THE FWSU STORY: Celebrating Computer Science Week – Every Week

This week is national Computer Science Education Week. This large-scale effort is a call to action for schools across America about the need to incorporate computer science education in all grade levels. Along with promoting computer science, the initiative also calls for students to participate in an hour of code. Computer science and coding are key components in all of our schools at FWSU. The understanding and thinking skills captured by learning about code may become invaluable.

More importantly, the ideas of computational thinking and problem solving have been incorporated into classrooms throughout our districts for several years (check out these posts).  We know that our students are going to need the strategies learned to be successful when they graduate.They are also going to need the confidence and ability to walk into these complicated unstructured and undefined problems.

Two years ago we launched Innovation Labs in all of our schools to allow students the opportunities to explore, create, make, think and build ideas. We also started STEM programs in our schools to enhance the concepts of computer science, problem-solving and computational thinking. There is a lot going on – and great learning occurring.

So this week FWSU schools are coding and thinking computationally to celebrate National Computer Science Education Week. But we also have been doing this every week and will continue to do so. It is what we do.

On a final note, I ran across a fun activity in a research blog recently that you can try in your classroom, at work or even at home. It is a brainteaser and reinforces the idea that good thinkers and puzzle solvers make good coders. This activity was created by David Malan from Harvard – the instructions and thinking are below. 

Put these instructions up on the board:

  1. Stand up and assign yourself the number 1.
  2. Pair off with another person, add your two numbers together, and adopt the sum as your new number.
  3. One of you should sit down.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until one person is left standing.

Even in a room with hundreds of people, the last person should end up with the total count of everyone in the room. Because the adding in pairs takes place simultaneously, even if the number of people doubles in size, it only requires one more comparison. This is an example of logarithmic efficiency.  

Have fun and enjoy National Computer Science Week!

Ned Kirsch Superintendent


Ned Kirsch is the Superintendent of Schools at FWSU. You can follow him on Twitter at @betavt.

THE FWSU STORY: Community Partners Come Together to Provide Two-Day Wellness Learning Opportunity for FWSU Educators

This year FWSU held the second annual Professional Learning Institutes on November 20 and 21. Teachers, community partners, and consultants offered a range of 2-day institutes focused on professional learning reflective of both supervisory union and school-based goals that align with our 4 Vision-to-Action Targets: Proficiency-based Personalized Learning, Leadership, Flexible Learning Environments, and Engaged Community Partners. The following post describes just one of the 13 sessions FWSU educators could choose. Bonnie Poe, FWSU’s Prevention & Wellness Coordinator, facilitated the Institute.

Wellness Habits

Wellness Habits

FWSU teachers, nurses, and guidance counselors learned about a variety of tools and how to use them to build and support sustainable well-being for their students and themselves at one of FWSU’s 2-day professional learning institutes.


Wellness matters!

The Institute, Building a Sustainable Approach to Well-being in Schools for Teachers and Students, presented a variety of wellness practices. Not every tool and strategy presented during the 2 days was expected to be implemented by every participant; one size does not fit all — that is fine. Instead, the emphasis was placed on reflective practice: which tools did educators think would work for their classroom, individual students, and for themselves. To make this work, numerous community members and agencies share their wellness expertise with teachers through multiple presentations during November 20 – 21. After each presentation, participants were given time to reflect on why and how something they just learned about might be used with their students or themselves.


Jessica Frost, RiseVT

Jessica Frost, RiseVT Wellness Specialist, demonstrated how to use yoga in the classroom and shared how and when to use it as a calming tool to reduce stress and anxiety, helping students be more available to learn. She also gave each participant a yoga mat and yoga cards to use with students.


Nathan Wiles, master labyrinth architect

Nathan Wiles, a master labyrinth designer and builder, shared how walking a labyrinth takes practice, but over time can have a calming impact on those who choose to use it. He included numerous ideas and guidance on how and when to use the labyrinth with students. Teachers participated in walking an indoor labyrinth. One teacher shared, “I was halfway around the first circle and thought that this wasn’t working for me. However, I thought about how my students sometimes don’t want to try something. So, I reset how I was thinking and finished the labyrinth.” This session had particular meaning for GEMS participants. Last year, a team of Georgia Elementary and Middle School teachers was awarded an Innovation Grant provided by the Bay and Paul Foundation to construct a labyrinth in outdoor space at their school. 

Pam Easterday

Pam Easterday, Meditation Therapist

Pam Easterday, Meditation Therapist, gave a moving presentation entitled, “Finding the Inspiration Within Us,” which included breathing and meditation tools that can create both calm and awareness and allow the body’s own natural abilities to find balance, healing, and relaxation.

