THE FWSU STORY: 2018 In Review: A Few Ways Fletcher Students Address the FWSU Action Plan

As Fletcher Elementary students prepare to bring the calendar year to a close at the end of next week and begin their December break, it is a great time to reflect on how our students’ and teachers’ work aligns with the Franklin West Supervisory Union’s four Action Plan targets: Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning, Leadership, Flexible Learning Environments, and Engaged Community Partners. Our year in review offers up two photos for each target. Happy new year (a little early!)

Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning

Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning is important to both students and teachers. Here, teachers explore the online resource Discovery Education and the use of Schoology to organize learning materials and create courses that students can access independently. Discovery Education is an online digital clearinghouse of text, photos, and videos on a variety of topics. Teacher embed this resource into their Schoology classes to bring topics to life in the classroom.

Opportunities for students to engage in real-world learning that is relevant to them are essential. Here, Kaegon displays an audio circuit that he created during an independent academic time.


Fletcher Elementary School was one of a handful of Vermont schools designated as a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (P.B.I.S.) Exemplar School last fall. The designation recognizes that F.E.S. increased academic achievement while decreasing problem behavior. 

Fletcher Elementary International Education Day last month. Our building-based leadership team shared stories of international culture during a whole-school read aloud.

Flexible Learning Environment

Fire Safety Day is an annual tradition at Fletcher Elementary. Facilitated by the Cambridge Fire Department, students have an opportunity to learn important lessons that keep them safe. They also get to sit in the fire truck and learn all about the many pieces of equipment that firefighters use. 

F.E.S. kindergarten students have a longstanding tradition of visiting Chapin Orchard in Essex Junction. At the orchard, they learn about apples and bees. They also pick apples and make cider. Students use the apples they pick to make applesauce that is served at Open House.

Engaged Community Partners

Grandparent Sal Wiggins volunteers during the Four Winds Nature Program in Preschool. Four Winds is a hands-on science education program that supports students in understanding, appreciating and protecting the natural environment. The program is coordinated in kindergarten through sixth grade by Instructional Coach Denette Locke, but relies heavily on on community volunteers to help facilitate. Read more about the Four Winds Nature Institute here.

Third-grade students worked with the Vermont Department of Health and the Healthy Roots Collaborative to visit the Jeffersonville-based West Farm to learn how food is produced and to study the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Following the trip, students donated some of the food they harvested to local food shelves and held a family cooking class at the school during which they created multiple recipes with the produce and ate family-style.

Chris and Jackson

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: Bakery Play and Learning Opportunities Abound in Georgia Preschool

When you walk into Miss Sweet’s classroom you will find children taking on the adult work of being Bakers.

Students are learning to bake at GEMS Preschool
Students are learning all about the work of a Bakery at GEMS Preschool

There is Gingerbread-scented playdough, baking tools, and pans for children to use and create treats with.  They put their treats in colorful packaging. 

The bakers need to count the number of treats they are putting in boxes. 

How many is a dozen? 

Is that box heavy?  

Students learn the range of skills involved involved with a Bakery
Students learn the range of skills involved involved with a Bakery

There are fine motor, literacy, and math learning opportunities as children make signs, price tags and fulfill customer orders. Customers pay for their bakery treats. All of these learning opportunities happen through playful interactions and conversations facilitated by adults who know the language and curriculum that children should be exposed to in preschool.  

THE #FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Partners with United Way to Host Foster Grandparent

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce and welcome Beth Blanton (Miss Beth) to BFA Fairfax Elementary School. Miss Beth has joined us through our new partnership with the United Way of Northwest Vermont and their Foster Grandparent program. We feel so fortunate to have her working with our students and staff in Mrs. Penny Aceto’s classroom.  

Beth Blanton ("Miss Beth") is a Foster Grandparent.
Beth Blanton (“Miss Beth”) is a Foster Grandparent.

