About Franklin West SU

School District in Fairfax, Fletcher, Georgia, VT. Apple Distinguished Program. League of Innovative Schools. "A belief in what is possible."

The FWSU Story: Senior Spotlight – Celebrating BFA Class of 2020

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All BFA Fairfax Seniors were invited to participate in a virtual interview for the blog. Today we are happy to celebrate graduating senior, Madison Fitzgerald!

When did you start school at BFA?
I started school at BFA in preschool. I’ve been at this school my entire life!

What is your favorite memory about your time at BFA?
My favorite memories will always be the Fall Musicals. I was in the musicals ever since the sixth grade, and I loved them. They definitely had an impact on myself as an actor and as a whole. It taught me to get out of my shell and essentially be myself.

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I am attending Champlain College in Burlington as a Game Art major.

Do you want to give a “shout-out” to one of your teachers? Who and why?
This is very hard, since I loved all my teachers. I’d have to say Mr. Lane! He has always been there to help me and I feel like I can talk to him as a friend and mentor rather than a teacher. He loves what he teaches, you can always tell! He gives very good insight and has helped me become both a better builder in Set Design and a better person overall. You can always sit down and have an engaging conversation about anything with him.

What are things that are bringing you some joy/fun (e.g. activities, hobbies, experiences) during this period? Why do you think that is?
I have been drawing, doing embroidery, and Animal Crossing! I’ve always been super creative and loved art. That’s why I’m continuing it in college. As for Animal Crossing, the game is just very wholesome and it’s fun to create your own little island. 

Which people/relationships are helping you through this time? 
My family, friends, and boyfriend have been helping me greatly! They are very good listeners, and always come to help when I am in need. Sometimes it is hard to keep in touch despite COVID-19 due to work and such, but we still manage! They come through with animal videos when I need them most. It’s been hard for all of us, but we’re in this together.

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

The FWSU Story: Senior Spotlight -Celebrating BFA Class of 2020

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All BFA Fairfax Seniors were invited to participate in a virtual interview for the blog. Today we are happy to celebrate graduating senior, Mahlia Parsons!

When did you start school at BFA?
I first started school here at BFA when my family moved to Fairfax six years ago.

What is your favorite memory about your time at BFA?
The opportunity to travel to China in 2018 is an experience I will never forget. I was able to go into the schools there, connect with the students, and sit in on a few of their classes. Every person we met was so welcoming and just as excited to meet us as we were them. To get to meet the students, staff, and learn about the education system in their country was so unique and engaging. Some of the students I met while there I am still in contact with to this day, two years later.  

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation I will be attending Castleton University as a part of the Honors College in the fall where I will be majoring in Political Science. 

Do you want to give a “shout-out” to one of your teachers? Who and why?
Ms. Thorsen. Not only is she a wonderful person, she was the first to tell me to push myself to greater heights I didn’t know were even possible for me to achieve. Her wisdom and guidance in both the realms of school and life have been invaluable and I am so fortunate to have had her as a teacher and mentor over the years. 

What are you learning about yourself as a result of the coronavirus-related shifts in your life? How have you come to learn these things?
I am coming to see that I am a self-starter, one that will not rest until things are completed to the best of my ability, and earlier than the given deadline. I don’t need to be in a classroom setting to have the motivation to complete my work with the same urgency and level of effort had the closure not have happened. The desire to continue to challenge myself to produce the same quality work as I would in a traditional setting has made itself evident and it is something I look to take with me wherever I go. 

What new learning and new perspectives have you gained and how will you integrate them into your life moving forward?
The one thing I can say I have learned from all this is that we all must be grateful for what we have, where we are, and the people in our lives as tomorrow is not guaranteed. There is so much uncertainty in the world right now that it has given me a new appreciation for those who have supported me and helped me get to where I am today. I am making sure now more than ever to let people know what they mean to me and how much I appreciate them.  

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

The FWSU Story: Fletcher Students Grow Hope by Planting Seeds

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Fletcher Elementary School students are growing both hope and vegetables thanks to a collaboration with the Northwest Healthy Roots Collaborative and RiseVT.

Fletcher Elementary School students Connor Macaulay, grade 2, Cailin Macaulay, grade 4, Patrick Lawton, grade 2 and kindergartener Cole Lawton, prepare to plant bean seeds they they received as part of a distance-learning collaboration between the school and local wellness groups. The project aims to connect students throughout Franklin and Grand Isle Counties and teach about healthy, sustainable and local foods. 

