THE FWSU STORY: Meet the New Teachers, Part 3

We are wrapping up our series of posts featuring new teachers at FWSU this year. Don’t miss Part 1 and Part 2.


 

JUSTIN WILLS

Justin Wills with Fozzie

Teaching Assignment:  6th Grade

School: Fletcher Elementary

Hometown: Fairfax, VT

Alma Mater: UVM, Concordia University (Montreal)

Teaching Experience:  10 years in Franklin and Chittenden Counties

Why You Chose Teaching:  It is fun to work with the energy and creativity of students.

Hobbies/Interests: Playing guitar, cooking, hanging out with our dogs.

Little Known Fact About You: I share a birthday with Buddha.

Accomplishment you are most proud of (so far!):  Running a marathon and training our puppy Fozzie to sleep through the night.

Wellness Lifestyle Tip: Try to get enough sleep!

Fun Summer Memory:  Exploring Colorado and Utah with my wife, and visiting family out west

Favorite Things: Chocolate chip cookies, Star Wars, and Bob Ross

Quotable:  “I never set out to be weird. It was always other people who called me weird.” Frank Zappa

 

SHANNON ARNZEN

Shannon Arnzen

Teaching Assignment:  K-2 Special Educator

School: BFA Fairfax

Hometown: Tuxedo, NY

Alma Mater: UVM M.Ed.

Teaching Experience: Long-term substitute for third grade STEM & Special Education teacher

Why You Chose Teaching:  I believe in the possibilities for all children

Hobbies/Interests: Reading, spending time with my family, hiking

Little Known Fact About You: I have three daughters

Accomplishment you are most proud of (so far!):  Being a mom

Wellness Lifestyle Tip: Get sleep and smile

Fun Summer Memory:  Santa’s Village!

Favorite Things: Homemade Pesto, Aerosmith, A Christmas Story

Quotable: All means all.”

 

LIZ NOONAN

Liz Noonan in her classroom

Teaching Assignment:  High School Social Studies

School: BFA Fairfax

Hometown: Jericho, VT

Alma Mater: Frostburg State University – Bachelors of Science, Masters of Arts in Teaching, Masters of Education (Administration and Supervision)

Teaching Experience: 6 years of Middle School Social Studies, 5 years of High School Social Studies

Why You Chose Teaching:  I have always loved working with students and sharing my knowledge with others to help create a more diverse and unique world.

Hobbies/Interests: Hiking, SUP, Skiing

Little Known Fact About You: I love to skydive.

Accomplishment you are most proud of (so far!):  Completed my doctoral coursework!

Wellness Lifestyle Tip: Go Outside!

Fun Summer Memory:  4th of July at Wrigley Field

Favorite Things:  Movie – A Philadelphia Story.  Music: O.A.R

Quotable: “Every little thing, gonna be alright” – Bob Marley

 

LAURA HEIL 

Laura Heil

Teaching Assignment:  High School Science Teacher (Physical Science, Forensics, and Farm to School)

School: BFA Fairfax

Hometown:  Burlington, VT (but grew up in Hudson Falls, NY)

Alma Mater: I received my Bachelor’s of Science in Biology from St. Michael’s College in 2010, and my Master’s of Science in Biology from Montana State University Bozeman in 2016. I recently completed Champlain College’s Teaching Apprenticeship Program (TAP) in the Spring of 2018 where I received my VT teaching license in 7-12 Science.

Teaching Experience:  Starting in 2012, I taught Ecology to K-8th graders at The Ecology School at Ferry Beach in Saco, Maine for a year and a half. During my TAP experience, I student taught science to 9th, 10th, and 12th graders at U-32 High School in Montpelier under Alison Gauthier. Following TAP, I taught as a long-term sub in Gabe Grant’s classroom here at BFA this past winter. Then, I finished the 17-18 school year as a long-term sub teaching science at Enosburg Falls High School.

Why You Chose Teaching:  I believe that everyone deserves access to high-quality science education and I strive to provide that to my students each and every day.  Also, seeing the world through a scientific lens makes life so much more exciting, and I hope to ignite that excitement within my students through teaching.

