All the Places to Love at Fletcher Elementary

All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan

For the 2021-2022 school year Fletcher Elementary has welcomed several new teachers.  What you may not realize is our student enrollment which was 93 at the beginning of last school year is up to 116!  This is great news for a small Vermont school! We are so excited to introduce  new friends to all the places to love in Fletcher!  

As a new principal to the school I wanted to first get to know students better.  To accomplish this I decided to visit classrooms and share one of my favorite books, All the Places to Love.  This book talks about the special places a boy’s family shares with him around their farm and village. After reading this story, I couldn’t wait to hear from your children what their favorite places are here in Fletcher that “makes all the difference in the world” to them.  Here are just a few of the places that are loved that they wanted to share with others.  

In my backyard there is a cliff where you can watch the prettiest sunsets.
-Kale
I like swimming in Metcalf Pond because it is cool. 
-William
In my quiet spot I can climb trees.
-Claire
My special spot is at Nonna and Papa’s woods.  I like it because the sunset is beautiful.
-Harper
Behind my grandma’s house is peaceful and we build fairy houses.
-Summer
My favorite place to go is in my backyard because it is peaceful and I can hear the birds chirp.
-Mariah
My sugarhouse is special to me because whenever we make maple syrup I get to taste test it in these little tiny plastic cups.
-Fiona

Fletcher Elementary is a great learning community to join and our students are looking forward to sharing their favorite things about Fletcher with new teachers, students, and even the new principal!

Aimee Toth is currently the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a new contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Reconnecting

I write this blog sitting at my 4 year old’s soccer practice. Is she here for soccer skills and to be the next Megan Rapinoe or Mia Hamm? 

Nope, not even for one second. It’s about the connection. 

She’s here because of the joy of being around others. The fun, the high energy, and most importantly the social connection with her peers.  She’s lucky. We have daycare and she has been able to connect with a group of friends daily. My high schoolers though, have not. And we are concerned.

Many parents have emailed and called to voice concerns about their child’s social and emotional well-being. Many students spent last school year completely remote or only connecting with others two days a week. Then, summer came and if they didn’t work they sat at home on their devices or glued to the television. I’m not knocking the value of decompressing, we all need that time. It’s imperative to our health.  However, when this becomes the norm for our students we should be concerned. How do we acknowledge and support the mental and social health of our young adults? How to we get out them out of the house and engaged with others?

With this in mind, we started the first day of school with a co-curricular fair. Grades 9-12 students spent time meeting the student leaders of approximately 40 co-curricular groups offered at BFA. 

The very clear message:

We want you and you belong!

Well documented research shows us that students who participate in co-curriculars are more likely to attend school, achieve better academic scores, have higher levels of self concept and self worth, and increase their capacity to demonstrate resilience and problem solving skills.

Today, we offered time for all clubs to meet and for students to select wellness activities such as fishing, meditation,  nature walks, writing, and pick-up sports. 

How can you help your student make connections? 

-Ask your student what they did and what else they would like to have access to.  

-Support your student to create connections at school and in the evenings. 

-Encourage them to join a cocurricular or create a club that does not exist. All they need is an advisor. 

We are here to support your student and help them reengage with their peers. We want them to be joyful and take advantage of the opportunities BFA- Fairfax has to offer. 

We want them to be connected.

Elizabeth Noonan is currently the Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a new contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

The Beauty of Outdoor Learning

There is something magical about taking students outdoors to experience nature. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? And what do you feel?  An approach to learning that stimulates your senses and connects you to our world!

 It’s an environment that is restful, relaxing and thought provoking. A setting that puts young minds at ease and one that brings learning to life.

Outdoor learning opportunities are on the rise at Georgia Elementary School and provide students with hands-on kinesthetic approaches in a variety of ways and within different classrooms.

Being able to touch, see, and understand natural concepts helps solidify knowledge of how our world works.

In Maia Hendrickson’s Kindergarten classroom students explore their surroundings through nature walks honing their observational and inquisitive thinking skills. Each day begins with a morning meeting and then an opportunity to inquire, solve, and share.