On May 7, Fletcher Elementary families received packages of bean seeds to be grown at home, along with instructions for inside and outside planting, links to gardening videos, seed sprouting ideas and additional activities for at-home learning that teaches children about soil types, animals that live underground, the soil cycle and how to begin creating their own soil through composting. 

One of the goals of the project is to create a sense of unity between Fletcher students and other Franklin and Grand Isle County students who are participating in a common activity, despite being separated by the school dismissal. Additionally, the project aims to help students understand the importance of a resilient local food system where families are connected to, and nourished by, local farms and food.

“There has never been a more important time for our communities to feel connected, healthy and hopeful,” Rachel Huff, of the Healthy Roots Collaborative’s Farm to School Program, said. “We feel planting a seed is one of the greatest ways to place hope in a positive future. We hope by growing this small bit of food at home students can feel grounded and in control in these ungrounded times.”

According to Huff, sparking an interest in the local food system and eating healthy food through hands-on, authentic learning is also an essential part of the project. A total of 3000 seed packets are being distributed to children in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties.

“The act of growing things, particularly plants that produce food in the end, is a rich and meaningful experience for kids,” Fletcher’s third and fourth grade teacher, Tracey Godin, said. “Academically, it promotes scientific and mathematical observations and processes that will strengthen students’ abilities to be critical thinkers. Students learn to care for the plants and understand their needs, which promotes responsibility, and they look forward to the end result of their hard work. With this project, it also gives them a sense of unity with other children and families in our area in a time when we have to be apart.”

Godin’s classroom has participated in a multi-year partnership with the Healthy Roots Collaborative that has brought them to local farms and introduced farmers into the classroom.

The Northeast Healthy Roots Collaborative is a regional food systems program supporting the growers, producers and consumers in Franklin and Grand Isle County. They provide food-related education, access and infrastructure. RiseVT is a wellness program based at Northwestern Medical Center that encourages wellness through healthy food choices and physical activity.

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: Learning Together, Learning Apart (Part 5)

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In mid-March all FWSU teachers, along with all Vermont teachers, said good-bye to their students, not knowing it would be for the remainder of the school year. In record time, they adjusted the goals of learning to fit a new, remote landscape, which was unfamiliar territory for all. Their work has been nothing short of amazing. Their hopes and dreams for their students to be engaged learners remain at the core of every choice they make. Over the next several weeks, we’ll profile some of our teachers from our 3 schools who have volunteered to share some of their experiences. 
These are their FWSU Stories. 
This is the fifth installment in the series.

Allison MacKenzie, GEMS Grade 3 Elementary Teacher

Clouds and silver linings…
The greatest loss I have felt in this experience has been the lack of in-person connection to my students and colleagues. Amazingly enough, I miss the jolt that my morning alarm clock gave me each day — that feeling that my own children and my students are depending on me to guide them through the day. I long for that urgency I felt in the early hours of the morning that demanded a certain routine that has changed significantly. I miss greeting my team-mates and co-workers in the hallway and the morning exchanges we would share about our lives. I miss seeing all of our students’ faces come into the building each day to greet us in their chosen way. The community that is built in the walls of a classroom is truly amazing. I miss that. Teachers and students develop relationships with one another that allow us to gauge each other’s moods and needs for the day so that we can respond accordingly. I miss that sense of knowing what is going on for them. The greatest silver lining is that we work in a district that values the social and emotional well-being of our students above all else. I still feel the presence of that value every day. I feel that we have remained connected as a school community and that we are still doing our very best to respond to our students’ needs and to be there for them through this trying time. I am incredibly impressed by the work their families are doing to keep them connected and engaged.

Looking forward…
I really can’t wait for that first day when we can all be together again. When I think about our first day together, I am most looking forward to simply greeting everyone. I know that moment when students re-enter school is going to be one of the most amazing experiences I will have had as an educator. I have always loved and appreciated being able to do this work, but I appreciate it on a completely different level now. We have been asking ourselves, our students, and our families to be patient. We have sent the message that we are all in this together and that we will get through this. One of my favorite quotes that was shared by another teacher in a video GEMS made was “Every storm runs out of rain.”  I think it’s going to be incredibly powerful for all of us, students and staff alike, to know that we did, in fact get through this…that this “storm ran out of rain” and that we are all together again.  

