THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Celebrates World Read-Aloud Day

Students at the Fletcher Elementary School recently celebrated the joys of reading by participating in World Read Aloud Day (WRAD). Established by LitWorld International, WRAD is an event that celebrates people across the globe reading and sharing books together while advocating for literacy for all.


World Read Aloud Day is a celebration of literacy in many forms: reading books aloud, favorite books and book characters, celebrating authors and illustrators, and connecting with readers around the world.


In Fletcher, several classrooms hosted celebrity readers who shared a cherished book to read aloud. Mr. Dodge, Mrs. Locke, Mrs. Steves, and a Fletcher parent were among the special guest readers who shared in the celebration of great books!


To help promote World Read Aloud Day, a whole group of book authors offered free virtual visits with schools. Fletcher 6th graders visited with the amazing author, Casey Lyall, who connected with them from her home in Canada. Ms. Lyall read to the students from her books and engaged in an engaging question and answer session with the students.


Another wonderful connection took place when several classes visited with Pennsylvania children’s book author, Mara Rockliff, who talked with students via a web connection. These author visits were incredible opportunities for students to engage with a professional author and share World Read Aloud Day globally.


In library-based art classes, all students listened to a read-aloud book and created a picture of their favorite book character. The characters became the focus of a library bulletin board where they are bounding out of a giant book! World Read Aloud Day was a great time for enjoying and sharing the love of reading for our students.



Emily DiGiulio is the Library Media and Technology Specialist at Fletcher Elementary School. Follow her on Twitter @Librologist .

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax High School Departments Welcome Morning Collaboration

High School teachers at BFA Fairfax are working to adapt their curriculum and instruction to meet the changes in teaching and learning associated with proficiency. A structure that helps to provide time for this work is our morning Collaborative Teacher Time. Teachers throughout BFA meet every morning from 7:30-8:10 to work together on a variety of initiatives relevant to their work at school. Two mornings a week, high school teachers meet with their department colleagues to work on the shift to proficiency.


All of the departments have used the time to develop learning scales for each proficiency and indicator for which students will be assessed. They have worked to update their course descriptions and the program of studies to include the content indicators and transferable skills. Part of this work required each team to ensure that students have sufficient access to each indicator over the course of their high school journey.


As a brief aside, BFA’s proficiency-based graduation requirements are framed in terms of Proficiencies, Indicators, and Targets. Proficiencies are the broad content topics like Reading, Algebra, or Civics, Government, and Society. Indicators are the next layer in the framework. They are specific skills and knowledge that make up each proficiency. Examples are Solving Equations within the Algebra proficiency, Identifying Key ideas in a Text in the Reading Proficiency or Describing how Government Actions Directly Impact Citizens within the Civics, Government and Society proficiency.  The Target level is where students work every day in class. They might be learning to solve a system of linear equations, analyzing characters in a book, or evaluating a public policy in their math, English or Social Studies class. The students’ work and evidence on the targets help teachers to understand and evaluate progress toward an indicator. The collection of indicators determines a student’s overall Proficiency; the collection of Proficiencies determines their readiness to graduate and move onto college, career, or the workforce.


So you can see there’s a lot of work to be done. In recent weeks, the science teachers have been working on their new course sequence that provides students with science content and methods. The English teachers regularly look at student work to make decisions regarding the effectiveness of their learning scales as well as the student’s demonstration of the content. Math teachers use the time to create common assessments and then analyze the outcomes. It is not unlikely to walk into a debate about a current issue when the social studies department meets. They also develop common assessments, look at student work, and create new learning opportunities for their students.


Although it is only a small amount of time each day, the teachers use it consistently and effectively to continue to make progress toward proficiency. Obviously, they work throughout their day, at weekly faculty meetings, and at home to develop and improve proficiency-based teaching and learning at BFA. It’s a journey that begins with the Class of 2020 but will continue to evolve for many years.

