The FWSU Story: The Pulsera Project at GEMS and BFA

Featured

“By sharing art, knowledge and ideas across cultural lines, we can create a more ethical and colorful world.”  – Pulsera Project

BFA Fairfax High School Spanish students selling items in the school lobby

As part of The Pulsera Project, BFA Fairfax High School and GEMS 7/8 Spanish classes participated in sales of fair-trade goods in November and December, 2019. Through The Pulsera Project (non-profit organization in the U.S.), Spanish teachers Kerri Brien and Laura Mathieu ordered original, hand-woven bracelets and bags made by artists in Nicaragua and Guatemala. The classes sold their merchandise at school for two weeks and all the money raised went directly back to the artists. 

Prior to the sale, Spanish students learned about poverty issues and conflict in Nicaragua as well as learning about individual artists (using videos and other materials by Pulsera Project). They also learned about the hardships faced in these countries and helped raise money to support community programs and fair trade employment.  The whole school increased their awareness and global citizenship. 

GEMS students shopping for free-trade items and reading about Pulsera Project

The positive impact by the GEMS school community was over $2,400, the equivalent to 1.2 houses or 8.6 months of fair-trade employment, or 40 months of educational scholarship.

Students inspect the hand-made items from Pulsera Project

At BFA, the students sold 139 bracelets and bags and raised $756 for Latin American artists.

Here’s what some of the students thought about the experience:

  • I felt like a good person for selling the bracelets. I felt like I was supporting the artists as a good cause.
  • It was for a good cause, all money goes back to artists. We’re not taking any of the profit.
  • Cool that unsold art goes from school to school.
  • When you learn how hard they worked to make it, you appreciate it more.
  • I liked it because was for a good cause. We learned about it beforehand, which was good.
  • Good idea to open up sale to whole school because it was for a good cause.

For further information, please visit http://www.pulseraproject.org. Congratulations to all who helped make this project a success!  

Students selling Pulsera Project items at GEMS

Today’s blog comes from Kerry Brien, BFA HS Spanish Teacher, and Laura Mathieu, GEMS 7/8 Spanish Teacher. Be sure to follow #FWSU on Twitter!

The FWSU Story: Thank You and Good Luck to Danielle Kiscak, BFA Fairfax Special Educator!

Featured

Wendy Chase and Danielle Kicsak, Special Educators

Danielle Kicsak has been a special educator at BFA Fairfax for the past nine years. She formed many positive connections with students and staff. She has been an integral member of the middle and high school special education team. She is a prepared and conscientious teacher who works hard to support all learners. 

Danielle has contributed to the BFA school community. She was a facilitator of a student leadership team, Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together (YATST).  YATST is a network of youth and adult teams from Vermont high schools. The group works to ensure that students and adults are highly engaged in school improvement that is responsive to our rapidly changing world. Danielle actively worked to engage and strengthen the student voice. Through her work with the YATST team, they were able to successfully expand communication, understanding, and collaboration between our faculty and student body.  Her dedication and effort has contributed to making BFA a wonderful school.

Danielle is relocating to Florida at the end of January.  We have enjoyed working with Danielle, and we wish her all the best in her future endeavors.  She will be missed!

Thank you, Danielle! 

Danielle Kicsak, Special Educator and John Tague, BFA Fairfax HS Principal

We are fortunate to have an outstanding long term substitute, Paula Thompson.  Paula will join us for the remainder of the year.

Danielle’s colleagues had the following things to say about her:

“She is collaborative, kind and funny!  We will miss you!”

“Danielle has a great sense of humor!  Good luck in Florida!”

“Danielle has been a great team member!  She’s always been reliable and fun to work with!”

“She’ll be missed, and we wish her the best in her new adventure!”

“She has demonstrated great leadership to the support staff.”

YATST Team

Rachel McIntyre is the Director of Student Support Services at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY

The FWSU Story: Fairfax Presidential Scholars Honored in Montpelier

Featured

On Monday, January 13th, the best and brightest high school students from Vermont’s Class of 2020 gathered at the State House for the Vermont Presidential Scholars Award Ceremony. This year, BFA had four students among the 25 students selected statewide. Natalie Bates, Nathan Langlois, and Mahlia Parsons were selected as General Presidential Scholars. Abigail Pease was selected as a Technical Education Presidential Scholar through the Burlington Technical Center. 

Mahlia Parsons, Abigail Pease, Natalie Bates, Nathan Langlois

The evening began with welcoming remarks from Secretary of Education Dan French. He congratulated students for their accomplishments and acknowledged the support provided by the families and teachers of those students. Each student was then called to the center of the House Chamber to receive the official certificate from Mr. French and to hear a summary of the accomplishments that led to their selection as a Vermont Presidential Scholar.

Mr. French and Natalie Bates

Natalie Bates was selected for her work supporting proficiency at BFA. Natalie has been an active voice working with students and teachers to transition to a proficiency based system. Natalie also worked with Up for Learning to increase student voice in our school and has presented for that organization at schools within Vermont and at a National Conference.

