THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Kindergarten Teacher Provides Leadership Beyond the Classroom

A few years ago, I was enrolled in a class through FWSU as a district initiative.  It was entitled Powerful Interactions and was taught by Charlotte Stetson, an instructor who, after working with children for many years, decided to share her expertise professionally through writing and consulting.  Many of us from all three schools in Franklin West enjoyed this class, sharing ideas and curriculum to best connect with children at their level.


When the class was finished, Charlotte had a request – would we be interested in traveling to Atlanta that year to help her present at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) annual conference?  A few of us jumped at the chance, and here my excitement for presenting at national conferences and sharing my passion for science was born.


To date, I have had the opportunity to present sessions at both the NAEYC annual conferences in Orlando and again in Atlanta, as well as at the National Science Teacher’s Association STEM conference in both Denver and Orlando. At each of these conferences, I have shared the science curriculum I have come to develop and love, on topics such as Engineering Design Challenge, The Science of Block Play, and Young Engineers in the Woods.  My sessions have included educators from all over the globe, and this most recent NAEYC conference in Atlanta saw teachers from China, New Zealand, and various areas of the US.


Having the chance to travel to these national conferences has been both exciting and has opened other doors for my career.  As a result, I have had an article published in the NSTA’s member newspaper, and information from that article was used as a shared reading in a college level class.


At the end of the day, it is my excitement for teaching young children that fuels my desire to share what I know and love.  Having the chance to connect my knowledge of little ones with my passion for education in the early grades to present on a national (and international) level has been wonderful, and an opportunity that I hope to continue in the future.


e green

Erica Green is a Kindergarten Teacher at BFA Fairfax.


THE FWSU STORY: March Madness is Alive at BFA Fairfax

For sports fans everywhere, the month of March brings the transition from the winter to spring athletic season, the (hopeful) spring thaw, and the inevitable excitement created by the NCAA basketball tournament, more commonly known as “March Madness.”

BFA Fairfax Bullets Varsity Basketball team

BFA Fairfax is experiencing its own version of March Madness this week as our Varsity boys basketball team will be playing in the Vermont Division 3 Final Four for the first time in ten years!


Led by a strong core of veteran players, a talented group of underclassmen, and first-year Varsity coach Dave Demar, the #6 seeded Bullets will take on #3 Williamstown in the state semifinals on Thursday, March 15 at 8:15pm.  A win would put the team in their first state title appearance since 2008, and hopefully pave the way for BFA Fairfax’s first-ever boys basketball state championship. Prior to 2008, the last boys team to experience this level of success dates back to 1965 and 1966 when the boys won the Class M Northern Final at UVM’s Patrick Gymnasium. Although our girls basketball program has had a number of league titles and final four appearances in recent years, the last girls state title dates back to 1981. Needless to say, a win on Thursday night will create a level of basketball fever that the community of Fairfax has not experienced for quite some time.


For those interested in purchasing tickets to the game, they will be on sale in the high school main office until 12pm on Thursday.  The Fairfax community has always been extremely passionate about basketball, with unbelievable levels of fan support at all games, at all levels of play.  We look forward to bringing our community together once again as the Varsity boys look to make history on Thursday night in Barre.


See you there, GO BULLETS!

Geri Witalec


Geri Witalec-Krupa is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at Bellows Free Academy Fairfax. You follow her @GLWit

THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Students Take the Lead to Feed Community

Kindergarten students in Mrs. Blackman’s class at the Fletcher Elementary School lead a school-wide food drive recently. Initially, students had planned to each bring 100 pennies to school to celebrate the 100th day of school. The pennies were to be donated to charity. However, after discussing community needs, the students initiated a school-wide food drive and collected more than 350 items for the Fairfax Community Food Shelf.


Decorative collection boxes and posters were made during art classes with older student “art buddies” helping the younger students. The kindergarten students practiced public speaking skills by discussing the effort with other classes and office staff. The food shelf serves the towns of Fletcher, Fairfax, and Westford. The project was based on a study of the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development, a worldwide initiative for students of all ages, and focused on awareness of poverty and hunger, efforts to promote health and well-being, and the creation of sustainable communities. The kindergartners were very excited to realize that they could take action to help others.


Pictured here, Rev. Elizabeth Griffin accepts the food donations and speaks with students about the importance of being helpful, caring community members.