THE FWSU STORY: GEMS Students Celebrate Olympic Learning

Olympians can be great models for young students. Many of our elementary classrooms have been closely following the Winter Olympics in 2018. The excitement of daily medal counts and the different countries represented have consumed many morning meeting discussions.


As part of the celebration of the 2018 Winter Olympics, students in STEM class at GEMS accepted the challenge of creating a snowboard and figure that can successfully board the mountain for the entire run. More events such as Outdoor Olympics for students, a school assembly, and the presentation of the flame are planned in the coming days.

Classrooms have also been talking about character traits of Olympians and have been observing the connections between athletes and students, noticing the similarities for being successful in life.

Questions like “What does it take to be an Olympian?” or “What do you have to do to be a successful student?” are being discussed in the classroom.

Students have determined that focus, dedication, and a belief in yourself are common character traits shared by successful athletes and students. Commitment to living a healthy lifestyle and trying your best are also important qualities, whether you are an Olympian at the Winter Games or a student at GEMS.

The Olympic flag features a white background with five interlaced rings at the center: blue, yellow, black, green, and red. This design is symbolic; it represents the five continents of the world united by Olympism, while the six colors are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time. It is truly an engaging time of learning for our students.


THE FWSU STORY: For BFA Fairfax’s Isaac Collins, Leading by Example is the Name of the Game

For BFA Fairfax senior and soccer star Isaac Collins, setting a good example is his most important goal. Whether he’s inspiring his peers as captain of the soccer team or volunteering in his community as part of the National Honor Society, Collins says, “I like to lead by example.”


BFA Fairfax student and Fletcher Elementary graduate Isaac Collins likes to lead by example.

The renowned athlete and respected musician got his start at Fletcher Elementary, where he achieved success alongside eight classmates.

“It was a really, really small class and we all knew each other and were best friends. Some of us still are,” Collins said of his early educational years. “We had a lot of good times together.”

While Collins says he enjoyed “most everything” about his schooling in Fletcher, he recalls being particularly motivated by music class in fourth grade.

“The teacher made it the best,” he said. “I really enjoy music now and play guitar and sing. That fourth-grade year in music really got me interested.”

Collins said he appreciated the tight-knit community the Fletcher School offered, something that he has also experienced in his middle and high school years at BFA Fairfax.

“I always remember the parents were really involved,” he said. “BFA is larger than Fletcher, but we’re still tight. I know everybody in my classes and my teachers know me personally. It’s just a comfortable environment.”


Collins left Fletcher for BFA in seventh grade, and he’s developed a positive reputation as a leader and good student ever since.

“Isaac is an accomplished student taking challenging AP courses, is an incredible athlete, and he is also a talented actor and musician,” BFA Fairfax teacher Sara Villeneuve said. “His peers adore his calm, patient, thoughtful demeanor. He always makes time for others and his community.”

Collins is well-known for his musical and vocal talents, which he often showcases at his school’s Coffee House events, where he also takes charge of the technical-set of equipment. He was his soccer team’s MVP during both his junior and senior years. The skilled athlete was also selected as a member of the 2017 Vermont All State High School Soccer Team, comprised of the best performing seniors that year.

While Collins acknowledges sports has taught him several life lessons, he also credits his parents and his faith for “giving me a solid set of morals like kindness and being humble.”

“A character trait that Isaac exemplifies is integrity,” Villeneuve said. “Isaac has strong moral principles and acts with honor and respect for others.”

Success runs in the Collins family. His sister is a senior in the nursing program at New York’s Elmira College. Both of his parents attended Vermont Technical College. His mother is a veterinary technician and his father is maintenance technician at Globalfoundries. Both have been successful in their fields for about 30 years.


Collins is committed to giving back to his community. He’s helped organize dinners and children’s events as part of his church, and has supported blood drives and individual service projects as part of National Honor Society, a group he describes as “being conscious of the community, looking out for people, and connecting with people that have similar interests and share your values.” He and a friend are currently planning a sports tournament from which the proceeds will be donated to a cancer charity.