Hopes and dreams…
My biggest hope for my students is that they stay happy and healthy. I hope that they talk about their feelings and that they reach out for support when they need it. I hope they remember to breathe fresh air everyday and to smile.

I hope they stay engaged with school as much as they can. I hope they find the value in helping out at home.  I hope they continue to learn.

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

The FWSU Story: Learning Together, Learning Apart (Part 4)

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In mid-March all FWSU teachers, along with all Vermont teachers, said good-bye to their students, not knowing it would be for the remainder of the school year. In record time, they adjusted the goals of learning to fit a new, remote landscape, which was unfamiliar territory for all. Their work has been nothing short of amazing. Their hopes and dreams for their students to be engaged learners remain at the core of every choice they make. Over the next several weeks, we’ll profile some of our teachers from our 3 schools who have volunteered to share some of their experiences. 
These are their FWSU Stories. 
This is the fourth installment in the series.

Sara Villeneuve, BFA Fairfax High School English Teacher

Clouds and silver linings…

My regrets are really for my seniors. As a class of 2020 advisor, my heart breaks for their missed experiences. Prom, class trip, spring sports, drama festival, class day, alumni banquet….there are so many events that mark the end of the year and focus on celebrating our seniors. This class has had a challenging four years of school…they are the first class to graduate with proficiencies and we have “tested” out all sorts of new initiatives with them. They are so resilient and willing to roll with the punches. This blow just feels like too much. They will be the first class to finish school under a Stay at Home order. I know we will do everything that we can to celebrate these students as a school and as a community. It has forced us all to focus on the things that are really most important. I love their creative thinking and ingenuity. No doubt, they will design the most unique graduation ever. I will never forget them!

So much to miss….

I sincerely miss being with students and colleagues everyday. I am an extrovert so I always love being around people! I thrive on the social interactions of education. I miss seeing people in the hallway, laughing with students, and chatting with colleagues. I think learning is a very social process and I try to design my courses with a lot of student engagement, discussion, and peer interaction. Remote learning has made this very challenging. I love it when we can have our “Online Video Classes”. Just seeing my students laugh, interact, ask questions, and talk about their learning brightens my week. I miss my classes, NHS meetings, Coffee House planning…all the other fun stuff that’s also part of my job at BFA. 

Hopes and dreams…

My biggest hopes are that all of our students and their families stay safe and healthy and that our world will be able to return to normal soon. I hope we can all look back on this and find we learned just how strong we are as individuals and as a community. I see the hard work, dedication, and thoughtfulness of our students, parents, and town(s). Everyone is doing their best to get through this difficult time. I hope students will recognize their personal growth and tenacity. 

Jensen Welch, BFA Fairfax High School Math Teacher

Things have changed…

The greatest loss is the daily interactions I get to have with my students and colleagues, the interactions students get to have with their peers, and the social learning and non-verbal communication that takes place in all those interactions. I’m continually telling my high school students that they must communicate with me using their words how they are feeling because we are no longer in a room together where I can read their facial expressions or body language to see if they are having a good or bad day or see if they understand the math we are doing or not. The greatest silver-lining for me personally has been finding the time to exercise more! Each morning when I might have been heading to the shower, getting ready for work, and then out the door to school, I’ve instead been heading outside for a run or walk, or I’ve been doing some online yoga.  More exercise has made my heart and my head happier and healthier. 

And changes are stressful…

It was very stressful at the beginning of the school dismissal when the information and the expectations were changing so rapidly. Everyone was doing their best to adapt and modify on the fly, but the whiplash of the situation coupled with the sense of loss was overwhelming at times. Luckily, I think we’ve all settled into more of a routine. The other stress that has not gone away despite a routine being established is the challenge of being a working parent. It is hard trying to find balance and harmony in doing my job, guiding my own children through their remote schooling, and finding time to also do fun family activities. I was pretty good at compartmentalizing my “home” world and my “work” world before, and now everything is all jumbled, so I’m switching from responding to a student email one minute, to asking my youngest daughter how many ways she can break apart 9 the next minute…it is distracting for all of us. But I think everyone has been super patient and understands how challenging this is for all.