Rachael Gregory, VT Department of Health Nutritionist, addressed weight loss and fitness myths, along with suggestions for healthy snacks for both teachers and students.

Darrell Cole, a Chiropractor in Milton, provided useful advice on pain prevention and management by demonstrating techniques for being proactive in the way we sit with our electronic devices, as well as how we sleep–did you know sleeping on your stomach is the worst way to sleep? He included advice on the proper use of pillows when we sleep. And, if your backpack or purse weighs more than 5 pounds, not good!

Shannon Wright, Massage Therapist, provided massages to those that felt comfortable having massages–an important reminder that our ideas of wellness are very personal. Remember: One size does not fit all — and that’s okay!

New Blood Pressure Categories

Revised blood pressure guidelines published by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

Merideth Plumpton, Vermont Department of Health Nurse emphasized the importance of adults seeing their doctors and dentists for recommended health visits and immunizations. She also shared the very recent blood pressure guidelines, which will surprise many people who thought they once had normal blood pressure.

The two-day Institute concluded with Samantha Thomas from Northwestern Counseling and Support Services providing connections between emotional and physical health and the importance of making those connections with and for each of our students and ourselves.

As planned, participants experienced new learning opportunities to develop tools to create an engaged, safe, supported, healthy, and academically resilient classroom. We are so grateful to our community partners who generously shared their expertise in building new habits, meditation, stress management, yoga, nutrition, and personal health and how their areas can be integrated into FWSU classroom routines.

Vermont Department of Health

Photo by Vermont Department of Health

Here is what participants had to say about their experiences:

  • “This was a great couple of days.  This was a really nice opportunity to think about the importance of mindfulness, health, and overall wellness!”
  • “I’ve so enjoyed learning new info that applies not just to my kids but also to me.”
  • “I found today to be very useful!”
  • “This was a very useful day.  I enjoyed hearing from different speakers, rather than just one.  It gave the day more variety.”
  • “The format of this session is so welcome at this time of year.  It is a stressful period for many between holidays and school obligations like conferences and report cards.”
  • “The variety:  We sat, we stood.  We listened and spoke.  I appreciated the diversity in presenters, too.  Finally, modeling reflection every turn of the way should make us self-aware.”
  • “I enjoyed walking the labyrinth.  The history of the labyrinth was interesting to learn.  I am interested in making/getting finger labyrinths for my students to use in the classroom.”
  •  “Loved practicality of Sam [Samantha Thomas].”

 And of course, everyone who had a massage loved it!

  •  “I really enjoyed Rise VT — we were involved and active — she had a lot of practical ideas that could be easily implemented into the classroom.  I loved the free goodies too.”
  •  “I loved learning about using yoga in the classroom.”
  •  “I really liked Rachael Gregory’s presentation and Jessica Frost.  All presentations that made me stop and think.”

THE FWSU STORY: Thanking Our Community of Learners

As we welcome another holiday season, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank all our wonderful readers and followers! Each school day, FWSU endeavors to share the learning that goes on in our schools and tell our story.

Happy Thanksgiving

Our blog helps bring our Action Plan to life as it continues to unfold in the classroom and beyond. In our posts, you can see the four targets of Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning, Leadership, Flexible Learning Environment, and Engaged Community Partners in action.

We are continually grateful to be connected with such an incredible community of learners. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

THE FWSU STORY: Reflecting on Educator Institutes in Year 2

“Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we perceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life.”   Peter Senge

FWSU educators collaborating in Educator Institutes

FWSU Educators collaborating through Educator Institutes.

Today is the first of two days of teacher training days (fondly known as teacher inservice) at FWSU. Over last five years, we have focused the two days in November on highlighting the teaching expertise we have within our own system. We started in this direction with FWSU Ed Camp and we have now morphed into our second year of Educators Institute. This is inservice for teachers, by teachers. Educator Institutes are two-day opportunities for our teachers to learn from one another in a focused environment.

IMG_0187 2

Educators engage in learning about BFA Fairfax’s Farm to School program during the November FWSU Educator Institutes.

“One size doesn’t fit all — it doesn’t even fit most” as the saying goes. Teachers in FWSU are working very hard to differentiate and personalize student learning to inspire greater engagement, ownership, and deeper understanding. Last year we asked how we could do the same for our adult learners in our schools. And then we took it a bit further. We wondered if teachers led differentiated, choice-based learning for their colleagues, would the content become more valuable? Our response is to take a leap and answer an enthusiastic “yes” to both of these questions! 


Art teachers discussed current trends in art education during the November FWSU Educator Institutes.

