It resembled something from another era. Teachers suited up in tie-dyed t-shirts and all students and staff donned brightly colored fluorescent sunglasses. On the wall, a gym-length banner on which bubble-letters spelled out: Be Respectful. Be Responsible. Be Safe. Be Caring.
It was a groovy scene as the Fletcher School community reviewed it’s four behavior expectations last Friday. The whole-school gathering, entitled, “Groovin’ Into the New Year,” kicked off 2020 by bringing everyone together to celebrate community and to serve as a reminder of the school-wide behavior expectations, all part of a tie-dye theme.
Periodically reviewing school-wide behavior expectations is an essential practice within the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (P.B.I.S.) framework. While the proactive teaching, modeling and practicing of expectations happens throughout the year, a “booster” review after school breaks is an important way the Fletcher staff helps everyone get back into the “groove.”
“While the longer school breaks are a fantastic time to unwind, the many changes to children’s routines can make it more challenging for students to settle back into the expectations of school,“ Instructional Coach Denette Locke, a member of the school’s Leadership Team, said. “Our goal is to get out ahead of those challenges by reminding everyone of the expectations. The new calendar year presents a particularly great opportunity to renew our commitment to a positive school community.”
Students were encouraged to think about one of Fletcher’s four behavior expectations to focus on as a new year’s resolution, of sorts, and each student helped fill in the letters of the banner with a tie-dyed coffee filter they made in art class. As students completed the project, Locke serenaded the group with a song about positive behavior written to the tune of the song, Feelin’ Groovy.
“I put my design on the expectation that says to be caring,” third grader Koda Chipman said. “I think it’s important to know when someone is feeling down and do whatever you can to cheer them up. That’s my goal for the new year.”
Fifth grader Maddie Weaver said, “I chose the expectation that says to be respectful because that helps everyone learn better and makes people feel welcome here.”
“The more our students think about the expectations in various contexts, the more meaning they will be able to make of them,” Locke said. “That’s precisely why frequently reviewing the expectations and what they mean across settings is important.”
“This is a nice way to start school again after vacation,” Fourth grader Cailin Macaulay said. “It sets the tone for a good new year.”
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
As the calendar year draws to a close, the day before December break seems a fitting time to look back on the past 12 months through the lens of our FWSU Action Plan. Below are two Fletcher Elementary School pictures representing each of the four sections of the Action Plan. The FWSU Action plan guides our work throughout the year, and emphasizes the following targets:
Target 1 –Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning:FWSU students and staff design and engage in proficiency-based personalized learning that integrates collaborative inquiry, problem-solving and creativity.
Target 2 –Leadership: FWSU students and staff lead innovative, personalized learning opportunities, both locally and globally.
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.
Target 4 – Engaged Community Partners: FWSU staff and students engage in authentic learning opportunities with local, regional, state and global partners to make a difference in their community, state and world.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Last year, four FWSU teachers made a decision that would change their educational lives. Amy Gray and Karen Lehning from GEMS, Jensen Welch from BFA, and Denette Locke from Fletcher Elementary decided to move their learning to new heights; they applied and were accepted into the Southern New Hampshire Doctoral Program in Education. FWSU could not be prouder!
The University describes the program like this: “The Southern New Hampshire University Doctorate of Education degree is designed to develop Scholar-Practitioners by advancing participants’ knowledge of leadership theory and practice, their understanding of approaches to organizational development, and their ability to effectively implement research methodologies and disseminate associated findings. SNHU’s Ed.D. program is offered as a regional cohort model, with hybrid courses occurring in a condensed weekend format during the Spring and Fall academic terms and a week-long residency each summer.” Those courses began last spring for our 4 teachers, and their journey is well underway.
As outlined in the program description, the program helps prepare “a new generation of transformational leaders to engage and lead positive change in education organizations and education systems.” As with their Master’s Program, SNHU program uses a cohort model for the Doctoral program, which helps to guide the development of the participants as “scholar-practitioners” in three areas: leadership theory and practice, organizational development, and research methodologies.
Our teachers really value the cohort model. The four of them can support each other here in FWSU, along with the other cohort members who meet regionally in Essex. Our teachers are able to apply their learning to their current work. All of them serve in some leadership capacity in their teams, schools, and across FWSU. The program is truly innovative, which makes it particularly attractive and a good fit for FWSU educators. And as anyone in a cohort model will tell you, the bonding with your colleagues unleashes support, creativity, and well, even some fun!
I asked each of the teachers what attracted them to this program at this time in their teaching career, since typically it’s administrators who pursue doctorates. Here is what they had to say:
Amy Gray, Grade 8 Math Teacher at GEMS: “I get asked frequently why I decided to do this. Most people are wondering what I’m going to do with that degree. And, I do have goals, but that’s not what it’s really about. For me, education is all about personal transformation. Learning is a journey, a journey I love and have always wanted to travel. In fact, that’s why I teach. What other job asks you to be a lifelong learner? As far as the EdD program, I wanted to do something that would push my learning to the next level and really challenge me. And, it certainly is!”
Karen Lehning, Math Content Leader and Interventionist at GEMS: “I chose to pursue a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership through Southern New Hampshire University because I was looking for an opportunity to grow professionally in a challenging and supportive environment. Pursuing this degree has allowed me to think critically about complex educational issues that will impact both current and future students. My hope is that this program will transform my practice as an educator and provide me with new ideas, resources, and perspectives to support the efforts of educators and students in this district.”
