The FWSU Story: Senior Spotlight – Celebrating BFA Class of 2020

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All BFA Fairfax Seniors were invited to participate in a virtual interview for the blog. Today we are happy to celebrate graduating senior Kieran Shea.

When did you start school at BFA? 
I started at BFA in preschool.

What is your favorite memory about your time at BFA?
Probably going to New York City this year. It was fun to see the city and hang out with my friends. 

What are your plans after graduation?
I’ll be attending Plymouth State University and majoring in Social Studies Education (5-12).

Do you want to give a “shout-out” to one of your teachers? Who and why?
I’d like to shout out Mr. Emery. He has taught some of my favorite classes I have taken in high school. He always makes class enjoyable even when the material gets a little boring.

Which changes during COVID-19 School Closure have led to some relief of stress?
I haven’t been tired all the time. I have gotten the best sleep I’ve had in years. 

What are things that are bringing you some joy/fun (e.g. activities, hobbies, experiences) during this period? 
I have been running quite a bit, and I’ve also been fishing. 

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: Senior Spotlight – Celebrating BFA Class of 2020

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All BFA Fairfax Seniors were invited to participate in a virtual interview for the blog. Today we are happy to celebrate graduating senior Kiana Labor.

When did you start school at BFA?
I started in Kindergarten. 

What is your favorite memory about your time at BFA?
Picking a favorite memory is not easy, I have spent 12 ¾ years at BFA. There are certainly many memories to choose from. I think some of my favorite memories were cheering at basketball games, specifically the playoff games and the Pink games. I loved the student energy and I really felt a sense of community at these games. 

What are your plans after graduation?
I am attending the University of Tennessee Knoxville this fall as a pre-professional exploratory science major.

Do you want to give a “shout-out” to one of your teachers? Who and why?
It is really hard to pick just one teacher, I have had so many teachers that have impacted my time at BFA, however my advisor Sara Villeneuve has pushed me to be the leader I am today. She was not only my advisor, but also the advisor for NHS and I have worked closely and admired all her hard work over the years. 

Which changes have caused the greatest stress for you during school closure?
I think at the beginning what was causing me the most stress was not having a traditional graduation, but as I have been part of the planning process, I am excited for the upcoming celebrations. 

What are things that are bringing you some joy/fun (e.g. activities, hobbies, experiences) during this period of school closure? Why do you think that is?
I am normally very busy, I come home to change quickly and do homework and I am off to my next practice or event. The past three months have allowed me to spend a lot more time with my family, which I am thankful for, especially since I am going to be out of state this fall.

What new learning and new perspectives have you gained and how will you integrate them into your life moving forward?
I have always been a planner, I have been planning and envisioning what the end of my senior year would look like for years.  My plan was not what happened. However, what this pandemic has taught me is to be adaptable, to live life more day-to-day, and to be thankful for what is happening in my life at that time. 

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: Fletcher School Champions Creatively Alive Children

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There is beauty all around us, but never more dynamic than when the aesthetic beauty of a child’s artwork meets the heartfelt beauty of wanting to make the world a better place. This collision of tangible art and a more abstract desire to make a positive contribution to the earth and its inhabitants is the backbone of Fletcher Elementary’s grant-funded work, “making the world a better place, one piece of art at a time.”

Earlier this school year, Fletcher Elementary received $1000 in Crayola art supplies and $2500 in cash to support the art program through Crayola’s partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the Championing Creatively Alive Children grant.

Fletcher teachers and children were thrilled to see the Crayola art supplies arrive. Many of us watched the truck be unloaded and the stacks of boxes piled high in our school office. If you looked up the words “motivation” and “inspiration” in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of that exact moment at our school. Smiles, giggles, excitement and gratitude abound. The children couldn’t wait to get started and the new art supplies provided both historical favorites and experiences with a variety of new media.