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Embraces Leadership Restructure

Eighteen years ago I was offered the opportunity to transition from being a special educator in Milton to a school administrator at BFA Fairfax. To this day, it remains one of the best decisions I have made in my professional career. BFA Fairfax has provided me every opportunity to learn, grow, and make a positive impact on teaching and learning.


My connection to Fairfax was immediate. Although I am a “flatlander” from central New York, Fairfax reminded me of my home in so many ways. My hometown of Hamilton, New York was a rural farming community and I attended a Pre K-12 school for my entire public school education. Unless you have been in one building and community for your formative years you cannot completely understand the unique dynamics that impact and shape you.

This experience is one of many factors that have led me to remain at BFA Fairfax for nearly two decades. Another important component of my longevity is the opportunities to grow, change, and be part of a community with similar values, priorities, and a focus on what is best for our students. Together we created a vision that continues to guide our work:

Bellows Free Academy Elementary/Middle School Vision for Teaching and Learning

At Bellows Free Academy Elementary/Middle School, we strive for academic excellence because we believe that all students can achieve high standards.  During this time of dramatic cognitive growth, we seek to provide a rigorous curriculum that is socially significant and reflects the personal interests and learning styles of our students. 

We engage students through learning opportunities that are relevant to our students and enable them to make real-life connections. Our curricula align with the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, Three C’s, and include learning opportunities that require higher-level thinking, knowledge, skill development, student experiences, experimentation, and reflection.

Our school continually strives to create a personalized learning environment. Whenever possible, we implement flexible scheduling to enable students to engage in extended projects, hands-on learning experiences, and inquiry-based learning opportunities. Comprehensive services foster healthy physical, social, emotional, ethical, and intellectual development.  We strive to make all students feel supported, safe, and willing to take risks and to challenge themselves.

Technology is an integral component that supports learning by providing teachers with interactive tools with which to engage students.  Digital technology will continue to evolve and it is our responsibility as educators to stay at the forefront of these modern advances by providing technology-based learning opportunities.  Through these opportunities, we will ensure technological equity among all students.

Teaching and learning are interconnected.  Teachers continue to learn about themselves, their practice, and their strengths and challenges. We discuss student work as a means of enhancing our own practice. We learn new ways to teach by listening to our students and colleagues.  Continuous professional development, teacher mentoring, a caring staff, a supportive community, consistent expectations, and dynamic learning opportunities help us reach our potential as educators.

We continually work to create a school that is deeply rooted in the community.  Parents, teachers, and students develop alliances that enhance learning.  Informed parents and community members serve to make the entire community an extended classroom that supports learning and healthy development.  We welcome and seek guidance from parents and community members in charting the school’s path toward high performance, to preserve traditions, and to develop new celebration.


Once again the needs of our students and school system require a change in the leadership structure at BFA Fairfax. Change is challenging but often necessary to maintain the functionality and growth of any organization. For the past six years, I have been the educational leader of both the elementary and middle schools. However, the growing demands and needs of both schools have increased and warranted a restructuring of leadership responsibilities. Next year, I will be assuming responsibilities for students and staff in Grades PreK-6 while my colleague, John Tague, will be responsible for students and staff in Grades 7-12. In addition, Geri Witalec-Krupa will continue in her vital role as Assistant Principal/Athletic Director.

BFA Fairfax new leadership structure

It is with mixed emotions that I embark on this new phase of my career. I appreciate the opportunity to refocus my energies with more manageable work and leadership responsibilities. In many ways, this change is a continuation of our efforts to increase our shared leadership structures that facilitate and guide the work of meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of our learning community. BFA Fairfax’s successes are the result of highly qualified and committed educators, a progressive school board, an engaged and supportive community, and curious and resourceful students.

I have worked with many of the staff in the middle school for all of my career in Fairfax. They are more than my colleagues, they are lifelong friends. We have shared many life experiences and collaborated to provide innovative and responsive middle-level learning for two decades. I am so proud of our work and look forward to continuing this journey.

I am confident that these changes are necessary and will allow our school to continue to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of public education. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your community for the past eighteen years. I value the continued opportunity to learn and grow.

Principal Tom Walsh


Thomas Walsh is currently Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary Middle School and is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @educatamount

THE FWSU STORY: Building Global Citizenship: Schools That Make a Difference

global1In an effort to expand the focus in our schools on Global Education, Stacey Sullivan (GEMS), JoAnn Harvey (GEMS), Pam Farmer (GEMS), Denette Locke (FES), and Melinda Carpenter (BFA) are representing their schools as part of an FWSU Team, along with Curriculum Director Linda Keating, at the first “Thought Partner” series. This series is offered by the Champlain Valley Educator Development Center (CVEDC) and is facilitated by Dr. Mary Lynn Riggs.

