THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Students Visit Summer Cultural Exchange Partners in China

At this moment, eight BFA Fairfax students and two teachers, Sara Villeneuve and Emily Nieckarz are exploring China as part of a cultural exchange in cooperation with SPIRAL International.

BFA Fairfax students in China

BFA Fairfax has worked with SPIRAL for many years through our Summer Exchange Program.


Typically, Chinese students spend two weeks in the summer living with Fairfax families and experiencing the culture of Vermont.


Our students left Vermont on Friday morning and arrived in Shanghai for a brief stop en route to Chongqing. They visited schools and explored the city during their time in the city.


Their next stop was Chengdu where they visited more schools and got to see pandas!


Tonight, they are in their final stop, the city of Guangzhou. They are sharing pictures through social media throughout the trip.


For this blog post, we are sticking to the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” and anticipating a future blog post from the students describing their trip in great details.


Teacher Emily Nieckarz reported that “students are doing amazing, jumping in to participate and in total awe of the different culture, food, and traffic!”


We can hardly wait to hear about their experience and are extremely proud of our BFA ambassadors!

Global Goal 17: Partnership for the Goals #teachSDGs



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

THE #FWSU STORY: Fairfax-Lamoille Football Senior Night Pays It Forward for Make-A-Wish Vermont!

Fun, food, friends and football were the themes of the evening last Saturday as the entire Fairfax community came together to celebrate our graduating football seniors, as well as raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Vermont foundation.  

Fairfax Football raises funds for Make-A-Wish Vermont


Service is a regular component of our community-wide school events and is a priority to our student body and athletic department. Last Saturday’s Make-A-Wish fundraiser was the brainchild of BFA Fairfax Sophomores Natalie Bates and Kiana Labor, in coordination with Make-A-Wish participant, BFA first-grader Asher Lawrence.

Fairfax football players greet BFA Fairfax first grader Asher Lawrence

Through admission costs, a 50/50 raffle, and generous donations on behalf of Mt. Abraham Football and Boosters, the evening raised nearly $1400.00 for this important foundation!


Contributing to the excitement of the evening was the strength and skill demonstrated by our Fairfax/Lamoille Co-op football team in a 38-6 victory over Mt. Abraham.  

BFA Fairfax Cheer Team

The win earned the Bullets a #3 ranking in Division 3 and secured a home playoff game against Springfield High School on Saturday, October 27 at 1pm.

BFA Fairfax Football Team


We need to extend a huge thank you to Brock’s Heating, Air Conditioning, and Gas Services, who generously donated the lights to make football Senior Night that much more special, as well as all the fans, students, and community members who contributed to making our entire weekend of games under the lights a resounding success.  

Good Health and Well-Being


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: Magnificent Mondays at BFA Fairfax

Every Monday for the past two years, students in first grade at BFA Fairfax have eagerly participated in Magnificent Monday.

Magnificent Monday at BFA Fairfax

It is an important example of how our school demonstrates a belief in the value of allowing students significant opportunities to create, collaborate, innovate, and play.

The future belongs to a different kind of person." Daniel Pink

It is an amazing time in public education.  After a decade of focusing on preparing students to perform on standardized tests, a significant shift is taking place.

“The ability to innovate—to create something new and better—is a skill that organizations worldwide are looking for today.”-George Couros

This is not a new concept.  Rather, it is a recognition that our students must learn and apply a comprehensive set of skills for success in an ever-changing world due to technology and an abundance of information.

“Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”-Sir Ken Robinson

Magnificent Monday provides every student learning experiences that allow them to be designers, problem finders, engineers, and artists.  It is sometimes messy, slightly chaotic, always full of positive energy, and the results speak for themselves.