Collins credits BFA Fairfax with giving him the communication skills to be successful across settings.

“For me, because of what I’ve learned here, it’s really easy to communicate with pretty much anybody or a group of people, “ Collins said.

That skill will be an important one for the aspiring communications and digital media major, who has already been accepted to two of the five colleges to which he’s applied.

“Sharing information by video and working technically really interests me,” Collins, who is considering broadcast journalism as a career,  said. “Education is important to me, as is personal expression in a variety of forms. This year, everybody was asking me what I was going to major in during college. I realized that my favorite part of all my classes at BFA was about sharing information.”

Collins is currently completing an independent study that focuses on videography and showcasing the extracurricular activities at his school.

“BFA offers the opportunity to work one-on-one with teachers,” Collins said. “You work very closely and I don’t think you would get as much of that at a larger school.”

Some might ask how Collins balances sports, academics, community service, friends, and family.

“He is able to find balance between these things,” Villeneuve said. “His peers see him participate in activities like this, in sports, philanthropic work, and his studies … and still find time for family.”


Collins’s care for the world is also reflected in his choice of music. “Paul Simon’s songwriting is incredible and the harmony when they sing is some of the best. Most important, though, is that you can find more meaning in Simon and Garfunkel lyrics than most of the other stuff. The message is important.”

Collins will continue visiting potential colleges this spring, before making a final decision. In the meantime, he plans to continue being a positive role model for those around him.

“Isaac Collins personifies the title of ‘student-athlete,’ BFA Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Geri Witalec-Krupa said. “His strength of character, attention to his studies, commitment to soccer, and all around positive demeanor make him an exceptional leader and role model in our school. He is an incredibly well-rounded young man as one of the most talented musicians, and athletes, at BFA Fairfax. Whether quietly leading by example, or being the vocal motivator, Isaac also possesses the ability to adjust his leadership style based on the environment and those around him. The traits he demonstrates on a daily basis will serve him well in all his future endeavors and successes.”

“I want to provide an example for younger people that don’t know exactly what they should be doing,” Collins said. “I want them, at any given point, in any situation, to be able to look to me and see a leader. Leading by example is really the most important thing to me.”

THE FWSU STORY: Gold Medal Fun in BFA Fairfax Elementary Physical Education

Every four years students throughout the state of Vermont experience the excitement of watching fellow Vermont athletes compete as members of the United States Winter Olympic team.  


From skiing and bobsled to skating, snowboarding, and curling, young Vermonters watch their idols and role models participate in a multitude of events with the hope of “bringing home the gold” to their country and home state. Vermont holds the highest per capita percentage of winter Olympians of any state, so it’s only natural to have this pride and excitement hit so close to home for many fans, young and old.  

During this first week of the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, students in Ms. Weeks’ elementary physical education classes have taken part in their own Olympic experience.  Through extremely creative modification of the various events, Ms. Weeks has provided opportunities for students to experience moguls, ski jumping, biathlon, curling, nordic skiing, speed skating, and hockey.  

Accompanied by a daily live stream of Olympic events during class, students have been thrilled to take part in the same activities as their Team USA heroes. Feedback and comments from students included: “I really liked curling and trying to get the scooter into the circle in the middle of the gym”… “my favorite was hockey because I’ve never played ice hockey and it let me try something new” … “I’ve really liked watching the snowboarding, seeing them do jumps and stuff” … and best summing up the experience was … “it’s SO cool!”

Needless to say, fostered by their experiences in physical education classes, combined with the daily news and excitement from PyeongChang, we now have a large number of future Olympic hopefuls right here at BFA Fairfax.  


THE FWSU STORY: P21 Recognizes FWSU for Exemplary 21st Century Learning Practices

Last week Principal Frank Calano (GEMS) and Superintendent Ned Kirsch traveled to Washington D.C. to attend an award celebration where FWSU was named Vermont’s first P21 Exemplar Program.