Hobbies/Interests: I love doing most outdoor activities including hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, skiing, and gardening. I also love to play field hockey, knit, host potluck dinners and travel.

Little Known Fact About You: During a trip to Zambia, I had the chance to touch a live cheetah! I was lucky enough to be a part of a team that was radio-collaring a cheetah. While the cheetah was put under, I got to give it a quick pet and get my picture taken with it.

Accomplishment you are most proud of (so far!):  My Master’s research on Montana’s native, wild bees and the flowers they depend on was recently published in a scientific journal.

Wellness Lifestyle Tip: Discover what self-care activities you enjoy most and strive to do one of those for yourself every day.

Fun Summer Memory:  As an Earthwatch Project Facilitator this past summer, I got paid to travel with a bunch of high schoolers to the sub-Arctic to Churchill, Manitoba and saw 6 polar bears, got to kayak with beluga whales, and saw the Aurora Borealis for the first time ever!

Favorite Things: I enjoy eating homemade hummus, fresh picked strawberries and blueberries, dark chocolate, chai lattes, sharp cheddar, and my parent’s homemade Bread & Butter pickles and salsa. I love most music but enjoy folk, bluegrass, Latin and jazz the most.

Quotable:  “Trust the wait. Embrace the uncertainty. Enjoy the beauty of becoming. When nothing is certain, anything is possible.”

 

MICHELE MICHALSKI

Michele Michalski

Teaching Assignment:  Grade 1/2

School: Fletcher Elementary

Hometown: Colchester, VT

Alma Mater: California State University San Bernadino

Teaching Experience:  14 years

Why You Chose Teaching: I love working with kids. It’s really fun to watch them learn and grow as humans and students.

Hobbies/Interests:  Cycling, swimming, reading, baking, and cooking

Little Known Fact About You:  I love to make ice cream!

Accomplishment you are most proud of (so far!):  I’m most proud of my two kids.

Wellness Lifestyle Tip: Remember to take some time out for yourself doing something you love.

Fun Summer Memory:  Hanging out on the beach with my family.

Favorite Things:  I love ice cream and great Mexican food. My favorite movies happen to be mob movies. The Godfather and Goodfellas are favorites. I love to read, especially autobiographies and thrillers.

Quotable: “Find ways to be more awesome” – Kid President

THE FWSU STORY: Students Broadcast GEMS TV Express

Learning about school news and current events is wonderful, but being an essential part of the communication, editing, and publishing of information, on a weekly basis, is a prideful moment.

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Each week the Georgia Innovation Lab broadcasts GEMS TV Express!

It is a weekly newscast that provides upcoming school events, student recognition, and celebrations, along with all the wonderful learning experiences that are occurring across the elementary school.

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Middle school students work collaboratively with Elementary students to produce a high quality, informative, and entertaining news broadcast that is aired weekly for all student classrooms Pk-4.

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Through close facilitation and coaching, the innovation lab staff (Dayle Payne and Eric Hadd) guide students in their rehearsal, production, and editing of every final product.

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Students take ownership, are thoroughly engaged, problem-solve continuously while communicating effectively and are building upon transferable skills for life.  It is real-world learning that is taking place each week with phenomenal results of the final product created.

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Elementary students viewing the news feed are excited each week and look forward to the upcoming broadcast.  The following quotes were taken from Elementary students:

“I love seeing my friends”

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“This is awesome”

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“Look! That’s me”

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We all wait patiently anticipating what will be in our next GEMS TV Express.

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Until next time…

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax 7th Graders Embark on Arbor Trek Adventure

Last week, the 7th grade team embarked on an excursion to Arbor Trek in Jeffersonville, Vermont.  

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Teachers Jenn Skerrett, Jerry Bailey, Emily Wills, Shannon McCullen, and Michelle Messier along with paraeducators Cristin Pullis, Breanna Bult, Linda Pouliot, and Allie Smith led a small group of students through a variety of activities under the direction of the Arbor Trek staff.

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“It wasn’t what I expected, but it was a lot of fun, especially the climbing.” – Morgan, student

“I wish we did more climbing, but I really like the electric maze” – Eliza, student

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The goal was to help the students on this newly formed team to build relationships with each other, practice teamwork, and challenge themselves in a new environment. Although many of the students have been together throughout their school years, this is the first year of their two year cycle with new teachers and the team now includes students from Fletcher.