Hopes and fears…

My hopes for my students are that they gain some confidence in themselves and see how much they actually know and how much they can accomplish on their own. I’ve been so impressed with most students as they continue to work through content, ask questions, revise practice work, and they just keep going! They should all be super proud of themselves! I am of course then worried about those few students who I have not heard a lot from. For some I can’t address from afar the barriers they are facing that are preventing them from doing their school work; for others I seem unable to motivate and support them without being face-to-face. For a few I’ve been able to reconnect with, I think they appreciate the extra effort teachers make when we reach out individually, and the accommodations we’ve made to help make sure they can be successful from home. I am less worried about the academic progress of these students and more worried that they are feeling disconnected from their peers and a supportive school environment. But I believe in resilience and hope everyone is finding their way through this health crisis.

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

The FWSU Story: Teacher Appreciation Week

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Dear Educator:

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Thank you for all you do to support the students and families across FWSU. 

We are in difficult times and you have risen to meet the ever-changing challenges. On any given ordinary day the number of tasks you take on, both big and small, to support students is huge. Now, add to that remote teaching and learning. Teachers are truly amazing people.

As I write this I cannot stop thinking about the teachers I had growing up. Teachers who believed in me, supported me, and challenged me. Teachers who gave me direction for my life, and who are the reason I became an educator. You are doing that with your students. You are making a difference!

I encourage you to take this week to pause and reflect on the difference you are making. This is especially important in our current situation, where your creativity, patience, and dedication has shown through. 

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” 

~Christopher Robin to Pooh, A.A. Milne

Thank you for all you do!

Sincerely,

Donald S. Van Nostrand
Interim Superintendent

The FWSU Story: Learning Together, Learning Apart (Part 3)

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In mid-March all FWSU teachers, along with all Vermont teachers, said good-bye to their students, not knowing it would be for the remainder of the school year. In record time, they adjusted the goals of learning to fit a new, remote landscape, which was unfamiliar territory for all. Their work has been nothing short of amazing. Their hopes and dreams for their students to be engaged learners remain at the core of every choice they make. Over the next several weeks, we’ll profile some of our teachers from our 3 schools who have volunteered to share some of their experiences. 
These are their FWSU Stories. 
This is the third installment in the series.

Heather Brown, GEMS Grade 6 Language Arts Teacher

Clouds and silver linings…

Even though we are connecting with students everyday, my greatest loss is actually seeing all of my students everyday. I miss greeting them in the morning and when they enter my class. I miss having a student run up to me to share about their book or that they finished their book. I miss them giving me recommendations for books. I miss joking around with them. I miss seeing their smiles when they are celebrated. I miss sitting down next to them to help them with their assignments. It’s overwhelming to think about how much I miss them. There is so much you know and understand about your students when you are face to face with them. Are they having a good or bad day? Do they need something? It’s hard to know these things without seeing them everyday, without being able to read their facial expressions and their body language, without being able to talk with them and ask them how everything is going. I hope my students know their teachers are here for them if they need anything, even though we are not seeing them every day. I firmly believe families and teachers need to work together to educate the whole child. A silver lining to this remote learning is how the bridge between home and school has strengthened. Communication and parent involvement in their child’s education has increased dramatically. Families and educators have truly had to work as a team to navigate this new way of learning. Everyone has learned new tools to communicate with each other and learn together. I think as we move forward and beyond this difficult time, the home to school gap will have drastically narrowed. These relationships will emerge much stronger than they were as a result of this pandemic.

I wish I’d known…

I think about those last few days before school was dismissed a lot. Everything happened so quickly. I wasn’t prepared to only see half of my students that Monday after learning about the dismissal. I found it difficult to balance giving my students honest and realistic information, while keeping their worries at bay. I always say goodbye to my students when they leave school for the day, but for some reason, when I said goodbye that last day, I could feel it was going to be goodbye for a while. As I watched them walk down the stairs, I could feel emotions arising like it was the last day. If I had known, I would’ve wanted to tell my students how amazing they have been this entire year and how proud of them I am. I would’ve shared how much I was going to miss them and how confident I am in their abilities as they transition to seventh grade. And I would’ve made sure they took home more books! 🙂

Hopes and dreams for students…

I am so proud of the way our sixth graders have navigated this new way of learning. So many of them have matured and taken on this huge responsibility with ease.  I’m impressed with their independence and willingness to persevere through challenges on their own. I hope my students remember to take these skills along with them into their future, to remember this time, to remember they possess these skills deep within themselves, and that they can accomplish anything.

