THE FWSU STORY: Farm to School Harvest Supper Connects Fairfax Community

On a beautiful October night, the BFA Fairfax Farm to School Club was proud to host its first Harvest Supper.

BFA Fairfax Farm Garden

BFA Fairfax students harvesting vegetables from the School Farm for the Harvest Dinner.

The dinner hosted 200 guests and brought together families and community partners to celebrate the start of autumn, and showcase local products, much of it provided by the BFA Fairfax school garden.

Families enjoying the Harvest Dinner.

Families enjoying the Harvest Supper.

The Farm to School Club coordinated this entire event from menu planning and cooking, public relations, ticket sales, event logistics and entertainment. This was the culmination of two years of work by our students and staff to create a PreK-12 Farm to School program in our school.

In addition to providing for the meal, students offered live entertainment!

During the meal, students provided live entertainment!

In the fall of 2015, a small group of interested volunteers including a school nurse, a parent, a high school student, the chef from the Abbey Group, and a principal attended a Farm To School seminar in Middlebury, where we began formulating a plan to bring Farm to School to Fairfax.

Harvest Dinner 8

Community members tour the School Farm.

Upon our return, several high school students began meeting with Fred Griffin to develop a Farm to School Club and began researching and developing a plan to create a farm behind the elementary school building.  The students learned about the University of Vermont Design process, and with support from Jane Sorenson,  wrote a step by step Master Plan.

A delicious harvest meal was served up by students!

A delicious harvest meal was served up by students!

Fast-forward to the fall of 2017 and our Farm to School program is thriving. Students are maintaining a 4000 square foot production garden that provides fresh produce every day to the cafeteria for consumption by our students and staff.  We have built a greenhouse, a toolshed and installed water and power to support our work.  Students have expanded the size of our farm by plowing and cover-cropping plots for each grade level, designed and built a bridge to access a drainage ditch, planted apple trees, a blueberry and raspberry nursery, and developed a composting area.  Our students’ success through Farm to School was recognized in February of 2017 when Shannon Mahoney and Caitlin Allan spoke to other Farm to School programs, state representatives, and the Governor about our journey and the impact on our school community.

Harvest Dinner 6

BFA Fairfax High School Teacher Fred Griffin speaks at the Harvest Supper.

We are really proud of how this program has resonated with students, staff, and community members. The Harvest Supper marked the beginning of a new tradition that will bring our community together to enjoy a wonderful meal, allow community members to engage with each other, and provide an authentic audience for our students to showcase their work and learning through their participation in the Farm to School program.

BFA Fairfax is excited about this new community tradition to celebrate the School Farm harvest bounty!

BFA Fairfax is excited about this new community tradition to celebrate the School Farm harvest bounty!

THE FWSU STORY: Celebrating Outstanding Teachers of 2017

Each year, the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont, together with Supervisory Unions and School Districts across the state, join together to honor the accomplishments of our state’s outstanding educators. Two outstanding teachers from FWSU were recognized in a ceremony at the Grand Maple Ballroom in the Dudley H. Davis Center at UVM on October 12, 2017. 

Amy Rider and Tammy Boissoneault

FWSU Outstanding Teachers of 2017 with their Principals


Tammy Boissoneault is the type of educator we all aspire to be. First and foremost, she is committed to ensuring that all students find their place, their voice, and their passion inside and outside the classroom.

Throughout her career, she has been a strong advocate for educating the whole child. She was instrumental in the successful implementation of the Responsive Classroom model nearly two decades ago. This work is a critical component of the BFA Fairfax environment even to this day.

Tammy and Amy at the Outstanding Teacher Celebration

Tammy and Amy at the Outstanding Teacher Celebration!