Nathan Langlois was selected based on his ever expanding role within the student run Coffee House at BFA. He has served as emcee since his freshman year and has grown in confidence and performing ability throughout the years. Nate is an active participant in cross country running and nordic skiing while demonstrating excellence in his academics. 

Abigail Pease was selected by the Burlington Technical Center. She is in BTC’s Health Sciences program and excels both in and out of the classroom. Abigail plans to pursue a career in a health related field after graduation.

Mr. French and Mahlia Parsons

Mahlia Parsons was selected for her overall leadership and involvement in school and community activities. Mahlia has attended National Leadership conferences. She participates in drama, cross country running, nordic skiing and track and field.

We are extremely proud of our Vermont Presidential Scholars and their achievements. We know that they will continue to represent the very best of BFA and Vermont as they continue their studies.

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

The FWSU Story: Innovating the Playing Field – eSports at BFA Fairfax

Featured

Just as technology itself is ever-evolving, so too is BFA’s TASC (Technology and Society Challenge) Club.  This spring, the club is working to establish and enter a team in an eSports League. This spring, we will be connecting with PlayVS, a nationally recognized High School eSports organization affiliated with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to get started.  

An eSport is exactly what it sounds like: similar to more traditional sports, eSports teams compete in a variety of electronic games in organized seasons throughout the calendar year, leading up to finals and championships for top-ranked teams. eSports take place at state, regional, national, and global levels. eSports require a large amount of commitment and dedication by each of the team’s individual members. Players meet to strategize, practice, and learn to work together as a cohesive unit.  

eSports offer students, many of whom may not opt into other extra-curricular activities, an opportunity to build team-based character traits and demonstrate transferable skills they can carry with them well beyond high school: Self Direction, Clear and Effective Communication, Creative and Practical Problem Solving, Informed and Integrative Thinking, and Responsible and Involved Citizenship (the foundation of BFA’s Learner Traits). In order to be successful, teams have to have excellent forward-thinking, decision-making, and communication skills.  

Similar to traditional sports, eSports help students to cultivate a sense of community, connection, and belonging within their school. We know from contemporary research and data, a sense of belonging is one of the greatest factors affecting individuals’ wellness.  

Here are some of the things our current BFA Fairfax students had to say about the potential of eSports as an opportunity at our school: 

  • “Being able to do something I’m interested in at school makes me feel happier while I’m at school.”  
  • “Most of the school’s extracurricular activities are basically sports, so having other opportunities that aren’t sports would be good for building team spirit for those who aren’t into traditional sports.” 
  • “eSports teach cooperation and teamwork and the value of good communication. And they teach us that we’re stronger when we work together.” 
  • “Playing team games works on students’ communication and strategizing with your team to defeat the opposing team, and helps your team to come closer together.”

And then there are the opportunities for the future. BFA High School student, Jonny Gillilan, has already participated in an eSports challenge on his own time through Norwich University, earning a $6,000.00 scholarship for his future steps. And Norwich isn’t the only school that has an esports program by any means. 175 Colleges and Universities across the country currently offer officially recognized eSports programming through the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE). The majority of these schools all offer eSports scholarships as well, and the number is growing every year as eSports continue to rise in popularity.  

Sean Theoret is the Technology Integration Specialist for BFA Fairfax High School. Harold Vance is Flexible Pathways Coordinator for BFA Fairfax High School.

The FWSU Story: Our Work To Implement PBIS Universal and Targeted Interventions at BFA Fairfax Elementary

Featured

Each school day, BFA Fairfax students arrive with a range of academic and social-emotional needs and experiences. In response to the needs of our students, we are currently in our third year of implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) at BFA Fairfax Elementary School. PBIS has provided us a framework to teach school-wide behavior expectations, respond consistently to student behaviors, and use data to make decisions.

According to the research provided by PBIS.org:

“PBIS is an evidence-based three-tiered framework for improving and integrating all of the data, systems, and practices affecting student outcomes every day. It is a way to support everyone to create where all students are successful. PBIS is not a curriculum, it is a commitment to addressing student behavior through systems change. When PBIS is implemented well, students achieve improved social and academic outcomes, schools experience reduced exclusionary discipline practices, and school personnel feel more effective.”

During the first two years of our PBIS work we focused on implementing our universal practices. This work focused on consistently using positive, clear and non-judgmental language school-wide. We purposely taught school-wide expectations for all settings during the first weeks of school, after vacations, and as frequently as necessary. As a staff we developed and refined our acknowledgment process, implemented behavior protocols to respond to unexpected behaviors, and developed frequent opportunities to celebrate our students for demonstrating responsible, respectful, safe and caring behaviors.  

Last spring we began the process of implementing targeted practices and systems to provide support for students who are not responding successfully to universal supports. Our focus broadened to include ways to identify, respond, and support students exhibiting challenging behaviors. This included developing a targeted intervention team that meets weekly to review behavior data, develop behavior intervention plans, coordinate interventions and provide access to training and support for staff. 