Jensen Welch, BFA Fairfax High School Math Teacher and Proficiency-Based Learning Support: “I’m pursuing a doctorate in education because I was looking for an opportunity to pursue ‘something next’ and the SNHU Doctorate Cohort was being formed, so I jumped at the chance. When friends and family ask me how I am able to do all of the work and be away from family for most of a weekend a month, I explain that the topics and theories we are studying are so fascinating and interesting and engaging, that the extra effort and time are worth it.”
Denette Locke, Fletcher Elementary Instructional Coach: “Originally I was not sure that the timing of the doctoral journey was right for me because of my crazy, wonderfully busy personal life, caring for a parent, and my own professional responsibilities. Those reasons also sparked why I should be starting the journey, too, kind of weird really! When Jensen and Karen both reached out to me after the Profile Weekend and said ‘you would be perfect for this,’ knowing the value of a cohort model and having colleagues reach out to me sparked me in moving forward. The cohort, the model of the Ed Leadership program, and the fact that I am a ‘scholarly practitioner’ in this journey makes it make sense to me. I love learning…I love the opportunity to make connections to both my professional and personal lives and I love growing, challenging myself and using my brain muscle!”
These four outstanding educators, who also just happen to all be skilled math leaders, have captured the most essential reasons why teachers pursue doctorates, reasons that we need to pay attention to in designing professional learning for all educators: personal and professional transformation of practice, challenging and supportive environments, complex and engaging issues to address, the motivation and inspiration of a cohort model, and valuing teachers as “scholarly practitioners” and researchers. Dr. Wendy Baker, SNHU Executive Director of Advanced Studies and one of their doctoral professors, summed it up this way, “FWSU doctoral students are deepening their work as educators by designing original research into an area they’re passionate about within their school setting. Their tireless pursuit of the scholar-practitioner lens has already changed their outlook on their work with classrooms and colleagues. We can’t wait to see where their studies take them next!”
I couldn’t agree more — these teachers are truly challenging themselves to actualize “a belief in what is possible.”
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
On Thursday, December 05, the residents of Fairfax were asked by the BFA Fairfax School Board to vote on a building bond that considered three articles not to exceed $26.4 million. The voters of Fairfax voted not to approve all three of the articles in the building bond:
As a school administrator for the past two decades, I have experienced the challenges and discord that occurs when communities grapple with the allocation of large amounts of resources. The democratic process should be full of robust debates and opportunities to examine the issues from multiple perspectives. I am proud to work in a community where the citizens are engaged and passionate about their school and students. I appreciate that I work in a town where our citizens take the time to get informed and to advocate for their point of view. Our community has spoken and we must now come together, determine another solution to the imminent needs of our school building, and begin to move forward together.
I wanted to express my appreciation to the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee members: Alice Scannell, Stephanie Lynch, Scott Mitchell, Mike Bruso, Fred Griffin, Terry Briant, Nicholas Hibbard, Roberta Rodimer, Matt King, Cathy Larsson, and John Tague. These individuals have volunteered their time and energy over the past months to support this process. The work of the LRFPC has been challenging and complex. I am really proud of this committee’s work and their efforts to listen, learn, and communicate about the needs of our building and our community.
Being an engaged community member is essential to continuing to make our school a responsive and supportive learning environment. Thank you to all of the community members that took time to attend the informational meetings, provided feedback, and voted.
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
“Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth.” – Helen Caldicott, author and peace activist
The 39th Annual Vermont Outstanding Teachers Recognition Day is being held on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at the Grand Maple Ballroom in the Davis Center at the University of Vermont. This ceremony is held to thank outstanding teachers and publicly honor them for educating the next generation – each day helping them to be smarter, more creative, and more humane. To recognize the long hours, the patience, the perseverance, and passion defining their important work, and to honor them for their commitment, their successes as well as their trials, and the powerful impact they have on the children of Vermont and our future.
Honored at this ceremony will be our GEMS Teacher of the Year. Math Specialist, Lauralee Wilson. A leader among her colleagues, Lauralee has taught at the Georgia Elementary School for the past 17 years engaging students to become mathematicians, problem solvers, and respectful members of every learning community. As a true advocate for children, Lauralee’s approach takes into consideration the whole child; socially, emotionally, and academically. Lauralee is a valued educator within our community across all facets of her work and she is a proven GEM!
Lauralee’s colleagues had the following things to say about her:
“She demonstrates the qualities that our school promotes. Lauralee is very respectful to adults and students, she is very responsible about her lesson planning, and she works well as a team member. She is also very positive, calm and flexible.”
“Lauralee is amazing to collaborate with. She truly knows the meaning of what it means to be a team player.”
“Her passion for teaching is contagious. Every time Lauralee enters the classroom students are immediately interested and engaged in her math instruction. Every day, she is able to set each child up for success and helps all students feel valued, regardless of their math ability. Lauralee is a constant source of inspiration to be the best educator one can be. She is not only a superb math instructor and teacher, but also has a genuine love for the children, enthusiasm for teaching and a bright disposition toward all things.”
“She is positive , calm, and flexible”
“”Students always come first”
“She has a wonderful sense of humor”
Steve Emery is the Elementary Principal of Georgia Elementary Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.