“We are fortunate and grateful to have Tammy as a member of the faculty at BFA Fairfax.  She has made a profound difference in the lives of countless students and families in our community.  Please join me in congratulating Tammy Boissoneault as this year’s BFA Teacher of the year!” – Principal Tom Walsh


Tom Walsh is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Elementary Middle School. You can follow him on Twitter @ecucatamount




GEMS School Librarian Amy Rider is dedicated to students and staff all year long. Her tireless efforts are always given with a smile, and her creative talents often go by unnoticed. Amy is here throughout the summer and works late each day. She works tirelessly to keep the library current in all ways. Amy is dedicated, thoughtful, helpful, and a fountain of knowledge!

GEMS Outstanding Teacher Amy Rider

2017 Outstanding Teacher Amy Rider with Principal Frank Calano, Georgia Elementary Middle School

As an educator, Amy is conscientious and tuned into the needs of all students.  Amy has the ability to help all grade levels. She is patient, helpful and always working to benefit our students.  She often goes above what’s required to benefit the children of Georgia.  She knows each student by name and knows their personalities. Amy truly cares about every child’s access to books of interest.  She connects with students on all levels and supports teachers in achieving their students’ reading goals. Amy reads to each elementary class and brings books to the preschool classes.

Amy helps teachers with themes/research information; she is generous with her time and resources and will do whatever she can to support students and staff.  She is very flexible and knowledgeable – always researching something new for teachers and always willing to help teachers with extra duties pertaining to their curriculum. She jumps in to help out and is always willing to do extra. Amy is respectful, responsible, safe and helpful in a positive way.


Amy collaborates with students and staff at GEMS.

Take one look at the library!  Amy has worked so hard to create a special physical environment; a welcoming, modern space for GEMS and the Georgia Community. She is a magician with the use of space, technology, and books to enrich and further the progress of ALL GEMS’ community of learners…from the age of 3 to 73! She is an incredible problem solver and remains open-minded and hopeful in all circumstances.

Amy is a true star in our buildings and exemplifies PBIS in words and actions.  Her contributions to the school climate are so important; it’s like she affects us all in a quiet and positive way. The library is the heart of the school. Amy is that heart.

Congratulations, Amy, GEMS is proud of you!

frank calano


Frank Calano is the Middle School Principal at Georgia Elementary Middle School. You can follow him on Twitter  @calano_frank

THE FWSU STORY: Sharing Learning and Meaning in a Proficiency-Based High School

As part of their journey to 2020 Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements, the students and teachers at BFA Fairfax High School are shifting the culture of learning from the traditional to the transformed.

Student collaborating.

SLaM helps students collaborate and personalize their learning.

The transformation continues this year with the introduction of SLaM: Sharing Learning and Meaning. SLaM began with an idea borrowed from South Burlington High School and was expanded upon by the BFA faculty. SLaM was created to serve as a framework to provide the knowledge and skills necessary for the shift to proficiency-based systems.

Students Learning with SLAM

The High School’s PBGR Oversight Team spent time looking at how they needed to change the way they worked together on behalf of students and undertook a “personalized” approach, having teachers develop expertise in their own areas of interest, rather than trying to be experts in all the components of change. The PBGR Oversight Team continues to pull such expertise together at regular meetings to cross-pollinate, growing a cohesive culture of proficiency-based learning in the high school.


Students design their Personalized Learning Plans.

The SLaM design, led by teachers, is organized around the four years of high school, and a progressive timeline of delivery of skills and experiences for students. Each year, students grow their skills in ways to share learning and meaning along a continuum of proficiencies that lead to college, career, and work/life readiness. Students can personalize these curriculum experiences, designed by teachers, as they collect evidence of proficiency. Although the skills and context change over time, the purpose remains the same: to give students the tools and resources to be successful in proficiency-based learning.


Flexible Learning is a big component of learning in a proficiency-based system.

