THE FWSU STORY: Fairfax Relays Celebrate Over a Decade of Tradition, Spirit, and Community

This past Tuesday, October 9, the annual Fairfax Relays cross country event was held on the BFA Fairfax campus.  

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

For over a decade, this race has brought thousands of runners to BFA Fairfax, sporting their best costumes, and enjoying the competitive running community.  It also serves as one of the highlight events of BFA Fairfax’s Homecoming week.

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

Former BFA Fairfax Cross Country coach Fred Griffin started this event over a decade ago.  In his words: “It was a process. We held a conventional relay for a couple of years but then parents wanted some obstacles, hay bales, and water jumps. We kept getting more interest from schools, but it started getting crazy when we began giving monstrous cookie plates and expanding concessions. Somewhere around ten – eleven years the ball of wax came together with  costumes, music, outrageous prize plates, and the PA system….a regular carnival!”

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

This year’s race did not disappoint.  458 middle and high school runners took part in costumed team categories of 4-person mixed gender, 4-person male or female, 2-person mixed gender, and 2-person male or female.  Prizes were awarded not only for the race winners but also for the best costumes in each category.

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Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

Another important aspect of this event is the overwhelming school and local community support.  Parents, staff, students, athletic teams, the Fairfax Fire Department and Fairfax Rescue all contributed to everything from concessions and parking to safety and security. Without their assistance, this annual highlight of Homecoming week would not be possible.

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

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Current BFA Fairfax Cross Country coach Karen Witalec-Krupa shared “This year’s event was one of the smoothest on record.  The creativity of students gets better and better each year, and it’s really great to see the student-athletes taking a break from serious racing to have fun and enjoy themselves as we prepare for the big championship races (NVAC, State Championship) coming up in the next couple of weeks.”  

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

BFA Fairfax thanks everyone for their support of this very fun and exciting day.  We hope to see you next year!


Geri Witalec

 

Geri Witalec-Krupa is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at BFA Fairfax is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You follow her @GLWit  

THE FWSU STORY: Congratulations to 2018 Outstanding Teacher Ian Flint

On October 1st, educators from all over Vermont gathered at the University of Vermont to recognize Vermont’s Outstanding Teachers. BFA Fairfax was represented by our Band Director, Ian Flint.

FWSU Outstanding Teacher Ian Flint pictured with John Tague and Ned Kirsch

2018 Outstanding Teacher Ian Flint

At the ceremony, speakers that included Secretary of Education Dan French, VT-NEA president Don Tinney, and 2018 Vermont Teacher of the Year Linda Cloutier-Namdar spoke of the importance of developing relationships with students. Ian has worked tirelessly to develop relationships with students and families in order to build and grow a successful band program.

First Concert December 2015

First Concert December 2015 at BFA Fairfax

Ian’s first concert at BFA was held on the Middle School Stage with about a dozen high school students and their parents and families. At this point, we have a high school band, a middle school band, an elementary band, and a jazz band.  Our middle school band has 48 members this year and our high school band has 34. Concerts are standing room only in the Richard Brown Gymnasium! This year, Mr. Flint will bring back BFA’s Marching Band!

Spring Concert May 2018 at BFA Fairfax

Spring Concert May 2018 at BFA Fairfax

After the featured speakers, the Outstanding Teachers were announced and presented with certificates. As Ian was called to the stage, his official nomination information was shared with the audience:

Ian Flint is entering his 4th year as the Instrumental Music Director at BFA Fairfax.  During his short tenure his knowledge, professionalism and passion has had an immediate and profound impact on the music program.  Student participation numbers have more than tripled, young musicians are being exposed to high-level content, the quality of performances is second to none, and he has significantly heightened appreciation for music and the arts within our school and greater community.  We are extremely fortunate to have Ian as a member of our faculty and school community.

Ian Flint pictured with VT Secretary of Education Dan French

We are pleased and proud to have Ian Flint represent our school and work with our students. If you have not had a chance to see our bands perform, be sure to check out a concert later this month!