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“It was interesting to see the different student leadership roles throughout the day.” – Emily Wills, teacher

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Students participated in team building activities like the “helium stick”, the “team wall climb”, the “spider web” and the “electric maze.” In addition, they had the opportunity to experience a rock climbing wall and a variety of rope climbing challenges.

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“It was really fun. I liked the climbing part best. I’m afraid of heights, but I did it anyway!” – James, student

“It’s great to see the growth in teamwork as the day goes on.” – Cristin Pullis, paraeducator

“The spider web was fun for teambuilding. It tested our group and it was funny.” -Peyton, student

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Overall, it was a beautiful day to be outside and an outstanding example of a flexible learning environment. Students and teachers learned about themselves and each other while creating memories that will last through their school years.

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“We got to do activities that we haven’t done. We all stood on a small board together!”
– Breanna, student

“The climbing elements were very engaging to the students. So many students went outside their comfort zone.” – Jennifer Skerrett, teacher

THE FWSU STORY: Meet the New Teachers, Part 2

We are delighted to continue our series of posts featuring new teachers at FWSU this year. Don’t miss Part 1.


 

SHANNON MCCULLEN

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Teaching Assignment:  Middle School Literacy Interventionist

School: BFA Fairfax

Hometown: Essex Junction

Alma Mater: University of Vermont – BA/BS in Political Science and Education Currently attending Purdue University – Masters in Special Education

Teaching Experience: I was a social studies long-term sub in Milton and was a long-term sub for this position last year

Why You Chose Teaching: I interned for Senator Shaheen in college and realized after that I wanted to work with kids more than work in government.

Hobbies/Interests: Boy Scouts, camping, swimming, hiking.

Little Known Fact About You: I am a Boy Scout leader in two units and hold a district position.

Accomplishment you are most proud of (so far!):  I earned my Girl Scout Silver and Gold Awards

Wellness Lifestyle Tip: Get enough sleep – no matter how hard it might be.

Fun Summer Memory:  I am the waterfront director at Mt. Norris Scout reservation and while teaching water sports, the motorboat died and had to be paddled back to shore.

Favorite Thing:  Anything Harry Potter

Quotable: “Be prepared” – Boy Scout motto

 

CHRISTINA CASWELL

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Teaching Assignment:  Second Grade

School: BFA Fairfax

Hometown: Fairfax

Alma Mater: Johnson State College Class of 2015 with a BA in Elementary and Special Education. Graduated Magna Cum Laude

Teaching Experience: I did my student teaching and a long-term sub position here at BFA, and then I taught in LNSU for two years in a multi-aged second and third-grade class.

Why You Chose Teaching: I knew I wanted to teach ever since I was little. I always played teacher with my stuffed animals and dolls, which led to babysitting, working at childcare centers, and now teaching in elementary schools.

Hobbies/Interests: Teaching of course! Being with family and hanging out with friends

Little Known Fact About You: I can’t bend my pinky finger due to cutting my tendon when I was younger.

Accomplishment you are most proud of (so far!):  Being given the opportunity to work at a great place like BFA!

Wellness Lifestyle Tip: Sleep!

Fun Summer Memory:  I went to the best concert! I got to see Luke Bryan at Fenway Park!

A Few Favorite Things:  I love anything pasta, bread, or cheese related! I love my pets, country music, and BBQ’s. My favorite show to watch is This is Us – I cry every time!

Quotable: “If it is meant to be, it will be. Everything happens for a reason”

 

JENNIFER MCCONNELL 

image - Jennifer McConnell

Teaching Assignment:  Music Teacher

School: Fletcher Elementary

Hometown: Sheldon, VT

Alma Mater: Moody Bible Institute – B.A. Church Music; Castleton University – M. Music Ed.

Teaching Experience: 14 years Franklin/Sheldon

Why You Chose Teaching: It fell in my lap when I first moved to Vermont, and I quickly fell in love with teaching. It is my calling, and I love my work!