Any teacher or administrator may volunteer to plan and facilitate an Institute and this year we had thirteen offerings. From Proficiency-Based Learning Systems to Implementing Writers Workshop to Getting Comfortable with Rapid Prototyping, FWSU educators had a wide variety of choices to forward their learning during our inservice. The complete list of offerings can be found here


FWSU Educators learn together in Educator Institutes, many of which were led by their colleagues.

The next two days will be filled with new learning and new ideas. Many of those ideas will find there way into classrooms throughout the district when our students return next week.

THE FWSU STORY: New Teachers Focus on Wellness

FWSU’s New Teacher Program is designed to exceed the state’s requirements for mentoring new educators. During this 2-year program, new teachers receive differentiated support from mentors or mentor colleagues based on the level of experience they bring to our supervisory union.


New FWSU Teachers participate in a Professional Practice Forum focused on wellness.

In their first year of the program, all teachers who are new the SU participate in the FWSU Professional Practice Forum. Each year, we use feedback from the previous cohort of new teachers to modify and adjust the program. Last years’ cadre of new teachers recommended a focus on teacher wellbeing. Toward this end, we have crafted a series of live meetings that alternate with online discussions to share new teaching practices featured in the book Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms by Timothy D. Walker.  I chose this book because of its relaxed and readable framing of Finnish educational practices which celebrate and integrate holistic aspects of learning, including wellness and belonging. It also aligns with FWSU’s focus on global learning.

New educators discuss the book, "Teach Like Finland."

New educators discuss the book, “Teach Like Finland.”

For new FWSU teachers, this hybrid learning model begins each school year with a focus on becoming comfortable with their mentor, acclimating to their new school, and becoming familiar with Schoology, the Learning Management System we use for Professional Practice Forum.

Teachers review the material for the Professional Practice Forum.

Teachers review the material for the Professional Practice Forum.

In October we held our first live session with guest presenter, Marcy Perrotte. Marcy is a Special Educator at BFA Fairfax whose experiences as a new teacher led her to pursue graduate work focusing on teacher wellness. Teachers were able to weave their learning from Marcy’s presentation together with their initial reading from Teach Like Finland. 

Teachers participate in Professional Practice Forum.

New FWSU Teachers participate in Professional Practice Forum.

Teachers examined the practices outlined in the first chapter of the book that promoted the well-being of students. After their discussion, their assignment for the month was to “try-on” one of these practices in their own work setting. Teacher “try-ons,” which can be described as “high yield, low threat” changes in classroom practice, are a feature of each face-to-face session and designed to promote efficacy.

Wellness Wheel

The Wellness Wheel

After the book discussion, Marcy began her presentation with a “Stress and Wellness Poll.” After each teacher completed their own poll, the group did a quick gallery walk to discuss the findings.  Marcy shared the Wellness Wheel (from Northwest Missouri State University) with teachers, emphasizing the importance of personal wellness and techniques for managing stress.

Marcy ended the session by teaching a simple body scan technique called Stop Breathe and Think that teachers could use themselves and also teach to their students.

Special Educator Marcy Perrotte shares strategies for stress management.

Special Educator Marcy Perrotte shares strategies for stress management.

The session ended with a door prize of a Buddha Board, which Marcy used in her presentation. Marcy showed how simple water-based painting on the board reminds us that nothing is permanent, everything changes. She illustrated several ways both teachers and students could use the board for stress reduction. Mike Malinowski, the new guidance counselor at Georgia Elementary, was the winner.

Our next face-to-face session is in December. We look forward to welcoming FWSU Prevention and Wellness Coordinator Bonnie Poe to speak on the topic of stress reduction through time management.

Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

THE FWSU STORY: Thanking Our Veterans!

Today we want to thank all of the Veterans in our FWSU community who have served our nation.

Honoring Veterans

We also want to especially acknowledge Veterans among our FWSU staff who have served in the Armed Forces.

Sally Billado BFA Fairfax

Sally Billado, BFA Fairfax Accounting Clerk

Mark Ladue, HS Math Teacher

Mark Ladue, BFA Fairfax High School Math Teacher

Angelique Fairbrother, FWSU Digital Learning Specialist

Angelique Fairbrother, FWSU Digital Learning Specialist

Dave Westover GEMS Custodian

Dave Westover, GEMS Custodian

Anthony Lorenzo, GEMS Early Education Teacher

Anthony Lorenzo, GEMS Early Education Teacher

Tod Granger, FWSU Facilities Manager

Tod Granger, FWSU Facilities Manager

Jasen Boyd, Fairfax School Board member

Jasen Boyd, Fairfax School Board member


Jasmine Tremblay, Fletcher Elementary 6th Grade Teacher

Thank you all for your service to our country.