Congratulations Ian!


tague

John Tague is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Middle/High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @jtague252

THE FWSU STORY: Kindergarten Buddies at BFA Fairfax Celebrates a Tradition of Leadership and Relationships

Last week while visiting classrooms I heard a student ask, “Mrs. P, I’m all done with everything for the week. Can I head over and see if I can help out in my buddy’s classroom?” This question made me smile, as it highlighted an important value within our school.  This student could have used the remaining minutes in the school day to socialize with friends or use his iPad, but instead, he chose to support others.

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Serving others is a highly valued component of our school. As a pre-kindergarten through grade twelve school, we expect all of our students to engage in giving back.  We provide frequent opportunities for students to support others and experience the value of service.

This past Friday we welcomed our newest students to our learning community at our Kindergarten Crowning ceremony. We have engaged in this tradition for decades and the ritual marks the beginning of their journey at BFA Fairfax.  

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This event is one component of our Kindergarten Buddies program that matches students in fifth grade with kindergarten students for the entire year. Over the months, these students engage in a variety of activities from reading and hiking, to creating art projects or sharing a snack. Over time a unique bond is formed, and buddies young and old learn important lessons about giving back and the value of kindness.

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As the new Kindergarten students emerged from the human bridge made by their schoolmates and received their crowns from their “Buddies”, I asked a high school student who frequently volunteers her time in classrooms if she remembered this experience.  She smiled and shared “absolutely.” Her reaction reinforced my belief that this tradition of fostering connections truly matters.

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For me, this ritual is a symbolic event that provides a shared experience and fosters a strong sense of belonging. It is my hope that our Kindergarten Crowning ceremony will continue to celebrate the importance of service, leadership, and the power of relationships. I am thankful to the all the staff that continues to provide this experience for all of our students.


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

THE FWSU STORY: Kicking Off Year Three With Fresh New Schoology

Three years ago, FWSU implemented Schoology as a district-wide Learning Management System (LMS). It was implemented to assist us in allowing all of our parents, students, and teachers to stay connected in a very user-friendly and safe environment.

Schoology is available on any platform that can access the internet. In addition to being available on a web browser, you can also download the free App for any smartphone or tablet device. Parents not yet connected to Schoology are encouraged to contact their school to obtain accounts and instructions.

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This year, Schoology is updating its interface and workflows to make it even easier to use — with better accessibility and a more modern experience for ease of use.  The new user experience includes a new top navigation and footer, and removes the left navigation from the homepage, making it easier to access all of your tools throughout Schoology and better for younger learners, with a visual card layout for courses and groups.

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Please log on to Schoology if you have not already done so to experience Schoology’s new interface. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your school and they will be happy to assist you.

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THE FWSU STORY: Meet New Paraprofessional Staff at GEMS

We are pleased to welcome some of our new paraprofessionals at Georgia Elementary Middle School!

 

RENAE PARAH

renae

Hometown: Georgia, VT

Hobbies/Interests: Camping, fishing, reading. Anything with my kids!

Why did you decide to work at GEMS? It has always been my goal to work with kids and come back to the school I grew up going to.

What are you looking forward to this school year? Learning and growing alongside students.

 

TARA GONTHIER

tara

Hometown: Lebanon, NH

Hobbies/Interests: Basketball, skiing, spending time with my family.

Why did you decide to work at GEMS? To be part of an amazing organization and community.

What are you looking forward to this school year? Learning all the fun things GEMS has and making new friends.

 

ANNETTE BESSETTE

annette

Hometown: Georgia, VT

Hobbies/Interests: Walking and hiking. I would love to learn how to kayak and snorkel.

Why did you decide to work at GEMS? I wanted to be part of an amazing school and give back to my community.

What are you looking forward to this school year? Being able to watch kids grow and thrive as I help them achieve this. Also, I want to reach out to the students on a new level as they grow out of their comfort zone.

 

HOLLEY CADIEUX

holley

Hometown: Monkton, VT

Hobbies/Interests: Camping and spending time with my family.

Why did you decide to work at GEMS? I wanted to live and work in the same community.

What are you looking forward to this school year? Getting to know everyone and learning from my coworkers.

