FWSU Students Seek Answers Using GPS Technology


As a culminating event to an orienteering unit, first-graders took their learning outside with GPS units. Under the guidance of fifth-grade student leaders, the first graders learned how to program and navigate with the GPS units.

Global Positioning System (GPS) is a technology that is obviously embedded in our students’ everyday lives. This technology can help students explore real-world problems in an interdisciplinary and engaging way. When you combine this technology, with gamification, you get geocaching. Geocaching is an activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates.

To prepare for the navigation activity, the fifth-grade student leaders set up a geocaching course for the first graders. During the outdoor activity, students work in groups and used GPS units to locate various waypoints in the schoolyard at BFA that were hidden but the fifth-grade leaders to gather puzzle pieces.


First-graders persevered as teams to navigate and seek the geocaches using their problem-solving skills to reach their goal of finding the hidden caches. Each team member took turns in different roles as they helped contribute to their teams.


After successfully finding all 25 geocaches, the first-grade team returned to their classes and used the puzzle pieces they had gathered to completed the final stage of the challenge, making a final map.


A special thanks to the hardworking fifth-grade student leaders who made this all possible. Their leadership with the lower grades students was a valuable lesson for all.


Appreciating our School Administrative Support Staff

The end of the year is right around the corner and soon the hustle and bustle of our hallways and classrooms will be quiet. Throughout the year we rely on our bus drivers to pick up and drop off our students safely – thank you. We rely on our maintenance and custodial staff to keeps our schools clean – thank you. We rely on our para-educators to support our students in the classroom – thank you. We rely on our nurses to keep us all safe and healthy – thank you. We rely on our teachers to deliver a world class education – thank you. And we rely on our administrators to make sure our schools are nothing less than awesome – thank you.

But in today’s’ story, I want to shine the spotlight and thank our building office professionals who are the first faces of our schools.

IMG_3881They serve a multitude of roles and frankly our schools could not run efficiently without them. They keep track of all the details from scheduling the principal to managing parking spaces.


They take every phone call and help deliver “forgotten” lunch boxes and musical instruments. They organize school mailings and make sure all of the student data is up to date and correct.


They organize graduation and make sure every transcript and reference letter is delivered to the right college. They know all of our students and families. They find lost clothing and sometimes offer first aid.

All in all, they always make sure that everything in the school is just right. And we know that our schools could not do it all without each of you – thank you, Carol, Jen, Val, Sally, Corrina, Rhonda, Aleta, and Sharon!


head shot (1)

Ned Kirsch is Superintendent of Schools at FWSU. He is a constant contributor to The FWSU Story. You can follow him on Twitter @betaVT

FWSU Welcomes Jessica Castine as New School Psychologist

FWSU is pleased to announce that Jessica Castine has joined our district as our new School Psychologist.

fwsu psychologist

Jessica Castine is a licensed School Psychologist that has worked in a variety of settings including public schools, post-secondary education, mental health agencies, and clinical facilities. She obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the State University of New York, College at Plattsburgh. She earned a Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Studies in School Psychology from the State University of New York, College at Plattsburgh.

Jessica has a strong knowledge and extensive experience working with childhood/adolescent disabilities, as well as counseling, psychological assessments, and behavioral programming. She has worked with a variety of individuals with disabilities/disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Traumatic Brain Injuries, etc. Jessica’s professional experiences include working at Chittenden East Supervisory Union, Howard Center, and the Neuropsychology Clinic at Plattsburgh State University. She will use her extensive knowledge to help students succeed.

Jessica will coordinate and utilize resources to expand the continuum of specialized instruction and intervention and increase the capacity to meet the needs of all students while reducing contracted evaluation services. She will conduct evaluations for special education purposes along with proactively focusing on behavioral needs across the district. She will provide Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) training to support the creation and implementation of behavior plans. She will also collect data on the use of 1:1 supports to ensure that students are receiving the most effective services possible.

We are excited to have Jessica join the FWSU team! Her expertise will enhance our capacity to support the needs of all learners.


Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, aka PBIS, was adopted and implemented at the Georgia Elementary Middle School this school year. PBIS is designed to help school teams form a proactive, school-wide systems approach to improving social and academic competence for all students.


Goals of PBIS at GEMS are to:

  • Improve student engagement
  • Increase instruction time
  • Create a positive school environment

With consistent specific expected behaviors being taught in all school settings, students are expected to:

Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Safe


One component of PBIS is encouraging and recognizing students for following expectations. Paper gems are given to students for following the expectations. When a student receives a GEM he or she places it in their classroom or grade level container. Classrooms or grade levels have celebrations when they have filled their containers. Classroom or grade level celebrations might look like different, but they do celebrate success.


We had two school-wide celebrations this school year. The first one was a Beach Party on December 21st. Lunch that day was a barbecue, and we ended our day with all students and staff participating in a beach ball relay.



Our end of the year celebration was June 1st in both gyms where students and staff were on the playing field or as a spectator watching games of Human Foosball. The major goal was to promote community and cooperation among older and younger students. Everyone playing and watching had a great time!


Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments ​FWSU maximizes flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and personalized learning opportunities for all.

Indicator of Success – Flexible learning environments are the context for collaboration and extend beyond the classroom.