A “Thought Partner,” as defined by the Thinking Collaborative, is someone who:

  • Challenges your thinking
  • Causes you to modify or change your paradigms, assumptions, or actions
  • Has information or a way of thinking that provokes you to innovate or otherwise leads to value creation in your business, career, or life.

UN Global Goals for Sustainability

This first CVEDC Thought Partner seminar series, entitled Building Global Citizenship. Schools that Make a Difference, focuses on the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Participating teams think about these 17 goals in the context of their schools, their communities and use their thought partners to explore how they can integrate the goals into their work with students in ways that are personalized, flexible, skill building, and expand capacity to develop responsible citizenship within a diverse world.

FWSU Global Citizenship opportunities.

FWSU Global Citizenship opportunities.

Teams bring their knowledge of their students and their curriculums, thinking about their students’ desire to have a positive impact along with what they need to teach, and examine that in the context of stories from speakers who are taking action in their schools, their communities, and throughout the world.


Along with stories of global impact, the teams are learning strategies and being introduced to readings, tools, and resources that help to guide their planning conversations and engage as thought partners.


There are four sessions in this first series to engage teams in facilitated dialogue around global citizenship. Several of our team members have indicated they will pursue the FWSU Global Goals Microcredential as part of their learning experience. In addition, our team will create a supervisory union rationale for global education, along with goals and action steps that we will vet with our thought partners.



Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Maker Space Ignites Learning

Next Generation Science Standards logoThe Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS) outlines eight practices that are essential for all students to learn. Included in those practices is the ability to obtain, evaluate, and communicate information. The advancement of science depends on scientists clearly and persuasively communicating findings with others. A significant practice of science is thus to present ideas and the results and by engaging in discussions with peers.

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That is just what the sixth-grade makers are doing at FES.

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Throughout the year, the students have had the opportunity to engage in exploring and investigating how a maker space can impact their learning. The students were then challenged to create an ignite talk to share their ideas about maker space, sharing who they are as a maker and what they have made so far this year.

ignite-presentationsPromoted under the slogan, “Enlighten us, but make it quick,” Ignite is a presentation format where a presenter speaks while slides advance automatically to support them. An Ignite presentation is exactly 5 minutes and contains exactly 20 slides. The slides advance automatically after each slide is displayed for 15 seconds.

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The class welcomes you to review their Google sites were they are continually publishing their work.

THE FWSU STORY: Integrated Story Writing & Technology at BFA Fairfax Preschool

This year in Preschool it was my goal to embed technology use in meaningful ways.  With our school offering many technology pathways it was important to me to begin to pave the pathway for successful digital learning even for our youngest learners. When we began a literacy unit on retelling stories the two objectives seemed to the perfect match for some exciting learning. To do this it was important to create a lesson that could merge the two content areas. Merging the content would expand opportunities for learning and allows me to reach learners at multiple levels and learning styles.


We began by working on our literacy curriculum of retelling a story and building book knowledge. Students first learn about the role of an author and illustrator. We practice identifying important features of print such as words, spaces, picture, where to begin reading and the direction of print.

pkstory3In order to support story writing, we practice identifying story sequences including beginning, middle and ending events. Together with a large group, I model and we practice writing stories using a simple story strip that helps the children break down their story into four parts. The children are asked to identify the character, events (first, then) and an ending. Students then work to create their own stories.


After all of the pre-teaching of story writing and creating a draft we are then ready to practice using the iPads.  Students are given an opportunity to draw, erase, insert pictures and play using the app “My Story.” Working in small groups the students create a profile and practice identifying and writing their names.


Students are able to connect the learning they have done by identifying themselves as the author and illustrator of their very own book.  The children use their story strips to transfer the stories onto the iPads and practice making the illustration and words match to tell a logical story.


Flexible and differentiated learning allows the children to work at individual levels.  Some work to identify the letters in their name while others work to type all of their text, including spaces and punctuation. Listening, following directions and the ability to attend and persist are practiced as we take turns creating our stories.

The students are excited to share their books with their peers and families and our digital tools created an opportunity to take our learning to a whole new level.  Connecting skills to personal learning is a meaningful tool with powerful sticking potential.

K french


Kristie French is an Early Childhood Educator at BFA Fairfax.