THE FWSU STORY: Lead Learners and Luminaries: Notes On A Day with George Couros

In the bio section of his Twitter account, one of my colleagues, also a school principal, identifies himself as the “lead learner” in his building. As I thought about his carefully chosen words, I was struck by how such a simple phrase could so completely embody our work as educational leaders, designating the principal as both teacher and perpetual student.  

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Former President John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Nowhere is that more evident than in Franklin West. FWSU prioritizes professional learning for all staff, including the cohort of FWSU teachers, principals and central office administrators who spent last Wednesday together.

And so began our day with George Couros, former teacher and principal turned author, educational consultant and public speaker. His book, The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity, outlines the attitudes and behaviors – the mindset – necessary for teachers and school administrators to inspire students and colleagues, and to nurture their natural curiosity to learn. 

The day was inspiring, filled with learning about the attitudes needed to maintain students’ innate curiosities. But, it wasn’t until I returned to my office later that day that I realized my notes from the session looked very different than they usually do after professional development. Rather than a tally of “do’s” and “don’ts” (with very few exceptions), my notes were substantially a running list of quotations, statements made by George that was intended to be thought-provoking, challenging and inspirational. Of course, there were some specific tools that we could go back to our schools and immediately put into place, but more than that, what I took away was, in many ways, a different way of thinking. The Innovator’s Mindset.

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In his book, and during our professional development, George spoke about the importance of making a connection of the heart before trying to teach anyone anything. He did just that, including photographs of his stories of his immigrant family and childhood. While the day was about teaching us, it was mostly done through modeling, igniting our own desires to learn, and making connections.

At first, I didn’t think much about the difference in my note taking that day. But, as I began to write about the day, I connected all of this with something that had happened that morning. George was using technology as part of his presentation. As he efficiently navigated the creation and use of documents, many of us the begin exploring the same. Throughout the day, George reminded us that he had not told us that we had to do anything, or couldn’t do something. Instead, he had shown us the value in what he was doing and that led most of us to want to do the same thing.

My thoughts reverted back to my colleague’s “lead learner” designation on Twitter. Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus has more than 30 synonyms for the word “leader,” but my favorite by far is “luminary,” which is defined as “a person who inspires or influences others.” It struck me that the reason my notes from the day were vastly quotes, rather than a to-do-list, was because ideas had been illuminated rather than dictated, inspired rather than directed.

These quotes were particularly thought-provoking for me:

“What was once terrifying, is now the norm.”

“Relationships are by far the most important thing in education.”

“You’ve never had to teach a child curiosity.”

“Would you want to spend the whole day learning in your own classroom?”

“Hope is not a strategy.”

“Do kids create because of – or in spite of – school?”

“When you have a compelling reason, you can learn anything.”

“We need to make the positives so loud that the negatives are almost impossible to hear.”

“Showing someone the value of learning motivates them to do it.”

Thinking about my mindset – my attitude – was a very different experience than simply learning new “things to do.” It challenged my “being” as much as my practice. It caused me to think about the experiences that have led me to certain beliefs and values and challenged me to want to be an even more inspiring person and practitioner. And maybe someday, a luminary.


Chris and Jackson

 

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

THE FWSU STORY: Student Leaders Collaborate with Adults to Transform Learning

Fifteen high school students and two faculty members at BFA Fairfax recently participated in a two-day orientation about Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together (YATST), sponsored by Up for Learning. 

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The goal of YATST is to foster engagement in learning by increasing rigor, relevance, relationships, and shared responsibility (4Rs). Based on the 4Rs framework, student and teacher teams use Action Research to understand issues that impact learning from multiple perspectives and then become agents of change.  

Our YATST team learned about the 4R framework, how to facilitate community discussions through the use of protocols, understanding the importance of student voice in education, and about communication roadblocks that adults and students run up against.

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Jarrett Sweet, a sophomore, actually was selected to co-facilitate the conference.  He facilitated several activities and discussions and provided valuable insight into student and adult collaboration.

Our YATST team developed goals for this year including improving school community communication, implementing restorative justice practices into our student discipline system, and hosting a Design Day in October. The Design Day is where YATST teams from other schools come together to share and learn from each other about their plans that they are implementing in their schools.