Action Step – Develop opportunities for students to demonstrate transferable skills in authentic settings

FWSU Early Educators Share Knowledge, Expertise & Beliefs

Providing high quality pre-school education in all of our communities is a constant focus at FWSU. Preschool provides a foundation for learning both socially and academically, that experts agree, will help children in elementary school. The mission of FWSU’s Early Education program is to nurture young children’s sense of wonder while laying a solid foundation for lifelong learning through a play based, inclusive environment. fweet5We are fortunate to have an outstanding early education team at FWSU. Working together this year, the Franklin West Early Education Teachers (FWEET) and FWSU Act 166 Coordinator Diana Langston, have been sharing their knowledge and expertise with each other.   Discussions on pedagogy and curriculum have enabled the team to define the mission statement, philosophy and program goals of FWSU’s Early Education program. In addition, the team also developed an Early Education Handbook for the 2017-2018 school year. The handbook will be a guide for parents wanting to understand more about our programs.

The following is an overview of our program’s philosophy.

Our early education programs are based on the belief that young children learn best through active involvement in their environment and develop their skills and knowledge through these experiences. This involvement promotes the growth and development of the whole child; physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually.

We believe that children learn best in a hands-on environment that is nurturing, inviting, and supportive to experiment and take risks.  Ultimately, children are encouraged to embrace their own specific learning style.  Our classroom learning environments are designed to make children feel safe physically, psychologically, socially and intellectually. This environment allows children to explore and interact with adults, other children and to self select a variety of materials. With compassion and insight, we implement best practices in our work with young children across all developmental domains.

Our teachers focus on developing relationships, taking time to get to know all children, their families and background, their interests and passions, their learning styles and the way they think.  Teachers act as facilitators:  asking questions, presenting challenges, and supporting the children’s efforts to make meaning.  Sometimes teachers take a more active role by introducing new content, ideas and materials.  Teachers create a community within the classroom where all children feel encouraged to share ideas and opinions.  They observe, document, cheer and reflect in order to nurture children’s self esteem and skill development.  The children learn as much from each other as they do from adults in their learning community.

Teachers include families in the learning community. Each child’s family and cultural identity is respected as partnerships are formed between home and school. Ongoing communication is vital so that teachers and families work together to support the uniqueness of each child’s learning and development. Teachers are architects of a community of learners, wherein all children have a sense of belonging. Working together, teachers and families can fortify this sensibility outside of home and school, constructing a caring community into which every child can step with confidence.  

“Childhood, we believe, is of itself, important and to be cherished.” – Franklin West Early Education Teachers.


Target 2 – Leadership FWSU students and staff lead innovative, personalized learning opportunities, both locally and globally.

Action Step -Design multiple avenues for staff to lead, advocate, and serve within the school and community

Indicator of Success – Staff leaders innovate and take risks when faced with new challenges


Post-Season Has Arrived at BFA Fairfax


Every year the arrival of the first week of June brings with it the smell of fresh mulch, flowers blooming, post-high school decisions and graduation practice. However, one of the most exciting things at this time of year is the imminent “post-season” for our co-curricular activities at BFA Fairfax.   Our student activities have been, and will continue to be, taking part in multiple tournament and showcase opportunities.


On May 26th, our grades 6-12 band and chorus members took part in the Trills and Thrills Music Festival held at the Great Escape. According to the Trills and Thrills website, “Trills & Thrills Music Festivals are non-competitive, motivational, one-day music festivals for students. Perfect for Elementary, Middle, Junior High and High School Bands, Orchestras & Choirs.” Our band and chorus ensembles performed in front of a judging panel in the morning, followed by a day of fun celebrating their hard work and preparation in the park. We are proud to report that both groups received the highest possible rating of “Superior” which is an unprecedented and incredible accomplishment, and a fantastic way to end their performance season.


Our Track and Field team will be competing in the Division 3 State Championships at Green Mountain Union High School on Saturday, June 3. It has been an incredible year of growth for both our Middle School and High School Track and Field programs. Our 15-member MS/HS team from last year grew into 38 strong this year, and has 16 athletes who have qualified and will be representing BFA Fairfax at the state championships.


Our Ultimate Frisbee teams have also had successful seasons and will be competing in their State Championship preliminary rounds at Milton High School on Saturday June 3, followed by Championship Night in Montpelier on Wednesday, June 7th.


BFA Fairfax Baseball secured the #2 seed in the Division 2 state tournament. Ranking this high was an incredible accomplishment, and will allow them to play home games straight through to the state championship game if they are so fortunate to make it that far. The team begins tournament play on Tuesday, May 30 at home vs. #15 Springfield High School at 4pm.


Finally, BFA Fairfax Softball earned the #5 seed in the Division 2 state tournament, and will host #12 Lamoille Union High School in a first-round playoff game at 4:30pm.


Co-curriculars are one of the best aspects of being part of the BFA Fairfax community. The post-season is an exciting time where our teams and groups have the opportunity to demonstrate and highlight the incredible talent possessed by all. Please come out and support our students toward victory and success! We look forward to seeing you there!


Target 2 – Leadership FWSU students and staff lead innovative, personalized learning opportunities, both locally and globally.

Indicator of Success – Students and staff lead as engaged and responsible citizens.