Hobbies/Interests: Singing, Skiing, Playing Flute

Little Known Fact About You: I love the Patriots! (Not a little-known fact, but good to know this time of year!)

Accomplishment you are most proud of (so far!):  My 4 amazing kids: Sarah, Marcus, Duncan, and Matthias

Wellness Lifestyle Tip: Registering for races keeps me running!

Fun Summer Memory:  Hanging out at Bromont water park in Canada (this summer). Touring Europe with my family last summer.

A Few Favorite Things:  Pizza (so cliche but so true), ice cream, and COFFEE!

Quotable: To my students ALL THE TIME: If you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, we won’t have any problems!

 

LISA COALE

IMG_7499 - Emily Coale

Teaching Assignment:  School Counselor

School: Fletcher Elementary

Hometown: Winooski

Alma Mater: Middlebury College, Bachelor of Arts in Religion, George Mason University, Masters in School Counseling

Teaching Experience: This is my first year as a school counselor. I worked for two years as a kindergarten partner teacher for DC Public Schools.

Why You Chose Teaching: I think as school counselors we have a unique opportunity to be really creative with how we support students and families. I love working with students and their families as well as with teachers, school staff, and community resources to think of and coordinate supports and services to ensure all students have what they need to be successful in school.

Hobbies/Interests: Hiking with my dog Enzo, painting, drawing, and cross-country skiing.

Little Known Fact About You: I grew up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Accomplishment you are most proud of (so far!):  Completing my masters in school counseling!

Wellness Lifestyle Tip: Do what you love!

Fun Summer Memory:  I got married!

A Few Favorite Things:  Chocolate, VT cheese, Mamma Mia, my beautiful baby niece!

Quotable: “No one is you, that is your power.”

 

DANIELLE DROGALIS

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Teaching Assignment:  Title I Math Interventionist

School: BFA Fairfax

Hometown: Originally from St. Johnsbury, VT and currently live in Swanton, VT

Alma Mater: McGill University, Montreal PQ Bachelors of Science Anatomy & Cell Biology

Teaching Experience: This is my 16th year of teaching and I have taught at St. Johnsbury Academy, Spaulding High School, and the Lake Champlain Waldorf High School

Why You Chose Teaching: I love working with students and making learning fun.

Hobbies/Interests: Reading and spending time with family and friends.

Little Known Fact About You: I love to make people laugh.

Accomplishment you are most proud of (so far!):  Making a happy and healthy family.

Wellness Lifestyle Tip: Go to sleep at the right time!

Fun Summer Memory: This summer we went to the Jersey Shore and ended up swimming with stingrays.

A Few Favorite Things: I love food that makes me feel healthy and nourished, and I love music of all kinds…but mumble rap needs to go.

Quotable: “I am struck by the fact that the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think that the same is true of human beings. We do not wish to see children precocious, making great strides in their early years like sprouts, producing a soft and perishable timber, but better if they expand slowly at first as if contending with difficulties, and so are solidified and perfected. Such trees continue to expand with nearly equal rapidity to extreme old age.” – Henry David Thoreau

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Fall Sports Preview

Co-curricular athletics are a core component of the educational experience at BFA Fairfax.  We are extremely proud of the number of students accessing our multiple athletic opportunities throughout the school year, and view these opportunities as valuable, flexible, learning environments where multiple transferable skills are taught and reinforced.  This blog will be the first in a series at the start of every sports season this school year that will introduce our teams. We look forward to positive community support at our games and events this season!

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High School Cross Country

Head Coach:  Karen Witalec-Krupa

Yrs. Coaching at BFA:  3 as Head Coach, 1 as Asst. Coach

Next event:  Saturday, Sept. 15 at Hard’Ack 8am

My hopes for the season are to have both teams run successfully in packs during races, for student-athletes to experience individual improvement, and for everyone on the team to enjoy the sport! And of course, to have a great Fairfax Relays as always!”

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Middle School Cross Country

Head Coach:  Danielle Rothy

Yrs. Coaching at BFA: 2 with MS Cross Country, 3 total

Next event:  Tuesday, Sept. 18 at Milton 3:30pm

“My hopes and goals for the team are to build endurance, speed and most of all a love for the sport of running. Keeping the kids active and watching them progress in their athletic ability is amazing to witness. Also, experiencing them open up to a new group of peers and friends reminds me of how important the team aspect of running is for athletes.”