Dorsey Hogg, Elementary art teacher, takes her students outside often to enjoy the elements while working artistically.  Having an outdoor setting to continue their work, apply their skills, and accomplish their task is relaxing, thought provoking, and meaningful.  

Students appreciate this style of learning and work diligently and creatively.

Steve Emery is the Elementary Principal of Georgia Elementary Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @Emery_Gems.

FALL CO-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES FULLY BACK IN ACTION AT BFA FAIRFAX

Students, staff, families, and our school community could never have known that the Fall of 2019 would be the last time for nearly two years that BFA Fairfax athletic teams and drama ensembles would participate in a traditional way.  Fast forward to September 2021, and we are now experiencing the benefits of the patience, perseverance, adaptability and commitment to safety demonstrated by our students, staff and community, as our multiple fall co-curricular activities are in full swing.

High School football players are sharing their excitement in being able to wear their pads again and play full tackle.  Last season was played under highly modified “touch football” rules, so our BFA/Lamoille Cooperative team athletes have been thrilled to experience the sense of brotherhood they say comes with playing the game under traditional rules.

Middle and High School cross country runners ran a smaller number of races last season, while much of the time wearing masks.  Meets were limited in size, and did not allow for mass starts involving multiple schools, so each race more closely resembled a time trial as opposed to a true cross country meet.  They are looking forward to their first “real” meet in almost two years, and experiencing the excitement and rush of competing against students from other schools in mass start formats.

Middle and High School soccer teams spent last season playing a limited schedule, and donning masks for the entirety of practices and games.  This season has brought back increased participation numbers, a high level of skill, and enthusiasm like never before.  Players and coaches are looking forward to building on last year’s success and playing deep into their respective tournaments.

The fall co-curricular activity most impacted last year by the pandemic was the Fall Musical.  Given the strict guidelines at the time around singing, playing instruments, masking, distancing, and group gathering size, our talented ensemble was unable to perform the highly anticipated Mamma Mia.  We are thrilled to have our students back on the stage this year, and eager to experience live musical theater once again! Although we may still have some slight adaptations on the performance that, if necessary for health and safety, will be determined closer to the show dates, Mamma Mia will most definitely be one of the highlights of this school year!

We look forward to your attendance at these multiple student activities, and greatly appreciate your support and continued commitment to health and safety.  Our students are thrilled to be back on the stage, fields and trails, but most importantly, to be back in school.  If we all work together and continue to make safe choices, we can ensure that our student activity participants have a fantastic 2021-22 school year! 

Geri Witalec-Krupa is the Director of Student Activities at BFA Fairfax. Geri is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her @GLWit

Welcome Sheriff Karry Andileigh

Sheriff Karry Andeligh, School Resource Officer (SRO)

BFA Fairfax is excited to introduce and welcome Sheriff Karry Andeligh to our school community. We are extremely fortunate to have her serving as our School Resource Officer (SRO) this school year. Sheriff Andileigh is an outstanding role model and a valuable resource for our students, staff, and families.

Sheriff Andileigh possesses a range of professional experiences and skills. Since 2018 she has been employed with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. Prior to working in law enforcement she was a Living Skills worker with the Howard Center and a private Personal Care Attendant for people with disabilities. In addition, Sheriff Andileigh is pursuing a PhD in Psychology and Yoga Therapy. 

Sheriff Andileigh shared she was drawn to being a SRO because it provides opportunities to make a positive impact on students by developing relationships, communicating with students about their priorities, and goals. Her philosophy and experiences are reflected in her daily work with students, staff, and families.

Sheriff Andileigh brings a person-centered, trauma informed, therapeutic approach to each interaction. She believes her role allows opportunities to support students in navigating life decisions and challenges, using restorative practices and logical consequences.

We are excited to collaborate with Sheriff Andileigh in her new capacity. She is an important and necessary resource to support safety, to develop positive relationships with law enforcement, and network with other state agencies. We appreciate our community’s support of this essential position. She has made an immediate and positive impact on our school. Please take a moment to introduce yourself and welcome her to Fairfax. 

