The FWSU Story: Get To Know the New FWSU Executive Assistant, Amanda Duling

Franklin West Supervisory Union is fortunate to have recently added Executive Assistant Amanda Duling to our Central Office team. Before coming to FWSU, Amanda was the Marketing Coordinator at Blodgett and the Office Manager at Fuse.

As you get to know Amanda, you will soon find out she has stellar skill sets, the right disposition, and a genuine commitment to the comprehensive role this position plays in moving many aspects of education forward across the supervisory union. As she puts it, “As the FWSU Executive Assistant, I have a behind-the-scenes look at the supervisory union operations. As a parent of a BFA Fairfax Middle School student, I’m personally invested in the mission, but here I’m gaining a broader understanding and appreciation for the work done by our boards, educators, and administrators, and I’m proud to be part of the organization!”

What’s the last book you read?

Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs by Dave Holmes. I’m a music nerd and this is an autobiography of a former MTV personality who assigned music to the stages of his life. I’ve always felt my life had a growing soundtrack so it was interesting to read about the intersection of music and someone else’s life. (“Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove” is another good one!)

Who inspires you?

I’m not inspired by a particular individual, but effective leadership is inspiring to me. I’ve worked for, and with, a variety of management styles and I’ve noticed that a lot of people like to talk, but leaders listen. A good leader creates space for others to grow and fosters those initiatives and provides challenges.

What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?

I’m currently researching vendors for our websites, which in addition to learning the features and benefits of each vendor, requires a closer look at our information management and how information is consumed by our audience. There are the obvious technical and accessibility requirements, but I want to ensure we’re effectively reaching our community with minimal labor required by our content providers.

What’s your favorite thing so far about working in the FWSU Central Office?

This role touches a variety of activities and interacts with the entire FWSU community. So far I’ve been involved in budget presentations, the FWSU blog, websites, purchasing, and meeting planning–and I’m just getting started!

What are you passionate about in your work?

No matter what I’m working on, I approach it as a project manager. If I’m working on one task of a larger project, I’ll check my box, but also look at the entire process and communicate with the other participants to understand how information was generated prior to my stage and what will be done with it after I pass it along. Having even a general understanding of the processes in a project will make it easier to improve my part and quality of the work being done.

What’s something you’d like the educators of FWSU to know about you that they might not know?

Professionally? I integrate “lean principles” in all my activities. When I enter a role, or task, I spend time observing processes and identify opportunities to reduce waste and improve efficiencies for all parties involved.  Personally? I’m a serial volunteer. Locally I was involved in the early work of the Fairfax Recreation Department (I cleared brush where the little league field is now), the Egg Run, Fairfax Success By Six and the Fairfax Community Center (back when we were Citizens for Fairfax Community). I like to help out at local events whenever possible, even if it’s just chaperoning a school dance or baking for a fundraiser, and I’m a regular volunteer at the South End Art Hop, Burlington Food & Wine Festival and Waking Windows music festival. I’ve spent so many years as an event manager that for fun I like to help out at events I’m not responsible for!

Burlington Food & Wine Festival
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

The FWSU Story: BFA Fairfax Students Participate in Regional Theater Festival

Cast and crew at set building day in February 2019

March Madness might mean basketball to some people, but for those involved in educational theater it means that the Vermont Drama Council’s Regional Theater Festival season has begun. Throughout March local schools in Vermont host one act theater festivals for five to six schools to attend and revel in the glory of theater. The incredible amount of work leading up to each festival is astounding and the day of the festival is even greater.

On March 16, five schools from around the state attended the Regional Theater Festival at BFA St. Albans. BFA Fairfax students involved in the production of “The Yellow Boat” celebrated theater with students from Peoples Academy, Rutland High School, BFA St. Albans and Milton High School. The festival is a long and beautiful day of engaging in the arts with students and community members from across the state.

Full cast rehearsal

Our day began at 7:45am where students packed up the truck and bus with their props, costumes and set pieces. Once at the festival, we were welcomed by our student host from St. Albans and settled in to the theater for a Dr. Seuss themed opening ceremony. Students then participated in yoga/mindfulness and paper hat making workshops before returning to the theater for the first of five one act theater performances of the day.

Rehearsal of color & lines scene

Each school has an opportunity to prepare for their show by doing a technical walk through either the week before festival or the day of. In addition, each school receives time before their show to prepare for the performance by getting into costume and completing their hair and makeup. Fairfax performed an incredible performance of “The Yellow Boat” just before dinner time. Students received wonderful praise and feedback from their peers during the Liz Lerman Forum.