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High School Football

Head Coach:  Craig Sleeman

Yrs. Coaching at BFA:  4

Next game:  Saturday, Sept. 15 at home vs. Poultney 1pm

“Goals for the season are to have a home playoff game for the seniors, and to advance past the first round of playoffs.”

Girls Varsity Soccer

Head Coach:  Jojo Lynch

Yrs. Coaching at BFA:  2 at Varsity level, 3 at JV level

Next game:  Saturday, Sept. 15 at Enosburg 11am

“We graduated a solid group last year but it has been an exciting start to the new season (despite the scores) we are a young but talented group who I believe will be very successful this season.  Although we are on the road for the next couple of weeks I am most looking forward to playing home games in front of the supportive crowds that attend. Our seniors are a welcoming presence on the team for the younger players which will help us be very successful.”  

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Girls JV Soccer

Head Coach:  Bill Ormerod

Yrs. Coaching at BFA:  3 at JV level, 4 at MS level

Next game:  Saturday, Sept. 15 at Enosburg 11am

“Goals for freshman players are to introduce them to the speed and physicality of the high school game. For all players, teach them how to read the field, movement off of the ball and experience, playing as a team; each with a maximum amount of playing time. All this while having some fun and being a balanced student-athlete. Success to me is preparing players to contribute at the varsity level and achieve their individual goals.”

Boys Varsity Soccer

Head Coach:  Tim Kaleita

Yrs. Coaching at BFA:  3

Next game:  Friday, Sept. 14 at home vs. Enosburg 4:30

“My goal for all my student-athletes is for them to reach their potential.  I don’t worry too much about wins and losses, more importantly, I’m concerned that they get the lessons of hard work, perseverance, commitment, and learning to work as a team through sports.”

Boys JV Soccer

Head Coach:  Irfan Sehic

Yrs. Coaching at BFA:  2

Next game:  Thursday, Sept. 13 at home vs. Hazen 4:30

“My hope is that we created an environment where kids have fun and are getting useful tools to navigate the realities of life.  My dream is that my hope mentioned above becomes a reality. I will consider this season a success if students and parents are happy.”

7th Gr. Girls Soccer

Head Coach:  Jamie Wooster

Yrs. Coaching at BFA: 2 as Head Coach, 1 as Volunteer Assistant

Next game:  Thursday, Sept. 13 at home vs. MVU 4pm

“My hopes for the season are to make sure the girls have fun and learn more of the fundamentals of the game. For me, success is having the girls come back and play again next year.”

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8th Gr. Girls Soccer

Head Coach:  Bronwyn Decker

Yrs. Coaching at BFA: 2

Next game:  Thursday, Sept. 13 at home vs. MVU 5pm

“We had our first game vs. Peoples on 9/11.  They were a very skilled, aggressive team. We were happy to come out with a tie against such an intense level of play.  From here on expectations are high for a successful season. The 8th-grade girls listen, they want to learn, they want to get better and work hard because of this.  A fun group to coach! Come cheer us on!” ⚽️

7th Gr. Boys Soccer

Head Coach:  Samantha Gillilan

Yrs. Coaching at BFA: First year

Next game:  Thursday, Sept. 13 at MVU 4pm

“I believe that teaching kids what they need in a game as well as real life go hand in hand.  I am a firm believer in positive coaching. The boys on the 7th-grade team have had me as a coach for many years which is great coming into the BFA coaching. My goal for the season is for these boys to learn team building, working on skill level, being positive role models for younger kids and that winning is not our main focus. These boys are a great group of kids and it is my pleasure coaching them.”

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8th Gr. Boys Soccer

Head Coach:  Rich Degraff-Murphy

Yrs. Coaching at BFA:  2

Next game:  Thursday, Sept. 13 at MVU 5pm

“This season we will continue to develop the individual skills of each player. We will challenge them technically, physically and mentally. We hope that they will expand their team play and knowledge of the game this year.  We will inspire them to build their confidence and become leaders on and off the pitch. We are very much looking forward to an exciting season!”