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The mission of Partnership for 21st Century Learning is to serve as a catalyst by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community, and government leaders so that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in a world where change is constant and learning never stops. The Exemplar Program identifies, documents, celebrates examples of 21st-century learning initiatives that successfully prepare students for college, career, and life.



The Exemplar Program Award Ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of 18 learning initiatives from across the country held at the National Press Club. FWSU was the only PreK-12 school system to be honored. Other honorees included early learning centers, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, charter schools, after-school programs, and summer camps. 

“The innovative work we do at FWSU in relationship to our 4 FWSU Vision Targets is fully aligned with the P21 Pillars of Transformation, which is both a confirmation and affirmation of the importance of our work. I feel so honored to be part of a system that has achieved this recognition.” – Linda Keating, Director of Instruction and Curriculum

The process of becoming an Exemplar Program began last year when FWSU was asked to submit an application to P21. After submitting the application, FWSU was notified that we had qualified for a site visit. The site visit team was comprised of the P21 executive director and a member of the P21 board of directors. They visited FWSU last spring and toured all of our schools during their day-long site visit. Along with visiting schools, the team time also met with students, teachers, parents, board members, and school administrators.  FWSU was recognized based on the following criteria:

  1. Evidence of commitment to college, career, and life readiness
  2. Educational support systems and sustainable design
  3. Engaged learning approaches
  4. Equitable student access to 21st-century learning
  5. Evidence of student acquisition of 21st-century knowledge and skills
  6. Partnerships for sustainable success

After the ceremony at the National Press Club, the day’s events moved to Capitol Hill where Principal Calano and Superintendent Kirsch met with senior staff members from the offices of Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Representative Welch. There were great discussions on topics ranging from the process of becoming an Exemplar Program to current education legislation under debate in Washington.


THE FWSU STORY: STEM Learning Opportunities Continue to Grow at BFA Fairfax Elementary/Middle School

To better prepare for their future, students need to develop a skill set for solving complex, real-world problems.  Innovation is prevalent throughout our PreK-8 school.


Kindergarten STEM Challenges, Grade 1 Magnificent Mondays, Grade 3 & 4 Innovation Day, Grade 5 Innovation Hour and Grades 6-8 Flexible Learning Opportunities allow students choice in what they would like to design or construct.  Below are just a few examples of the many great learning opportunities that are happening school-wide.

Pre-K students are creating digital stories using MyStory. Kindergarten classes are using Zoom to partner virtually with classes in Florida where they are analyzing weather patterns.  Grade 3 and 4 Science students are completing a variety of STEM challenges while also learning how to use new makerspace resources.  Grade 5 students are designing light up e-textile pins and programming robots. Grade 6 students applied math logic while using Cricut machines.

On an individual level Christina Ashley, a Grade 8 student, designed a 3D lamp as part of her Flexible Learning strand. She not only had to learn how to design and print the lamp in 3D but she also had to develop a deeper understanding of how circuits work.   Jacob Antonovich, a Grade 7 student, has become our resident leader in the area of 3D creation and printing. He created his own chess set to use during our school’s Chess Club.  He continues to support other classmates with 3D design and printing.  Dahilia Maynard, another Grade 7 student, used Makey Makey and Scratch programming to create a digital story.  All of their final working products reflect several iterations directly linked to computation thinking.

Our PreK-8 students are provided many opportunities to drive their own learning using a wide range of resources.  Oftentimes they determine how they will move their idea from concept to completion.  These opportunities regardless of magnitude, further develop their ability to understand how computation can be used to solve problems in all aspects of life.

Elementary Students 3D Designing and Printing

Middle School 3D Lamp


rhonda siemons


Rhonda Siemons is the Technology Integration Specialist (PreK-12) at BFA Fairfax. You can follow her on Twitter @rsiemons