By 9pm, all five shows had performed and students prepared for their Seuss themed spoofs of each show. After spoofs and an improvisation session hosted by BFA St. Alban’s improv team, students from each production were honored for their excellence in theatrical craft. Fairfax students who received these honors were: Madison Fitzgerald for Excellence in Acting, Annalise Durocher for Excellence in Choreography, Alyse Caruso-Randall for Excellence in Acting and Lily Coleman for Excellence in Acting. In addition, BFA Fairfax’s cast and crew received the Excellence in Outstanding Drama award.

Festival Excellence Awards

At the end of the festival, graduating seniors were welcomed to the fill the stage and were thanked for their commitment to theater. They were reminded to fill the next stage of their lives with that same level of dedication and to always come find joy in the arts. BFA Fairfax wishes only the best for this year’s graduating seniors: Alyese Caruso-Randall, Isabelle Collum, Lily Coleman, Annalise Durocher, Caitlin Allan, Hope Beyor, Eli Silman, and Jayvin Shepard.

Some of Fairfax’s graduating seniors at Festival

As the festival comes to a close, students pack up their sets, costumes, props, makeup and belongings and return to the bus. Once off the festival property, the judge’s packet is opened and feedback from the director’s forum is shared with students. One student from each show is selected to attend the State Festival to participate in the All Star Cast and two school’s performances also advance to states. Congratulations to Milton High School and Rutland High School on their advancement to the State Festival. BFA Fairfax’s Madison Fitzgerald will perform with the All Star Cast on April 4th and 5th at Essex High School.

Cast and crew of “The Yellow Boat” at Festival

Marcy Perrotte – BFA Middle and Elementary School Special Educator and Sara Villeneuve – BFA High School Language Arts Teacher.

The FWSU Story: GEMS Alumnus Returns for Artist Residency

Georgia Elementary school had the great fortune to welcome back alumnus Sarah Frechette and partner Jason Thibodeaux recently as they immersed themselves in 3rd and 4th grade to produce and facilitate a student created shadow puppet show for all PK-4th grade students and staff to observe. As part of the “Shadows Rock, 2019, Puppet powers” residency at Georgia Elementary it was an amazing learning opportunity and fabulous show!

SARAH FRECHETTE is an artist, puppeteer and founder of Puppetkabob, a puppet company that has toured nationally to schools, libraries, theaters, museums and festivals. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut’s Puppetry Arts Program. Since then, Sarah has developed three full length productions, toured internationally, and received the prestigious UNIMA citation of excellence.

As Artistic Director of Puppetkabob, Sarah blends science and history with puppetry arts to create a dynamic and interactive theater experience. 

“Every year when we get the opportunity to work with Puppetkabob (Sarah and Jason) they bring a unique element of excitement, engagement, and creativity to the classroom. The students look forward to creating their puppets and it brings them a sense of ownership and pride when they finally get to see their puppet on the big stage. This is an amazing experience for the students.”

Erin Young (3rd Grade teacher)

Sarah studied marionettes in Germany with Legendary Master Puppeteer Albrecht Roser and has performed with marionettes across the U.S., Germany, Austria and China. She toured with the marionette rock-opera Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty with Phillip Huber, for which Sarah made the puppets costumes.   

For studio work, Sarah has a background in Live-Action puppetry and Stop-Motion animation creating for galleries, theaters, television and film. Sarah has designed puppets for multiple stage productions and is a teaching artist for the Vermont Arts Council.


  • Students will learn how to blend hand-held lights and old school camera techniques to create a form of shadow puppetry that flows like film.
  • Students will improve drawing, writing and communication skills thru lessons with Puppetkabob.
  • Students will learn about shadows, the oldest known form of puppetry, and how to bring this traditional art form into the 21st century.
  • Students will learn about visual storytelling and how to use the basics of perspective and style to highlight their stories objective.
  • Students will safely incorporate their bodies along with the handmade shadow puppets to show connections, illuminating responsibility and respect to the GEMS community.

“The shadow puppet program that Sarah and Jason bring to the classroom is amazing!  Students get to show off their creativity in a unique way and share the experience with the school during the final performance.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with Sarah and Jason many times, and students are always engaged and motivated during the whole process!”

Heather Sikorsky (3rd grade teacher)

The following were themes created and presented by students:

  1. Birds eye view of Vermont (Life cycle, pride, Bald Eagle)
  2. Our Super Selves (Our contributions as citizens)
  3. Out of this World (Me of the Map)
  4. Our community Heroes and Heroines
  5. The 5 Senses (Sight and Sound)
  6. Day in the life of a kid; Year 3019
  7. Kids just wanna have fun (Vermont Seasons)

“What a wonderful performance and opportunity for students in our school. Sarah Frechette and Jason Thibodeaux have a unique ability to inspire every student by creating excitement in their learning.  Their facilitation of student work, in such a short period of time, through engagement is masterful.  The final shadow show is phenomenal.”