Guided by Art Teacher M.C. Baker and School Counselor Lisa Coale, the students’ first theme focused on kindness. “Be Caring” is a schoolwide expectation in Fletcher, and what better way to show caring than to be thankful. Since this project took place around the Thanksgiving holiday, students and staff expressing gratitude seemed a logical springboard for our artwork. Our students created “kindness rocks,” palm stones that portrayed stunningly vibrant designs that represented the aesthetic beauty of incredible art. After wrapping the stones in tissue paper and designing individual gift boxes, our entire school gathered for a kindness rock exchange. Students gave their palm stones to each other, and at the same time shared why they are thankful. This was truly a celebration of kindness, gratitude and amazing art that was possible only with the support of this grant. Gatherings such as this are the backbone of community-building in our school, but never with such flair as when we added the creativity of artwork, in which our children took great pride and a sense of accomplishment.

In subsequent weeks, students shifted their focus to noticing beauty in the natural world and capturing its essence through art. Since curricular integration, particularly literacy, is a goal in our school, our Art Teacher, M.C. Baker worked with classroom teachers to create books with each classroom. Classes worked with themes that corresponded with our Four Winds Nature Program, a hands-on science initiative that immerses children in the wonder of the natural world. Classes explored themes such as color in nature, animals, sound, community togetherness, Vermont and space. Students created artwork and associated writing that have been professionally reproduced in full color to create books that children and families will cherish, and which help children be more mindful and purposeful about seeking out and appreciating the beauty of our world. Teachers appreciated the strong connection between art and literacy. Knowing that not all students learn the same way, and there are multiple pathways to understanding and demonstrating competence, this work has solidified creative efforts as a means of teaching virtually any student any subject and letting them show their understanding.

Supporting students in showing and demonstrating kindness, as well as finding and appreciating beauty in the natural world, was our goal. And we made it! Through amazing conversation, art and collaboration, our students are both better artists and people, as are the adults. Thanks to Crayola and the NAESP for your support of our school and children. No doubt we will all reap the benefits. The children really are our future. The future of art. The future of kindness. And the future of beauty.

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: Senior Spotlight – Celebrating BFA Class of 2020

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All BFA Fairfax Seniors were invited to participate in a virtual interview for the blog. Today we are happy to celebrate graduating senior, Claire Bushey.

When did you start school at BFA?
I started at BFA in 7th grade. I had previously attended Fletcher Elementary School up until 6th grade. 

What is your favorite memory about your time at BFA?
I would have to say some of my favorite memories are from lunches with my friends, whether it was working on calculus homework or playing games like telephone.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will be attending UVM as a member of the Honors College in the fall. I am majoring in chemistry.

Do you want to give a “shout-out” to one of your teachers? Who and why?
I would like to give a shout-out to Mr. Pfeiffer, who was an amazing teacher in all the classes I had with him. He saw my captivation with chemistry and was willing to give up his free period during the first semester of this year to do an independent study with me in Chem 1C. He continued to work with me even after we finished the typical Chem 1C work. He took even more of his time to review some old topics that he felt would benefit me next year in college, and then teach them to me. I am incredibly grateful to him. 

Which changes have been pleasantly surprising about the closure of school due to COVID-19? 
One big change from working from home with both my parents being home as well, has been a lot more family time. I’ve appreciated being able to go and talk with one of my parents when I’m taking a break from school, or being able to go downstairs and explain Hamlet and what’s happening to my dad as I read it. 

What are you doing to maintain connections with school friends, particularly the members of your senior class during school closure?
My friends and I have used several different methods of staying in touch through the quarantine. We’ve done quite a few Zooms and occasionally after a class Zoom we will stay back and do work together. We have also, as the state’s restrictions have eased up, had some socially-distant gatherings where we have been able to see each other in person. 

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

Letter to FWSU Families

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June 1, 2020

Dear FWSU Education Community,

The first day of June is typically a day we think of upcoming graduations, summer vacations, and wonderful weather. This year on the first day of June there are other things weighing on our minds, as well.

As we work to navigate the process of educating and providing services for the students due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are also faced with significant impact on our students and adults within our community on the recent killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor among many other Black Americans. As we are witnessing across the country and here in Vermont, this event continues to impact many people, and is shown in protests calling for justice spreading across America and the world. 

We recognize how painful this senseless tragedy is for many members of our community.  While conversations about race may be difficult to have, it is essential that they take place in order for our community and our children to move forward. It is never too early or too late to begin these discussions with your children. As a supervisory union, it is important for us to continue to commit to our shared values that: diversity is an asset; every individual has equal human value; and that a secure and safe environment and peaceful conflict resolution are essential to learning and to society. Below are a couple resources to support conversations. 