Students on the cardboard bus

“65 percent of students we’re currently training will have jobs that don’t exist yet.” -Alexis Ringwald

For example, last week was Cardboard Day where students were allowed to design anything using cardboard. A small group of students wanted to create a vehicle.  One member of the group uses a wheelchair, so the group designed the bus to accommodate all group members.  The final product was less important than the learning, collaboration, and empathy in which students engaged.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try.” –Dr. Seuss


Another activity required students to apply their knowledge to create an insect.  There were no constraints, just four criteria.  The results were amazing and no single insect was the same.  Most importantly, it was clear that students understood the objectives of the unit and could apply the content.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination circles the world.”- Albert Einstein


Sometimes we only focus on what we see to measure success. Magnificent Monday’s success is apparent from what you do not see.  There is rarely a behavior issue and students do not require frequent prompts and reminders to be engaged or follow expectations. They are happy, highly motivated, focused, and excited about learning.

A huge thank you to the First Grade team for inspiring our students to be creative, empathetic, collaborative people.  You all rock!

UN SDG Global Goal 4: Quality Education



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

THE FWSU STORY: Learner Traits and the Path to Proficiency at BFA Fairfax

As BFA Fairfax moves toward Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements with the Class of 2020, we have had to answer the following question:

If students are working toward proficiency and have the possibility to continually provide evidence of growth and learning, how will we determine if a student is eligible to participate in co-curricular activities?

In the past, our policy was based on a bottom line course grade. If a student was failing a class, they were not eligible to participate. Since growth is always possible in a proficiency-based system, it does not seem reasonable to withhold access to co-curricular activities based on initial difficulties with content. On the other hand, there needs to be evidence that the student is engaged in learning and that academic difficulties are not based on a lack of student effort.

BFA Fairfax students develop learner traits

At BFA Fairfax, we have developed a set of “Learner Traits” that we will use to determine our students’ eligibility for co-curricular activities. The Learner Traits are a subset of Vermont’s Transferable Skills, an important component of Act 77 and the shift to Proficiency Based Graduation.

Specifically, we look at:

  • Clear and Effective Communication: Can the student collaborate effectively and respectfully?
  • Self Direction: Does the student demonstrate initiative and responsibility for learning?
  • Creative and Practical Problem Solving: Does the student persist in solving challenging problems and learn from failure?
  • Responsible and Involved Citizenship: Does the student take responsibility for personal decisions and actions?
  • Informed and Integrative Thinking: Does the student use technology to support and enhance their learning?

We identified these areas because, in addition to being valuable assets for every student in every class, they also reflect qualities we hope to see in all of our players on all of our teams and activities.

High school students present their progress toward proficiency to peers and school leaders

Teachers gather regularly evidence for each of these areas and record progress in our gradebook, PowerTeacher Pro. Some areas are observed through day-to-day activities and others are assessed collaboratively by the student and teacher on a regular basis. Student work in a group in class provides evidence of their collaboration. Completion of daily assignments is an indicator of initiative and responsibility. A student’s work in completing a long-term project or assignment might be a measure of their persistence and/or personal responsibility. Finally, their daily appropriate use of technology would provide evidence for the last category.

A student’s level of proficiency in each of these areas will be viewable on our grading platform. Students and parents will be able to see their progress and work on areas that need improvement.

Two students collaborate on programming and coding in the classroom

Our goal as an educational system is to provide students with the skills they need to be successful in life. The Learner Traits provide data for important skills that are worthwhile in classes, on sports teams and in the workforce. The development of these Learner Traits is an important step on our path to proficiency.




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

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

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

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

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

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

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

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

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


Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

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

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!


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

Students in costume run the BFA Fairfax Relays!

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

Geri Witalec


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

THE FWSU STORY: Congratulations to 2018 Outstanding Teacher Ian Flint

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

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

2018 Outstanding Teacher Ian Flint

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

First Concert December 2015

First Concert December 2015 at BFA Fairfax

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

Spring Concert May 2018 at BFA Fairfax

Spring Concert May 2018 at BFA Fairfax

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

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

Ian Flint pictured with VT Secretary of Education Dan French

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

Congratulations Ian!


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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