Steve Emery (Principal)

Steve Emery is the Elementary Principal of Georgia Elementary Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

The FWSU Story: BFA 8th Grade Students Build a Society

When BFA 8th grade students returned from February break, they were introduced to a new project designed by their teachers Ashley Barnes-Cota, Dana Hamm, Ben Psaros, and Melody Wilkins. The students were tasked with designing a country and the society within it. They were responsible for all aspects of their country including Health, Economy, Population, Peace and the Environment. They earned points in these areas as they completed the day’s activities and challenges. The goal was to achieve a balance between the five areas and obtain the most total points as a country.

After students chose their groups, they were randomly assigned an area on the globe for their country. During the first three days of the project, the teams decided on their country name, were given the size of their country to create a map, and used their population to create a population density map. They researched the plants, animals and resources of their country and determined their main export. At the end of the first week, the students created Mission statements that included UN Global Goals.

Sample Mission: Illyria is committed to preserving the health and wellness of our citizens, thus we are choosing the third Global Goal (good health and well being). Good health is important to Illyria because our people deserve the best care possible. Our medical supplies are of the highest quality and it is important that everyone in our community is taken care of.

After their countries were established, students were presented with challenges and opportunities each day for the second week. At the start of each day, the entire grade met to discuss the previous day’s work and check the current standings. Each day, the students were given a global challenge, an individual situation, and an opportunity to work through. Global challenges were world wide problems that each country had to focus on. They included immigration, unemployment, trade, and medical discoveries. The groups had to decide the best solution based upon their research, their countries values and mission, and the constraints of the scenario.

“I like the way it’s set up. We can do what we want at our own pace. We can design our country the way we want to.”

– Laurel C, student and resident of Lislorminex

Each team drew an individual challenge card each day and had to develop a solution or product. The individual challenges asked students to create a national holiday, an education system, a folk dance, or a historical moment in their country.

“We get to be creative. We picked our own groups and made our own choices. It’s kind of like a game, but it’s a lot of work every day. It’s different every day.”

– Jacob A, student and resident of the Allied Isles of Cocolandia

The final piece of each day’s mission was the opportunity card. Students had to choose whether they wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. If they did, they could gain points in a predetermined category, but also had to decide how the opportunity might benefit them in other areas and cause harm in others. For instance, if they chose to host the Wellness Games, they could earn 10 points for Health. They might gain in the Economy, but lose in the Environment. The teams had to decide where their points would be distributed and make a case for all of their decisions. The country that was selected as the site for the Wellness Games also earned bonus points for the day.

“Each challenge allowed us to adjust the situation to reflect our countries values. We got to show what was important in each category. We’ve worked together as a team and practiced our Transferable Skills. It’s great to have such a large chunk of time to work on this project.”

– Genevieve C, student and resident of Illyria

Overall, the students learned and grew over the course of the week in ways that are enhanced by projects like these. They communicated, collaborated, were self directed, and exhibited perseverance every day as they built the society of the future. Many thanks to the teachers for planning this project and to the 8th grade students for their dedicated work toward building a new world!

“Our team has been prioritizing flexible learning for a couple of years. One of the main goals of this project, which we began collaborating on last year, was to engage students in the five transferable skills and integrate their learning from all content areas. All the work we have done to set up the game and launch the tasks each day is the real work we did as teachers. Observing and facilitating the work while guiding students towards success has been the easy part of all this. Students strategized together while preparing a slide presentation. Their demonstrations of learning have been incredible! Students are clearly showing their understanding of biomes, climate, and sustainability; effects of real-world events on population and culture; calculating percents of increase and decrease, plus making and interpreting graphs; as well as research and writing. This has not only been a fun, creative learning process for the students, it’s been inspirational for the teachers. We’re excited to make more learning opportunities in the future that look like this.”

– Ashley Barnes-Cota, Dana Hamm, Ben Psaros, and Melody Wilkins, 8th Grade Teachers

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: Fletcher Student Publishes Book, Goes on Tour

A Fletcher Elementary School student has published a new book and completed a five-stop author’s tour. Sixth grader Monica King, author of the new book, Around Fletcher Elementary ABC Find, says that she has always had an interest in photography and writing, so when the opportunity to combine two of her passions presented itself, she jumped at the chance.

“When I was seven, I started watching videos online and that was what got me interested in photography,” King said. “I spent less time actually paying attention to the video and more time looking at the setting and the background and envisioning what that would look like as still pictures. That’s when I decided I wanted to create my own photographs.”

At age nine, King received her first camera as a gift from her father. She began experimenting with its features and, “taking pictures of everything, inside and outside.” During the three years since, she has established a collection of digital and film cameras, some from antique shops she visited with her father.

“I’m really interested in how cameras work,” King said. “There’s a little bit of magic in how an idea becomes a picture.”