Anti-Racism For Kids 101: Starting To Talk About Race

100 race-conscious things you can say to your child

We are committed to ensuring equity for all students, and understand that ridding our system of inequalities connected to race, gender, language diversity, socioeconomic status, and other forms of marginalization, is key for all students to thrive in a global society. Our schools are committed to a culture free from bias and inequity. Together we can provide opportunities for our children to effect change. We need to create and foster environments where every person feels welcomed, accepted and valued. 

Sincerely,

Donald S. Van Nostrand
Interim Superintendent

Click Here for a PDF of this Letter.

The FWSU Story: Senior Spotlight – Celebrating BFA Class of 2020

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All BFA Fairfax Seniors were invited to participate in a virtual interview for the blog. Today we are happy to celebrate graduating senior, Owen Senesac!

When did you start school at BFA?
I started in 2007. 

What is your favorite memory about your time at BFA?
My 6th Grade class trip where my grade went to a suspended obstacle course.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will spend 3 years at Castleton University studying business.  

Do you want to give a “shout-out” to one of your teachers? Who and why?
Mrs. Skerrett! She was the coach of GEO BEE team, which is quite possibly the best after-school club. 

What are you learning about other people (both close others and not-so-close others) as a result of the present situation? 
I’ve learned that people (or at least me) enjoy the simple things associated with everyday routines, like a walk or a morning conversation.

What new learning and new perspectives have you gained, and how will you integrate them into your life moving forward?
Through watching and reading news and articles I see that life can be a lot worse than missing graduation, prom, etc. So moving forward, I will be much more thankful for the simpler things I have.

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: Senior Spotlight – Celebrating BFA Class of 2020

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All BFA Fairfax Seniors were invited to participate in a virtual interview for the blog. Today we are happy to celebrate graduating senior, Madison Fitzgerald!

When did you start school at BFA?
I started school at BFA in preschool. I’ve been at this school my entire life!

What is your favorite memory about your time at BFA?
My favorite memories will always be the Fall Musicals. I was in the musicals ever since the sixth grade, and I loved them. They definitely had an impact on myself as an actor and as a whole. It taught me to get out of my shell and essentially be myself.

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I am attending Champlain College in Burlington as a Game Art major.

Do you want to give a “shout-out” to one of your teachers? Who and why?
This is very hard, since I loved all my teachers. I’d have to say Mr. Lane! He has always been there to help me and I feel like I can talk to him as a friend and mentor rather than a teacher. He loves what he teaches, you can always tell! He gives very good insight and has helped me become both a better builder in Set Design and a better person overall. You can always sit down and have an engaging conversation about anything with him.

What are things that are bringing you some joy/fun (e.g. activities, hobbies, experiences) during this period? Why do you think that is?
I have been drawing, doing embroidery, and Animal Crossing! I’ve always been super creative and loved art. That’s why I’m continuing it in college. As for Animal Crossing, the game is just very wholesome and it’s fun to create your own little island. 

Which people/relationships are helping you through this time? 
My family, friends, and boyfriend have been helping me greatly! They are very good listeners, and always come to help when I am in need. Sometimes it is hard to keep in touch despite COVID-19 due to work and such, but we still manage! They come through with animal videos when I need them most. It’s been hard for all of us, but we’re in this together.

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: Senior Spotlight -Celebrating BFA Class of 2020

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All BFA Fairfax Seniors were invited to participate in a virtual interview for the blog. Today we are happy to celebrate graduating senior, Mahlia Parsons!

When did you start school at BFA?
I first started school here at BFA when my family moved to Fairfax six years ago.

What is your favorite memory about your time at BFA?
The opportunity to travel to China in 2018 is an experience I will never forget. I was able to go into the schools there, connect with the students, and sit in on a few of their classes. Every person we met was so welcoming and just as excited to meet us as we were them. To get to meet the students, staff, and learn about the education system in their country was so unique and engaging. Some of the students I met while there I am still in contact with to this day, two years later.  

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation I will be attending Castleton University as a part of the Honors College in the fall where I will be majoring in Political Science. 