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself at just the right moment.  When I was contacted by Mary Pelkey from the United Way in October, we were confronting some difficult news about Mrs. Aceto’s health. Mary Pelkey shared that the Foster Grandparent program provides a caring adult that can support students in a classroom, fifteen to thirty hours a week with a focus on instructional and social/emotional support and mentoring.  After hearing her presentation, I was confident that this opportunity was what we needed.

Miss Beth started working this week and she has made an immediate and positive impact.  Our students have welcomed her into the classroom and are teaching her our routines and expectations.  She, in turn, has provided our students with another caring and trusted adult that they can interact with on a daily basis.  Miss Beth brings a lifetime of experiences and a kind and caring heart. She has also experienced some medical issues and brings a perspective and understanding of what Mrs. Aceto is dealing with.  

We feel so fortunate to have Miss Beth at our school.  I am excited to see how this new partnership evolves over the coming months.  We know we are in for some challenging times but are grateful to have her insight, the extra support, and her time. I hope she benefits as much from interacting with our students, as we will benefit from having her in our school. Please consider contacting your local United Way and learning about this unique program.


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

THE #FWSU STORY: Won’t You Be My…Partner? The Potential of Partnerships

A classic photo of Mr. Fred Rogers
Mister Rogers    .

I was recently talking to a colleague about a professional learning opportunity she had attended. She mentioned the presenter had noted that some of the terms we use in education can inadvertently set a less than welcoming tone in our work together on behalf of students. This presenter suggested we use the term“partner” to describe those collaborations on behalf of learners and learning. I found myself returning to the idea of partners and partnerships again and again during meetings and my own professional reflection time. What is it we could learn about being “partners” that could shift and strengthen our approaches to larger collaborative efforts? Throughout these thinking expeditions, a musical backdrop emerged: Fred Rogers singing “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood… 

A beautiful day for a neighbor…”

Mr. fred Rogers, “won’t you be my neighbor”

We talk a lot about collaboration as essential in education because IT IS. And in addition, as we move to embrace more “future ready” ways of thinking about education, we talk about more rapid cycles of change through co-creating and then co-curating models and approaches, rather than going through multi-year development and implementation processes, all in an effort to be more nimble in our work on behalf of our students. And it’s all really hard. Because of the complexities of change, having a partner to share meaningful work with is not only rewarding but necessary. When individuals and groups seek to partner together on behalf of improving the learning lives of students, they can make the most of their assets and resources.

“So let’s make the most of this beautiful day…”


In education, we are fortunate that we have multiple sources of partnerships. Schools and teachers partner with parents and families to improve learning. School communities partner with businesses and organizations at various levels. Teachers partner with teachers to address student learning needs.  Teachers partner with students to create and curate learning opportunities.  Despite the myriad of collaborations in education, not all of them are successful. Partnership is a term that implies a closeness and a personal investment in the work. The word actually comes from the Latin “partitionem” which can mean “a share or sharing.” To have a share in something implies tremendous investment. In partnership, aspiration and inspiration can join together to create that “share” and propel us forward to achieving goals that a single individual would struggle not only to move forward, but to achieve, scale up, and sustain.

“I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you…

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you…”


One of the most critical components of collaboration is shared beliefs. In order to make an investment in a partnership, a strong belief that things can change for the better is necessary and is often how partners find each other and partnerships begin.  In his analysis of the kinds of practices that have the greatest impact on student learning, John Hattie found that “collective efficacy” has a 1.57 “effect size” on student achievement.THAT. IS. HUGE. Collective efficacy is defined as the belief that “by doing things together, you can make a difference.” Working with people who share your beliefs is so important.

“Since we’re together…”


So how can we develop partnerships and make the most of collaboration? The answer is deceptively simple: by learning together. What makes these alliances so strong is not coming in with answers, but sharing the questions, curiosities, and possibilities that allow us to learn and grow together.

Here are resources to help partners learn more about the information and ideas shared in this post:

Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

THE #FWSU STORY: Building Positive School Culture, One Interaction at a Time

A very important part of school culture is starting each and every day off on a positive note. Taking the time to greet someone, making eye contact, and sharing a friendly comment can fuel their day and give them the boost they need to have a productive, successful, and meaningful experience at school.