Lorrene Palermo, FES 5/6 Teacher

Looking back…

On March 17, our last day together, my students prepared materials for younger students to have during their learning at home, organized materials for those classmates who were not there, and prepared the iPads for future learning. It would be the last time those busy hands and chattering kids would be in our classroom; the last time I would hear the sounds of students for the remainder of the school year. Somewhere deep inside I just knew that we would not be returning to school to finish our year together, but I put that feeling aside and hoped that we were. COVID-19 changed everything that day. 

Finding balance…

We all went home, and for four weeks I tried to find a balance with work and home. During our Maintenance of Learning phase, I worked hard to make contact with all my students via a phone call and lots of messages in Schoology to assure them that I was still there for them. My work days became longer and more stressful because of the amount of screen time.  Not having a set schedule made it so that days started to blur together. Some days were better than others, but many days I found myself emotionally drained by noon. Those were the days I needed to disconnect from technology and go outside and get fresh air or just go take a nap. Once expectations were set for the Continuity phase of our remote learning, I was able to put a plan in place and find my teaching rhythm again. Planning is becoming more fluid. and I am working hard to utilize my colleagues, my village, to support my needs and those of my students. The staff meeting is now a highlight in my week to see friendly faces who understand what I am going through. 

Finding joy in the smiles and voices of children…

Just before spring break I returned to school to make copies and gather materials for teaching and found the silence of school, during what would have been a normal day, to be unsettling. No school should ever be quiet. While I was there I had picked up some artwork for some of my sixth grade students who were working on an art project they had started with the guidance counselor. With art and paint, I set off to the students’ homes and dropped off the supplies so they could finish while they were at home. The smiles on their faces said it all. Seeing my students each week via a virtual meeting or just talking on the phone is what has brought me joy during this unprecedented time.

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

The FWSU Story: Learning Together, Learning Apart (Part 2)

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In mid-March all FWSU teachers, along with all Vermont teachers, said good-bye to their students, not knowing it would be for the remainder of the school year. In record time, they adjusted the goals of learning to fit a new, remote landscape, which was unfamiliar territory for all. Their work has been nothing short of amazing. Their hopes and dreams for their students to be engaged learners remain at the core of every choice they make. Over the next several weeks, we’ll profile some of our teachers from our 3 schools who have volunteered to share some of their experiences. 
These are their FWSU Stories. 
This is the second installment in the series.

Emily Wills, BFA Fairfax Middle School Language Arts Teacher

A new rhythm to teach to….

My teaching and planning rhythm has changed quite a bit. It is challenging to plan for a half-hour of work, four times a week, and still feel as if I have any fidelity to our curriculum and high-leverage standards. However, I am also very mindful that I want students and families foremost to focus on health and well-being in this stressful time. I am adjusting by planning out roughly how a lesson would have proceeded in my 55-minute in-person class, and then getting creative about how I can reduce or alter work to hit at the most essential targets. I usually plan now for a full week at a time, since weekly plans are being sent home to families on Friday. I used to feel more nimble in my teaching and adjust the next day’s plans based on formative assessments and how today’s lesson went.  

Taking care…

One of my must do’s for self-care during this time is walking my dog.  Fozzie and I go out every day to stretch our legs, even if it’s only for 30 minutes. I usually do this as a break late-morning.  This also gives structure to my work day and gives my eyes a break from the screen. I stop checking school email at 7pm each night, because otherwise I just become glued to my computer and start to get headaches. I also need that stop time as a guideline for myself to “turn off” for the day. My students have the structure of me posting an update to Schoology each day with that day’s work, helpful links, and other information. It gets them into a routine like I would have in my classroom, listing the day’s agenda on the whiteboard. It also keeps me organized.

It’s new by design…

The new learning I have gained from this time is that I do some activities in my units of study that are not crucial for addressing the high-leverage standards or curriculum. They aren’t busy work, but they aren’t a streamlined way to teach and learn a skill. I have had to pare down what I do during this time of remote learning, and it’s giving me a new perspective on how to run my lessons when we’re back together at school. I will try to use more focused strategies, as I am being “forced” to do now. I also will go back to using humor and laughter as a tool to connect to kids, which is much harder to do over Schoology! 

JoAnn Harvey, GEMS Elementary STEM Teacher

Connect and learn….

