for teachers and administrators to design learning opportunities, unlike anything we ourselves personally experienced as students.  These changes have required us to break down our time-hardened conceptions of what school looks, sounds, and feels like. It is both daunting and exciting. Most importantly, it is our responsibility.  

Stay tuned!


Chris Palmer is an Administrative Intern at BFA Fairfax Elementary/Middle School. Last year Chris was a Middle School Science teacher at BFA. Follow him on Twitter @cpalmer0608

A Belief in What is Possible: Teachers Teaching Teachers

“When a community comes together in such a way that teachers respect and trust each other enough to see themselves as teachers of teachers and as learners at the hands of other teachers, they are able to create an atmosphere where anything is possible.” – Education World


“One size doesn’t fit all — it doesn’t even fit most” as the saying goes. Teachers in FWSU are working very hard to differentiate and personalize student learning to inspire greater engagement, ownership, and deeper understanding. This year we asked how we could do the same for our adult learners in our schools. And then we took it a bit further. We wondered if teachers led differentiated, choice-based learning for their colleagues, would the content become more valuable? Our response is to take a leap and answer, “yes” to both of these questions! Toward these ends, work has begun in earnest to create a menu of differentiated, teacher-led, three-day Professional Learning Institutes.

pli2The 4 FWSU Action Plan Targets

  • Proficiency-based Personalized Learning
  • Leadership
  • Flexible Learning Environments
  • Engaged Community Partners

have been thoughtfully crafted to encompass all aspects of improving student learning in critical areas of contemporary education which prepare students for a broad future in a rapidly changing world.

pli3We are very fortunate that FWSU is full of educators who have worked very hard to develop expertise in techniques, approaches, processes, and programs that inspire high levels of student performance and engagement within and across the curriculum that support these targets. Many of our teachers currently teach or have taught adults in higher education courses in these contemporary high leverage areas. As we have worked collaboratively on improvements and innovations, the leadership density within our schools has grown. Teachers are sought out for their knowledge or skill, and this year they will have the opportunity and given the time to learn from each other at our FWSU Professional Learning Institutes.


As part of this new Institute model, learning opportunities will be designed that can be completed during the in-service days. In addition, Institute materials and opportunities for discussion and engagement between November and March will be housed in Schoology, our Learning Management System. We believe the timing is right to adapt to a new model in which teachers work together to create teacher-centered professional learning.

BFA Student Council Experience Heifer International Global Village

Heifer International is a world hunger organization that provides sustainable support and education to impoverished communities around the world and country. The BFA Student Council has historically organized fundraisers for Heifer International and this year their goal is to learn about and inform our community on why Heifer International exists, what they do and why we should support them. To kick that off, twenty-eight high school students took a trip to Rutland, Massachusetts to visit the Heifer Farm on October 6th.

As part of the day, students visited their sustainable farm, interacted with their animals and visited the Global Village.

Abi T learning how to milk a goat

Abi T learning how to milk a goat

“I learned how to milk a goat”- Michael R, student

The Global Village is a replica of the ways in which families live in the communities that Heifer supports. We visited Peru, Kenya, rural Appalachia and more.  

“I was humbled by how some people live every day”-Rachel P, student

 This house, part of the Global Village, is a replica of how families that Heifer serves live in Guatemala.

This house, part of the Global Village, is a replica of how families that Heifer serves live in Guatemala.

Students were given the local food and cooking supplies in order to prepare their lunch in the Global Village.

“I really enjoyed it, my favorite part was picking our own carrots”- Chase P, student

Stay tuned to see how this group of students brings their learning back to the BFA community.

“This trip taught me there is a huge difference in poverty around the word, there is not just one type of poverty . It made me appreciate what I have and want to help others.” -Julia O, Student Council president

Alex H and Rachel P work to build a fire to cook their lunch.

Alex H and Rachel P work to build a fire to cook their lunch.