Do you want to give a “shout-out” to one of your teachers? Who and why?
Ms. Thorsen. Not only is she a wonderful person, she was the first to tell me to push myself to greater heights I didn’t know were even possible for me to achieve. Her wisdom and guidance in both the realms of school and life have been invaluable and I am so fortunate to have had her as a teacher and mentor over the years. 

What are you learning about yourself as a result of the coronavirus-related shifts in your life? How have you come to learn these things?
I am coming to see that I am a self-starter, one that will not rest until things are completed to the best of my ability, and earlier than the given deadline. I don’t need to be in a classroom setting to have the motivation to complete my work with the same urgency and level of effort had the closure not have happened. The desire to continue to challenge myself to produce the same quality work as I would in a traditional setting has made itself evident and it is something I look to take with me wherever I go. 

What new learning and new perspectives have you gained and how will you integrate them into your life moving forward?
The one thing I can say I have learned from all this is that we all must be grateful for what we have, where we are, and the people in our lives as tomorrow is not guaranteed. There is so much uncertainty in the world right now that it has given me a new appreciation for those who have supported me and helped me get to where I am today. I am making sure now more than ever to let people know what they mean to me and how much I appreciate them.  

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: Learning Together, Learning Apart (Part 5)

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In mid-March all FWSU teachers, along with all Vermont teachers, said good-bye to their students, not knowing it would be for the remainder of the school year. In record time, they adjusted the goals of learning to fit a new, remote landscape, which was unfamiliar territory for all. Their work has been nothing short of amazing. Their hopes and dreams for their students to be engaged learners remain at the core of every choice they make. Over the next several weeks, we’ll profile some of our teachers from our 3 schools who have volunteered to share some of their experiences. 
These are their FWSU Stories. 
This is the fifth installment in the series.

Allison MacKenzie, GEMS Grade 3 Elementary Teacher

Clouds and silver linings…
The greatest loss I have felt in this experience has been the lack of in-person connection to my students and colleagues. Amazingly enough, I miss the jolt that my morning alarm clock gave me each day — that feeling that my own children and my students are depending on me to guide them through the day. I long for that urgency I felt in the early hours of the morning that demanded a certain routine that has changed significantly. I miss greeting my team-mates and co-workers in the hallway and the morning exchanges we would share about our lives. I miss seeing all of our students’ faces come into the building each day to greet us in their chosen way. The community that is built in the walls of a classroom is truly amazing. I miss that. Teachers and students develop relationships with one another that allow us to gauge each other’s moods and needs for the day so that we can respond accordingly. I miss that sense of knowing what is going on for them. The greatest silver lining is that we work in a district that values the social and emotional well-being of our students above all else. I still feel the presence of that value every day. I feel that we have remained connected as a school community and that we are still doing our very best to respond to our students’ needs and to be there for them through this trying time. I am incredibly impressed by the work their families are doing to keep them connected and engaged.

Looking forward…
I really can’t wait for that first day when we can all be together again. When I think about our first day together, I am most looking forward to simply greeting everyone. I know that moment when students re-enter school is going to be one of the most amazing experiences I will have had as an educator. I have always loved and appreciated being able to do this work, but I appreciate it on a completely different level now. We have been asking ourselves, our students, and our families to be patient. We have sent the message that we are all in this together and that we will get through this. One of my favorite quotes that was shared by another teacher in a video GEMS made was “Every storm runs out of rain.”  I think it’s going to be incredibly powerful for all of us, students and staff alike, to know that we did, in fact get through this…that this “storm ran out of rain” and that we are all together again.  

Hopes and dreams…
My biggest hope for my students is that they stay happy and healthy. I hope that they talk about their feelings and that they reach out for support when they need it. I hope they remember to breathe fresh air everyday and to smile.

I hope they stay engaged with school as much as they can. I hope they find the value in helping out at home.  I hope they continue to learn.

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: Learning Together, Learning Apart (Part 4)

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In mid-March all FWSU teachers, along with all Vermont teachers, said good-bye to their students, not knowing it would be for the remainder of the school year. In record time, they adjusted the goals of learning to fit a new, remote landscape, which was unfamiliar territory for all. Their work has been nothing short of amazing. Their hopes and dreams for their students to be engaged learners remain at the core of every choice they make. Over the next several weeks, we’ll profile some of our teachers from our 3 schools who have volunteered to share some of their experiences. 
These are their FWSU Stories. 
This is the fourth installment in the series.