The core concepts of SLaM are deeper learning; reflection; evidence generation, collection, and verification; exhibitions; personalized learning growth and refinement; mentorship; internships; and service learning. This is how they play out over time:

  • Grade 9: Evidence reflection, exhibitions, and transition of Personalized Learning Plans (PLP’s).
  • Grade 10: Refining PLPs, career research, readiness for more flexible pathways to learning, mentorship, and communicating learning to audiences.
  • Grade 11: Skill and expertise, internships,  service learning, transitioning:  interviews resume, research etc.
  • Grade 12: Capstone experience.

Faculty teams, which are inclusive of all faculty members, are dedicated to a grade level to ensure the creation of the best tools, systems, and curriculum processes for engaging and teaching student in these readiness phases of graduation proficiency.

The PBGR Oversight Team at work.

The PBGR Oversight Team at work.

The teachers meet to collaboratively plan for both the short and long term every Tuesday morning and one Tuesday afternoon Faculty Meeting a month. Students meet with their advisors for SLaM on two Monday Support Blocks each month.

Students receive support of their teacher

In a proficiency-based system, students share learning and meaning along a continuum of proficiencies that lead to college, career, and work/life readiness.

How is it going so far this year? As Principal John Tague sees it:

“Although we’ve only had 2 SLaM Mondays, it’s still been an adjustment for both staff and students as it’s a different structure for Support Blocks. But there is a strong feeling that these changes will help students understand the shifts to proficiency and the continuum of learning. [This change] also serves to shift our high school culture to more ownership of student learning and a deeper understanding of the student’s role in the learning process. Through this 4 year process, they will have far more understanding of themselves and their learning than a report card or transcript can provide.”

With proficiency-based learning, students and teachers are co-learners in transforming the educational experience.

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: GEMS Second-Graders Become Nature Explorers in Four Winds Trip

Today’s on The FWSU Story, we are pleased to feature a guest post by Julie Ferguson, a second-grade classroom teacher at Georgia Elementary Middle School. 


GEMS students experience their first field trip to the Senesac property in Georgia.

Earlier this month, the second graders at GEMS enjoyed their first field trip, organized by Four Winds volunteers.


Students learn about trees!

It was a wonderful trip to the Senesac property in Georgia which provided children with the opportunity to learn about trees in one of the best flexible learning environments around: the great outdoors!


Students talk about their learning.

Students started off their morning with a puppet show about what a tree does and why it’s important. Then the students broke into classes and visited three stations.


Students loved exploring the outdoors!

The children learned how to identify different trees and about the parts of the tree and their jobs. These students were proud to share their new learning with their families and classmates!

Julie Ferguson Teacher


Julie Ferguson is a second-grade teacher at Georgia Elementary Middle School.




THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Elementary Receives Recognition for Positive School Climate

For the fourth consecutive year, the Fletcher Elementary School has been recognized for its exceptional support of a positive school climate and the social competence of its students.

Fletcher Falcons are proud of their VT-PBIS School of Merit ribbon!

Fletcher Falcons are proud of their VT-PBIS School of Merit ribbon!

For three years, the Fletcher School has been designated a Vermont PBIS School of Merit by the Positive Interventions and Supports Team of the Vermont Agency of Education and the UVM Center on Disability and Community Inclusion Collaboration. The designation recognizes the Fletcher School’s unwavering commitment to supporting a positive school climate and the social skills of students, which in turn bolster academic achievements. Prior to being designated a PBIS School of Merit, the Fletcher School was recognized for one year as a PBIS School of Recognition.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is an approach to creating school-wide proactive systems that support students’ social-emotional and academic success. The Fletcher School has prioritized strategic, proactive teaching of school-wide behavior expectations and a formal system of behavioral recognitions and supports related to those expectations for all students. The school is in its fourth full year of implementing PBIS.

Fletcher PBIS Leadership Team (Left to Right): Sarah Tucker, Sandi Simmons, Principal Chris Dodge, Rebecca Cardone.