Thomas Walsh is currently the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

It’s Friday of our students’ first full week since March 2020!

As I’ve visited classes, the lunch room, playground and chatted with students in the hallways over our first days back in school, I have marveled at students’ excitement at being back and kind support and encouragement of one another. It was also curious to me as I wondered what our students were thinking during their first full week of school in over a year. So I asked students across grades 5-8 some questions to listen to their perspectives.

  1. What is your favorite part of being back to school full time after last year?
  2. What is weird about being back to school full time after last year?
  3. Any words of wisdom for our readers?

Eliza says that it’s good to be back to a normal-ish school. Seeing friends again is great. She thinks that wearing masks is a little weird (we thought we’d be done with them when we left school in June). Her words of wisdom are to read Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Kaileigh says seeing friends and making new friends has been the best part of being back to school. It is a little weird to have the same teachers two years in a row. (she clarified and said that it’s a good weird). Kaileigh agrees with Eliza that everyone should read everything by Shannon Messenger.

Kayden says the best part of being back to school is seeing friends he hasn’t seen in a long time. Rylee agrees. They both agree that it’s also weird to reconnect with friends they haven’t seen in a long time. When I asked them what words of wisdom they had for our readers I leaned back in my chair and they both told me that I should always keep “4 on the floor.” Then Rylee told me that she wanted to be a mystery student.

Harper told me that his favorite part of being back to school was playing football at recess and to finally be able to do science and social studies. He also likes being able to walk to UA’s. What’s weird for him is being able to take more mask breaks than last year.  He is excited to have the same teachers for two years!

Rhiannon’s favorite part of being back in school is not having plexiglass dividers this year.  She also likes having lockers to keep her stuff safe. She went on to say that she loves her new teachers and new classmates. 

Lyla also appreciates not having plexiglass this year and being able to go to the cafeteria. Having lockers with combinations along with her new teachers is great. She also is super excited about having band this year. It is a little weird seeing so many teenagers around, but she likes seeing different people in the halls. Her advice is that we should definitely bring back the ice cream machine.

Jaiden is very happy to be with us this year and says that it’s different, but better. She really likes having a more consistent schedule and thinks using lockers is very helpful to organize and store her stuff. It is a little weird having lunch at 1pm. Her Words of wisdom are to not be scared of the work, because she says, “it’s all doable”

Colin both likes and finds it a little weird to be moving between spaces this year and to have so many different classes.

In some ways, it’s almost like we are picking up where we left off pre-pandemic. But overwhelmingly we all, students and staff are absolutely loving being back in session full time. I am so proud of our students for taking such care of themselves, each other and their community. Here’s to a safe and full school year!



|Justin Brown is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jbrownenator

Knowing Students Well!

Today we officially celebrate the seventh day of school! Routines are beginning to emerge, social connections rekindled, and everyone is hard at work getting to know each other and building trusting relationships. As a new employee to FWSU, I have been impressed with the way new and returning students have been welcomed in our schools.

My journey over the past seven days has largely been to watch and listen. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time on each campus visiting classrooms and observing all the moving pieces come together. As a side note, when I was researching if FWSU was the right place for me, I was impressed with how students are valued and empowered to be active partners in their educational journey. A value that matches my core beliefs! Valuing students is not just a statement that lives on paper but one that lives in action here in FWSU. I saw this in action! On all three campuses!   And that’s how I know I’m in the right place!

“We must teach the way students learn, rather than expecting them to learn the way we teach.”
– Pedro Noguera

 

These activities spanned our entire Supervisory Union, across all grade levels with a ton of creativity, I might add. In our early elementary grades I saw morning meetings come together to give students a chance to share a little about about themselves.

Hallways are decorated with artistic representations of likes and dislikes, favorite food, hopes and dreams and a whole host of other characteristics that make us all who we are. 

I’m confident that these initial efforts will continue to evolve over the next 170 days or so. Ultimately leading to stronger relationships, asset based approaches, and high engagement for all learners. These are the necessary components for academic and social emotional growth to flourish.