A critical component for our school was the addition of a School-Based Behavior Consultant through a partnership with Northwest Counseling and Support Services. A School-Based Behavior Consultant provides schools with critical behavioral expertise required to support the implementation of the targeted intervention system, as well as individual behavior interventions and supports. We are so fortunate to have Caitlyn Trainer join our team. She brings experience with clinical and behavioral programming, behavior assessment and planning, data collection, and collaboration with school staff. Caitlyn has been actively working within classrooms in order to provide general support and make recommendations to school staff around how to best support the needs of all students. Caitlyn has been able to utilize modeling strategies to demonstrate for staff how to effectively respond to both negative and positive behaviors and how to provide adequate reinforcement. 

The impact of our targeted interventions, in coordination with the School-Based Behavior Consultant has been immediate and effective. The data and feedback indicates that students who were missing instructional time due to significant behavior challenges are successfully responding to the increased support and skill development. We still have significant work to do, but are excited by the progress in our development of additional tiers of behavior support. I encourage you to explore PBIS and to connect with your local mental health provider to investigate opportunities to collaborate in providing behavioral expertise and support for your students and staff. 

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: Outstanding Teacher of the Year – Jennifer Skerrett

BFA Fairfax is fortunate to have an amazing, dedicated and truly professional staff. I have often heard BFA Fairfax described as the true center of the Fairfax Community. This is largely due to the teachers who work with, mentor, coach and nurture our students into the community members, global citizens and adults of tomorrow.

On December 5th, Jennifer Skerrett (Grade 8 Social Studies) was formally recognized at the University of Vermont’s 39th annual Outstanding Teacher of the Year Ceremony. Each year the College of Education and Social Services (CESS) at the University of Vermont, together with Vermont supervisory unions and school districts, the Vermont Agency of Education, and the Vermont NEA, invites school superintendents, principals, school board chairpersons, and other dignitaries to honor the accomplishments of Vermont’s outstanding educators.

Jennifer Skerrett has worked at BFA’s Middle School for over two decades and has had a significant impact on hundreds of students. Her biggest strength is in developing relationships with students that allow her to differentiate and make content accessible to all students. Her goal is to teach students to think and make connections rather than memorize content. Jen’s passion for geography has led to world travel and student success in Vermont’s Geo-Bee. Her leadership has helped define our middle school as a responsive, dynamic, student centered learning environment. Her commitment to students and colleagues consistently extends beyond the school day for collaborative work and student events.

The connections Jen develops with her students to the subject area continually come alive in her room and in all of her work. The quiet rigor of study and academic skills that emerge through her work is legendary. The respect that her colleagues afford her speaks volumes of her professional practice. Ms. Skerrett engages her students as they do in-depth primary and secondary source research while they analyze and apply content and skills learned through creative and thoughtful projects year after year.

Please join us in congratulating Jen Skerrett in her well earned recognition as BFA Fairfax’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year 2019.

Justin Brown is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Middle School is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

The FWSU Story: BFA Fairfax Is Alive With the Sound Of Music!

Middle School Winter Concert, grades 5-7

It’s been an extremely busy few weeks for students and staff in the numerous BFA Fairfax music ensembles and classes. Our ever-growing school music program, under the guidance and direction of Ian Flint, Glen Wallace, Sarah Wolff and Christy Maynard, has provided multiple unique flexible learning opportunities for our students, and has treated the school and local community to some stellar music performances. 

Elementary School Winter Concert at BFA Fairfax

In early December, thirteen BFA Fairfax students attended the Vermont Music Educators Association Day of Percussion, and approximately thirty students auditioned for the High School District Music Festival. Our student musicians were also treated to a performance of Handel’s Messiah on December 8th at the Barre Opera House, which for many was the first time hearing this historical, powerful, and widely known piece with a full ensemble.

Students participating in hand drumming activity at Vermont Music Educators Association Day of Percussion
Christy Maynard and students at Barre Opera House for Handel’s Messiah performance by the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra

The week of December 9 served as K-12 winter concert week, with unbelievable performances for standing-room-only crowds in the Richard Brown Gymnasium.  On Friday the 13th, BFA Chamber Singers attended the Vermont American Choral Directors Association Madrigal Festival, where they performed two pieces as an individual ensemble, and performed three combined pieces with schools from around the state. 

Upcoming events include a performance for Elementary students highlighting the 5th grade band on Monday, December 16th. This will take place in the Richard Brown (HS) Gymnasium at 2pm. All are welcome to attend. The month of January will bring All State auditions, as well as the District 1 Music Festival.

BFA Fairfax Pep Band morning rehearsal

As you can see, music is alive and well at BFA Fairfax.  If you have had the pleasure of attending any of the previous performances, you certainly can attest to the amazing talent possessed by our students and staff. Thank you to the Fairfax school and local community for supporting continued unique opportunities for our students! Happy Holidays!

Upcoming Music Program Activities:

  • December 16: 5th Grade Band Performance
  • January 18th:  All State Auditions
  • January 30 and 31:  District Festival rehearsal and performance
  • Elementary Choral Festival
  • All State Performance
  • Adjudication festivals

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