Fletcher PBIS Leadership Team

The Fletcher School has created clear and concise behavior expectations for each physical area of the school, on the school buses and for field trips. These expectations are modeled and taught to students throughout the year. Individual classroom and school-wide successes are recognized and celebrated regularly. The school’s PBIS Team uses data from classroom and office behavior referrals to identify students, location around the school, times of day and other demographics needing additional support. Behavior data is provided to families throughout the year as part of parent conferences. The team is coordinated by School Counselor Sandi Simmons.

VT-PBIS Ribbon

VT-PBIS Ribbon

In 2014-15, the Fletcher School was designated a Vermont PBIS school of Recognition based on its strategic use of data, celebrating school-wide and individual successes and working to support behavioral challenges, as well as noted decrease in behavior issues overall. For the past three years, the PBIS School of Merit designation has been based on a continuation of that work, as well as receiving exceptional scores on its state-conducted school-wide evaluation of its PBIS implementation.

This year’s award was presented at the Vermont PBIS Leadership forum in Killington. In addition to recognizing successful PBIS schools, the Forum offered a variety of professional development workshops that were attended by the Fletcher School’s team.

THE FWSU STORY: Coffee House Still Going Strong at BFA Fairfax

Coffee House Mural at BFA Fairfax

On Friday nights throughout the year, the Middle School Gym is transformed into an intimate performance space filled with students, parents, and other community members.

Students share their talents with peers at BFA Coffee House!

Students share their talents with peers at BFA Coffee House!

Last Friday night was the kickoff to another season of BFA Coffee House. Coffee House is a student-led, student-produced, and student-performed event that showcases the talent of our amazing young people (and occasionally, staff members) surrounded by baked goods and, of course, coffee.

Coffee House has been a tradition at BFA for the past ten years. Obviously, the students who initiated this exciting opportunity have graduated, but new leaders have emerged to keep the show moving forward. In addition to fresh leadership, each year new students arrive bringing their own unique talent and energy to the project.

“It’s really nice to learn a new song and be able to perform it in front of a community. It’s a cultural mixing pot for the arts. It’s a safe environment.” – Quentin, Student Performer


BFA’s Coffee House is produced and performed by students!

One of the best parts of the first Coffee House is watching new students take a risk and share their talent with their peers. The performer’s excitement when they hear the cheers of the crowd is exhilarating. Typically, students continue to perform throughout the rest of their high school career. This makes every Coffee House a custom blend of new talent and seasoned performers — a mix of singing, poetry, comedy, piano, and magic.


Many students continue to perform at BFA Coffee House throughout their high school experience.

“I love the sense of community. We are all supportive of the community and each other. We all come together to appreciate the arts.” – Annalise, Student Performer

The next Coffee House is scheduled for December 1st at BFA Fairfax. Mark it on your calendar so you don’t miss this student-designed and orchestrated experience.

A Year of Innovation, Part III

This is the third and final blog post in the series featuring the unique innovative lab spaces enhance learning at FWSU.  FWSU is proud to offer innovation spaces in all three of our schools. and how each of them impacts student learning. Today, you can learn about innovation space at Fletcher Elementary.


Last year, 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. This digital learning studio was awarded as an effort from HP and Microsoft’s to provide and support next-generation learning, international collaboration and the “maker” movement in education.


In addition, as a result of FWSU Launch, Fletcher school also purchased The Fletcher School purchased 15 OSMO units last month as part of a Launch FWSU Grant underwritten by the Bay and Paul FoundationOSMO is a revolutionary new technology that uses the camera vision of an iPad, along with a specially designed reflector, to recognize and capture what is happening in front of it. In other words, it combines digital vision and recording with the physical manipulation of materials.


This year, the innovation space is continuing to grow with the addition of the mobile maker space. This new resource will allow the innovation space to expand and be a part of multiple classrooms. In addition, FES is looking how it can incorporate the Cricut Maker as a tool for students to use in creative design.


Fletcher’s innovation spaces are designed to creatively make the most of the digital learning tools for a school of their size. We are looking forward to all of the innovative learning projects that will be designed in the innovative spaces at Fletcher.