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Fall Cheerleading Club

Head Coach:  Michelle Brown

Yrs. Coaching at BFA:  First year with cheerleading club, 18 years total.

Next event:  Saturday, Sept. 15 at home Football game vs. Poultney 1pm

“This is the first fall season for Cheerleading in over 10 years. We have several goals for this season:

1) to help increase school spirit, via cheering at home games, participating in Homecoming and having increased visibility around school.

2) continue to volunteer with the youth and middle school fall teams to help build the program.

3) to work on advancing overall cheer skills.

4) to participate in the State Championship Game Day Competition, and represent Fairfax well.”


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: The First Days of Preschool

Welcome to GEMS Preschool!  The first days of school are all about relationship building, meeting new peers, and learning about routines throughout the day. It is the start of an educational journey that determines who we are in life and it is so important for social, emotional, and academic growth.

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In PreK classrooms, it is imperative to provide opportunities for children to play, interact, cooperate, and be able to express their needs respectfully. But this takes time developmentally and adults must facilitate these learning opportunities for success to occur.

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The use of imagination, role-playing, and experimentation are approaches to learning that promote creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.

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In early years we educate children about self-awareness, emotions and self-regulation and the tools in the classroom to assist.

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It will be a great year with my new friends!

 

THE FWSU STORY: Shifting Our Mindset About School Safety

This past Thursday evening, the Fairfax community came together to learn about and discuss the implementation of ALICE. It was a candid and honest conversation about school safety and the need to implement an option-based crisis response plan in the case that our students and staff are confronted with a violent intruder.

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The safety of students and staff is an ongoing concern for all staff members. After two decades as a school administrator and father, there is no other issue that constantly weighs on my mind. It seems that on a weekly basis another incident of a violent intruder occurs in a variety of settings throughout our country. As we are aware, our rural state is not immune to violence and we must learn new skills and develop a different mindset to keep our children safe.

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Last year our school, like several other schools, experienced an incident involving a threat that required us to initiate our emergency safety protocols. We collaborated extensively with state and local law enforcement to resolve the crisis and spent many hours following this experience evaluating and reflecting on how we could improve our crisis response procedures.

 

Our analysis prompted a multi-faceted plan to enhance school safety. Many of the actions were based on “best and promising practices” recommended by the Vermont School Safety Center.

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Prior to the beginning of school, we trained approximately 350 staff members on three campuses in enhanced safety protocols known as ALICE:

  • ALERT – We will get the word out using clear concise language to describe the nature and location of the event.
  • LOCKDOWN – We will continue to lock doors but will spread out and barricade classrooms to deny entry.
  • INFORM – Continuous communication will keep staff informed to allow for informed decision-making.
  • COUNTER – Apply skills of movement, noise, distance, distraction and use our overwhelming number to gain control of the situation in ways that are age and ability appropriate. (This is only if evacuation and lockdown is not possible and a room has been breached.)
  • EVACUATE – Reduce the number of potential targets for the shooter and reduce the chance of injuries resulting from friendly fire when help arrives.

The premise of ALICE is that through consistent practice and by providing everyone with options if faced with a life or death situation, we enhance the chance of survival. These include escaping, barricading doors, and protecting oneself by any means necessary.

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Simultaneously, we have added additional security cameras, began making improvements to our entry points, hired a School Resource Officer (SRO) and established a Supervisory Union Safety Leadership Team comprised of educators, administrators, staff, law enforcement, and first responders to oversee ALICE implementation throughout our system.

Equally important will be our continued efforts to be proactive in supporting all students.  We continue to use pro-social programs to facilitate a strong sense of belonging that provide our student’s agency and voice, foster relationship development, teach important social skills, practice mindfulness, and implement trauma-informed teaching and learning practices.

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We understand that shifting our mindset will take time, practice, reflection, transparency, and ongoing engagement with our community. After Thursday night’s parent meeting, I am confident that together we will successfully continue to enhance the safety and security of our students. Most importantly, we will provide our students with a set of skills that will serve them in all environments throughout their lives.


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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