Through a partnership with the Greater Burlington YMCA, who also provides Fletcher Elementary’s After-School Program, King was able to participate in an independent study focusing on photography. The school’s YMCA Site Director, Hallie Wolklin, who has formal training in the visual arts, supported King as she explored elements of photography and publishing.

“I began looking at objects differently,” King said. “As we took lots of pictures I noticed that many things actually have the same shape as letters of the alphabet. I challenged myself to find a items that looked like each letter and to photograph it.”

If there were any question that King is a photographer at heart, that was dispelled when, mid-interview, she observed the blustery weather outside and proclaimed, “That would make a great picture.”

King’s collection of alphabet-inspired photographs began to grow, as did her skills as an artist. She credits Wolklin with teaching her the technical aspects of photography, including perspective and choosing a good background.

“Perspective is another way of seeing something,” King said. “People can look at the same thing and see it completely differently. I love that. We thought about how to change a picture by changing how it’s photographed.”

Following a painstaking editing, cropping and resizing effort, King’s collection of alphabet photographs has been professionally published as a full-color book, which lead to a recent author’s tour including stops in elementary classrooms at BFA-Fairfax and Georgia Elementary, as well as the Fairfax Community Library and the Franklin West Supervisory Union offices.

“I’m feeling positive about the book and my tour,” King said. “I love the book but I also know changes I will make the next time I publish. I was a little nervous to be on tour. I wasn’t sure what other people would think about my work, but it was worth the risk.Their faces lit up when they saw the pictures and could figure out where the letter is on each page.”

Of publishing her work, King said, “I wanted other people to see my pictures and I wanted to show that kids can do the same things as adults, for the most part.”

King’s interest in photography continues. She is working with Wolklin to create a pinhole camera from a washing machine box for the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math Night next month. She also participates in weekly online photography challenges.

“Right now I am researching the science behind early cameras to help make my gigantic pinhole camera a success,” King said. “In order to do great photography, you need to know the science behind it. Writing is also important because you need to be able to describe what the picture is showing.”

Before long, King may be hunting down letters of the alphabet beyond Fletcher. She hopes to take photography classes in middle and high school and eventually travel to the Amazon Rainforest to photograph plants and animals in their natural environment.

“You need to know what you want and have a plan,” King said. “That’s true with pictures and your future.”

“This project is a fantastic example of how Fletcher encourages and supports multiple pathways to learning,” Superintendent Ned Kirsch said. “The work was personalized based on the student’s interest and allowed her to take on a leadership role as a successfully published author. Fletcher created a flexible learning environment and worked with community partners to completely immerse this student in an authentic experience that she will never forget. This type of learning is the work of all of our FWSU schools.”

Along her tour, King donated signed copies of her book at each stop.

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: Teachers Immerse Themselves In Their Own Learning

12 educators have started exploring how Oculus virtual reality headsets can impact learning in classrooms.

Unlike a traditional graduate course where participants meet regularly and get information from the instructor, this course allows for flexible learning where teaches will design their own learning. Teachers are collaborating with the instructor using a coaching model to identify, learn about, and improve an innovative goal connected to International Society Technology in Education (ISTE) standards.

By using this flexible learning environment, it will allow teachers to develop their own computational thinking and understand learning in order to meet the ever evolving needs and expectations of their students. It also provides immersive learning activities that can maximize the potential of all learners.

One of the first steps in personalizing learning requires engaging participants in the learning process. It is the goal of this course to use this new innovative technology to engage learners in ways that were not previously possible.

This course encourages participants to find positive, fun moments to help them be more willing to do challenge themselves with new innovative learning.

Angelique Fairbrother is the Digital Learning Specialist at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @FWSUtech

The FWSU Story: BFA Grade 2 Living Wax Museum Engages All!

One of my favorite learning experiences that occurs in our school is the Living Wax Museum. It is fun, creative, and engaging for our students in second grade. The Living Wax Museum strikes a chord with me and so many others because it is simple and yet complex.

In this day and age of integrating technology to enhance learning, this learning opportunity relies less on digital tools and requires students to incorporate more traditional tools and skills to demonstrate their content knowledge.

This annual tradition asks students to research a person of their choice, present important facts and dress up to represent this figure for an authentic audience. Students’ choices range from important historical figures to inventors and athletes. In addition, authors and modern English Princesses were represented by the students. As always, family members, staff members, and students packed the Multi-Purpose Room to share in this unique learning opportunity.

The FWSU Action Plan targets and Vermont Transferable Skills were in evidence throughout this unit. Students engaged in inquiry, demonstrated effective communication skills, showed creativity, self direction and discipline. The culmination of this experience provided students an opportunity to have choice in their learning and to provide their audience a glimpse into their passions and interests.

Every year, I appreciate the chance get to know students in a different way as a result of this experience. Thank you to the all the staff associated with our second grade students and for their commitment to incorporating student choice and voice, while providing our students opportunities to showcase their learning and engage our community.

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