Sara Villeneuve, BFA Fairfax High School English Teacher

Clouds and silver linings…

My regrets are really for my seniors. As a class of 2020 advisor, my heart breaks for their missed experiences. Prom, class trip, spring sports, drama festival, class day, alumni banquet….there are so many events that mark the end of the year and focus on celebrating our seniors. This class has had a challenging four years of school…they are the first class to graduate with proficiencies and we have “tested” out all sorts of new initiatives with them. They are so resilient and willing to roll with the punches. This blow just feels like too much. They will be the first class to finish school under a Stay at Home order. I know we will do everything that we can to celebrate these students as a school and as a community. It has forced us all to focus on the things that are really most important. I love their creative thinking and ingenuity. No doubt, they will design the most unique graduation ever. I will never forget them!

So much to miss….

I sincerely miss being with students and colleagues everyday. I am an extrovert so I always love being around people! I thrive on the social interactions of education. I miss seeing people in the hallway, laughing with students, and chatting with colleagues. I think learning is a very social process and I try to design my courses with a lot of student engagement, discussion, and peer interaction. Remote learning has made this very challenging. I love it when we can have our “Online Video Classes”. Just seeing my students laugh, interact, ask questions, and talk about their learning brightens my week. I miss my classes, NHS meetings, Coffee House planning…all the other fun stuff that’s also part of my job at BFA. 

Hopes and dreams…

My biggest hopes are that all of our students and their families stay safe and healthy and that our world will be able to return to normal soon. I hope we can all look back on this and find we learned just how strong we are as individuals and as a community. I see the hard work, dedication, and thoughtfulness of our students, parents, and town(s). Everyone is doing their best to get through this difficult time. I hope students will recognize their personal growth and tenacity. 

Jensen Welch, BFA Fairfax High School Math Teacher

Things have changed…

The greatest loss is the daily interactions I get to have with my students and colleagues, the interactions students get to have with their peers, and the social learning and non-verbal communication that takes place in all those interactions. I’m continually telling my high school students that they must communicate with me using their words how they are feeling because we are no longer in a room together where I can read their facial expressions or body language to see if they are having a good or bad day or see if they understand the math we are doing or not. The greatest silver-lining for me personally has been finding the time to exercise more! Each morning when I might have been heading to the shower, getting ready for work, and then out the door to school, I’ve instead been heading outside for a run or walk, or I’ve been doing some online yoga.  More exercise has made my heart and my head happier and healthier. 

And changes are stressful…

It was very stressful at the beginning of the school dismissal when the information and the expectations were changing so rapidly. Everyone was doing their best to adapt and modify on the fly, but the whiplash of the situation coupled with the sense of loss was overwhelming at times. Luckily, I think we’ve all settled into more of a routine. The other stress that has not gone away despite a routine being established is the challenge of being a working parent. It is hard trying to find balance and harmony in doing my job, guiding my own children through their remote schooling, and finding time to also do fun family activities. I was pretty good at compartmentalizing my “home” world and my “work” world before, and now everything is all jumbled, so I’m switching from responding to a student email one minute, to asking my youngest daughter how many ways she can break apart 9 the next minute…it is distracting for all of us. But I think everyone has been super patient and understands how challenging this is for all.

Hopes and fears…

My hopes for my students are that they gain some confidence in themselves and see how much they actually know and how much they can accomplish on their own. I’ve been so impressed with most students as they continue to work through content, ask questions, revise practice work, and they just keep going! They should all be super proud of themselves! I am of course then worried about those few students who I have not heard a lot from. For some I can’t address from afar the barriers they are facing that are preventing them from doing their school work; for others I seem unable to motivate and support them without being face-to-face. For a few I’ve been able to reconnect with, I think they appreciate the extra effort teachers make when we reach out individually, and the accommodations we’ve made to help make sure they can be successful from home. I am less worried about the academic progress of these students and more worried that they are feeling disconnected from their peers and a supportive school environment. But I believe in resilience and hope everyone is finding their way through this health crisis.

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