I have really enjoyed getting the chance to thoughtfully respond to each of my student’s questions and comments. I would rather do this live, but this virtual teaching takes away the distractions of being in a large group and allows me to just “be” (virtually) with one student at a time. It has made me develop an ability to be more present and thoughtful. I am responding to all of students’ comments and questions in great detail, creating videos for them to respond to, and leaving voice memos. It’s a lot of putting things out there, and I’m not sure how it’s working. 

Missing so much…

I so miss interacting with my students, listening to their questions, building, creating and problem solving together. I miss their smiles and hugs. Teaching is all about connecting for me, and the human connection is gone for now. The greatest loss has been the physical energy that interacting with students provides me both emotionally and psychologically. The energy and responses, and sometimes non-responses, are what make how I teach work. It’s almost like doing stand-up without an audience. I always knew I was a social person, but now I realize how much I really need the feedback from students and the energy I get from interacting with students and colleagues on a regular basis. I just want to catch up and see everyone. I want to listen to all of their stories about how this whole experience went for them. I want to talk, play, and laugh together. Based on this experience, I know I will appreciate human interaction at a much deeper level than ever before.

Hopes and dreams…

I hope the big take-away is that the best instruction is instruction that integrates all content areas and connects to real life experiences–done in collaboration with colleagues, it’s possible!

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

The FWSU Story: Fletcher Students Keep Social-Emotional Learning Alive At Home

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Be respectful. Be responsible. Be safe. Be Caring. 

For students at Fletcher Elementary School, these are words to live by. Part of the school’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) approach to social-emotional learning, the expectations apply across settings including the classrooms, halls, cafeteria, playground, busses and on field trips, among other locations. They are proactively taught, modeled and practiced throughout the year, and students are recognized for following the rules at both the classroom and school level.

But, what happens to all that work when students are not in school?

“The beauty of our school-wide expectations is that they are universal,” Instructional Coach Denette Locke said. “Being respectful, responsible, safe and caring is the right thing to do in any setting. In many ways, calling the rules school-wide expectations could be a little misleading because this is how we want our adults and children to conduct themselves regardless of where they are. In school, at a movie, in the grocery store or at home.”

Being flexible has been the key to keeping this work alive in Fletcher. Shortly after the Governor dismissed students from on-campus classes, the school issued a design-a-token challenge. During a typical school year, students would ordinarily be recognized with a small wooden token sporting the school’s falcon mascot and the four expectations for following the rules. The tokens would come from a staff member. However, with students at home, that isn’t possible in the same way.

“We asked students to design their own PBIS tokens on paper using our four rules, but applying them to things they might do at home, like helping cook dinner or getting ready for bed,” Locke said. “While we’d much rather be working with our students in person, the stay-at-home order is a brilliant opportunity for students to practice generalizing these great practices to settings beyond the school building. Simply put, we didn’t want to lose momentum and we wanted to help students understand that they can be behavioral rockstars anywhere they go, in school or elsewhere.”

Tokens designed by Maggie Short

In a letter to families, the school challenged children to include the four rules on their self-designed tokens, but gave full artistic license to the students. Entries included designs such as rainbows, trucks, family portraits, and one student drew a picture of himself helping out with after-dinner dishes. There were more than 50 entries from which three winners were randomly drawn to receive prizes provided by RiseVT, a wellness group that emphasizes physical activity, good eating habits and mindfulness, based at Northwestern Medical Center. Winners received cookbooks and water bottles.

Token designed by Cody Gelineau

“Designing the tokens at home reminded me of our four expectations to be respectful, responsible, safe and caring,” sixth grader Cody Gelineau said. “It reminded me that the rules are not only good for school but for home, as well. It was a good reminder that doing those things everywhere you go is what you should do, not just at school. Plus, I love art and it was a fun way to remember how to conduct myself.”

Token designed by Autumn Bushey

“Supporting students in making meaningful connections between school and home is really important,” Special Educator Sarah Tucker said. “Helping students see our expectations as universal – across settings – supports them in making meaning of what is taught here at school, even when we can’t be in the building. And, it makes sense to connect this work to our relationship with RiseVT because of the strong interconnection between physical and social-emotional health.”