I am honored to serve the FWSU community in the role of Director of Curriculum. and look forward to our paths crossing soon. 

This blog was written by:

Scott Thompson is currently Director of Curriculum of Franklin West Supervisory Union and is a new contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @Stboatervt

Bringing Choice and Connection to GEMS Middle School

This year, the Middle School at GEMS is starting a new initiative to increase opportunities to build relationships and connections during our lunch and wellness time. Each week, students will have choices for their recess or wellness with supervised activities like the walking path, team games, yoga, or dance. Then lunchtimes for groups and clubs to play and explore together just like Art Club, Technology Club, Student Council, and board games. Students will still have the option to choose a traditional cafeteria lunch and open recess in their choices. 

How does this work? Each Wednesday, students will have a menu of options to choose from for the following week. Students will select their preferred choices and opportunities to explore the following week. These groups are fluid so they can try different options each week.

This also enables us to reduce the size of students that are eating together which will hopefully help us stay safe and healthy.  Most clubs will meet in classrooms with groups far less than a normal classroom size.

We are excited about bringing more options to our students and see how they connect with others and find new interests and opportunities to explore! 


This blog was written by:

Julie Conrad is currently Principal of Georgia Middle School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @JulieConradVT

GEMS 7th Grade Find Their Own Learning

On the first day of school, the 7th grade middle school students participated in a mini cycle with the GEMS Innovation Lab. This was the first class of three that students will have as an opportunity to introduce themselves to the innovative learning that is provided by Mr. Hadd and Mr. Clow.

Wanting to give the students a first day that was filled with active learning, Mr. Hadd and Mr. Clow opted to leave the lab behind and have the students learn about GPS though outdoor learning with geocaching. Geocaching is the activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates using a GPS receiver. Geocaching allows students to persevere and put learning in their own hands, finding their own solutions.

For their first class, the innovation lab teachers partnered with Mrs. Fairbrother to have students learn how to use the GPS. Additional sessions will build upon these skills challenging the students to work on their problem solving skills.

The students met the challenge for the day. Through collaborative teamwork the students mastered the digital learning around GPS and are ready for their next challenge.

The high level of energy and enthusiasm showed and was a great way to start off learning in the innovation lab.

Angelique Fairbrother is the Digital Learning Coach at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @FWSUtech.

Best Day of the Year

Today was the first day of school at Franklin West Supervisory Union schools. Students at BFA-Fairfax, Fletcher Elementary, and Georgia Elementary and Middle School returned for five days of in-person instruction.

My goal today was to visit every classroom at all of the FWSU schools. The day started GEMS for student drop off. Once students were settled into their classrooms, I experienced ice breakers and locker openings in the middle school and movement breaks, read alouds, and greeting activities in the elementary classrooms. The elementary students had a fair number of questions for me.

Mid morning, I headed to Fletcher Elementary School where I got to meet more of our students. Every student in Mrs Obrien’s class politely introduced themselves to me. Mrs Cardone’s class was reading “What if everyone did that?” as a prelude to setting up their classroom expectations. 

Genuine Foods was getting lunch ready as I moved on to BFA.

It was lunchtime at BFA Elementary when I arrived. Students were enjoying lunch in their classrooms which allowed for some casual questions and conversations. 

 High school students were rotating through an abbreviated course schedule after a morning spent orienting themselves to the opportunities and expectations for the new year. 

BFA Middle School students were participating in team building activities, core classes, and lunch and recess.

At all three FWSU schools, there was joy among the students and staff. The nervousness that always accompanies the first day of school was certainly there, but it quickly dissipated as students connected with their classmates and teachers. It was great to see full classrooms, collaborative work, and the promise of a new year. 

Technically, I did not meet my goal to visit every classroom as our preschool and kindergarten students did not start today, but I made plans with those teachers to come back later this week and next week when their students arrive to get another jolt of first day of school energy!

John Tague is currently the Superintendent at Franklin West Supervisory Union. and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jtague252