For the past two consecutive years, Fletcher Elementary has received recognition as a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Exemplar School by the Vermont Agency of Education and University of Vermont. Even before the school closure, the school supported students in setting the bar high for behavior at home by challenging students during school vacations and over the summer. The Exemplar designation is the highest level of recognition within the PBIS system, signifying a reduction in rule-breaking behavior and an increase in academic performance.

Token designed by Quinn Mauck

“During the school closure, our teachers and staff have become even more creative and passionate about staying connected with students and moving forward with important learning,” Director of Curriculum Linda Keating said. “Now, more than ever, developing and maintaining routines and relationships is important, and Fletcher’s work to advance PBIS and continue to support the social-emotional learning and wellbeing of students beyond the school building is a great example of their commitment to children and families.”

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: Learning Together, Learning Apart (Part 1)

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In mid-March all FWSU teachers, along with all Vermont teachers, said good-bye to their students, not knowing it would be for the remainder of the school year. In record time, they adjusted the goals of learning to fit a new, remote landscape, which was unfamiliar territory for all. Their work has been nothing short of amazing. Their hopes and dreams for their students to be engaged learners remain at the core of every choice they make. Over the next several weeks, we’ll profile some of our teachers from our 3 schools who have volunteered to share some of their experiences. 
These are their FWSU Stories. 

Kristie French, BFA Fairfax Elementary Preschool Teacher

Missing students…

One of the things that I miss most is greeting my kids in the morning: seeing their excitement as they arrive at school each day; saying good morning, giving my kids a high five or hug and letting them know that it’s going to be a great day.

Staying connected with students to nurture relationships…

Teachers in the elementary school are using Seesaw to connect with students and families. Preschool learning happens through social connection and learning through play. Being away from school makes building and maintaining relationships tough. To support continued social connection I try to post lessons that encourage children to engage with nature, their families and continue to learn through play. Each week we have shared topics to support conversation between myself and the students, story read alouds, hands on math/literacy and video messages to each child. My goal is to continue to stay connected to each of them in a fun and engaging way. Families are trying to find a balance between work and homeschool now so it’s important to keep learning fun and limit stress if possible. I’ve been including fun links to jokes, songs, and activities to encourage fun while away. I’ve also included videos in my assignments to support parents in teaching their children, along with supplemental materials for the added time that families have at home with their children.

Silver linings in difficult times….

Having to be at home has given our family more time to connect, spend time together, talk and be silly. My youngest son and I have begun exercising together. My older son and I have enjoyed getting in some driving time and listening to music and chatting. As a family we have watched movies, worked on home projects, and done some fishing. This extra time together is something I appreciate the most about this whole thing.

Danielle Drogalis, BFA Fairfax Middle and High School Math Interventionist

Relationships, relationships, relationships…

I am totally missing my students these days!  The middle school/high school age groups are what I live for. They are humorous, clever, and creative and the world is always better because they are in it. I have been trying to stay connected with them by attending their Zoom classes, creating instructional videos to support their math learning, writing emails, hosting advisory Zooms, texting and sending videos to my advisees telling them hello and offering a bit of chat. I love hearing back from my students. It truly makes my day.

Getting by with a little help from my friends…

Staying connected with colleagues is incredibly important. It helps me feel grounded and part of a team as we strive to do what is best for students in these strange times. I get to see my colleagues weekly in full faculty and smaller groups of Zoom meetings and just seeing their faces and hearing their voices is strength-giving. As a support teacher, I am always re-evaluating how I can best support my colleagues and they always welcome my partnership. I am very grateful for my colleagues and teams at BFA Fairfax.

Pleasantly surprised… 

I’m not going to lie…I love not having to use part of my day for travel. I have found that removing travel has added time to my day in a way where I can move seamlessly from one task to another.  It may be more that the transitions are more fluid that I feel like I am less likely to import unnecessary stress into my day. Perhaps that is the biggest lesson in this ‘Great Pause’…that I can choose to welcome calm and breathing regularly into my day. I don’t have to step into feelings of stress simply because those are most common and familiar.

And when we’re together again…

Oh man! When school is back I look forward to the reunion that is US!  I bet the energy in the rooms and halls will be full and exciting, and we will all be relieved to be together again and at school. Imagining the first days of all of us being back fills my heart and even makes me a bit emotional as I try on the thrill and relief of us all being back together again. It will be sweet for sure and tears will be OK!

Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

For FWSU School Closure Resources for parents and guardians, visit the COVID-19 page on the FWSU website.