Human interaction is a necessity and research indicates that individuals thrive when such personal contact exists. We know this is so true for our students in educational settings as well.

As we begin each school day, throughout around every corner of the building, we are building relationships and shaping positive school culture. As children exit buses, when they arrive at school early, or when getting dropped off from parents we have the opportunity for engaging interactions with each child. As you enter the building, you can see a variety of staff greeting children with smiles, showing their appreciation for their presence and what makes them unique. In fact, some teachers meet their students at the door and students choose how they want to be greeted. A “pat on the back” a “high five” a “bear hug” and the list goes on as the choices change daily. Children love the acknowledgment and flourish with a positive start to each day.

Throughout the day greetings continue as many staff are assigned one student that they need to acknowledge and recognize daily. The intent is to be intentional and acknowledge what they bring to our school as we inquire how they are doing and how their day is going, or through just saying hello.

Simple words build trust. These gestures create a sense of value and belonging across our school community, small efforts that have such a large impact!  

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

THE FWSU STORY: Eight Days in China: A Principal’s Reflection

As we sat in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon awaiting our flight, the gate area began to fill primarily with people speaking Chinese. This was not a big surprise as we were about to embark on a 16-hour flight to begin our eight-day journey in China. At that point, I remember thinking that I probably was not going to understand much of what was said around me for a while. I did not realize how real or powerful that thought would prove to be.

A bustling street corner in Xichang
A bustling street corner in Xichang

We arrived in Chongqing at about 1:00 AM on Monday morning and settled in for a brief sleep before continuing our travel to Xichang early the next day. I ate breakfast and decided to talk a brief walk down the street for my first experience in China. The neighborhood was bustling as people headed to work and dropped off their young children at school. As I walked, it became very clear that I stood out among the residents of this section of the city. It was probably somewhat my imagination, but it seemed that every person on the street was staring at me. I know for a fact that I couldn’t understand a word that anyone was saying or read a single storefront sign.

For the first time in my life, I was obviously the different one. I thought about how some of our students back home might feel the same way in our relatively homogeneous school population. I thought about our students who struggle with reading. For some of them, our written words must be as confusing as the Chinese characters in store windows and on street signs that I couldn’t read. As I walked back to the hotel, the idea of empathy ran through my head.

BFA Fairfax flag
BFA Fairfax Principal John Tague unveils a gift with Rachel McIntyre and Superintendent Ned Kirsch

Now don’t get me wrong. In no way am I saying that my voluntary eight days in China as an outsider in any way equate to an understanding of people with no choice regarding the ethnicity, ability, or another characteristic not in their control. I knew that I would be leaving China and returning to my world where everything is pretty comfortable. In the meantime, I got a glimpse into a world where I was different from most everyone else. It helped me to appreciate the perspective of our students who are unlike their peers. It helped me to understand that being different helps you empathize with others. It helped me to understand that our students need exposure to situations such as this to broaden their horizons and better prepare them for the world outside of Franklin County and Vermont.  And this all happened during a ten-minute walk on my first morning in China.

A view of the city
A view of the city

As we toured China during the rest of the week, we met with school officials. It turns out that they want the same thing that we do — the opportunity to interact with a different culture to develop a better understanding. School officials wanted to send their students to our school and welcomed our students to visit theirs. We had sent a group of our students to China the week before we visited and know that it was a life-changing experience for all of them. Next semester, we hope to have three Chinese students attend BFA Fairfax.

We need to figure out how to send more students abroad — not just to China, but to a variety of countries throughout the world and to other parts of the US. Over the years, we have had students travel to France, England, Costa Rica, Greece, and Puerto Rico. It’s complicated because the trips are teacher dependent (“Mr. So-and-So always takes us to…”) and relatively unpredictable (“we’re going to England in April”). It can be a burden on that teacher who always has to plan a trip (and what happens if they ever retire?)! The short lead-time for the trips makes it financially difficult for some students to participate.

I ate some amazing food in China!
My trip to China would not have been complete without experiencing the incredible food!

In 2019, we will have a group of teachers work to develop a system that makes international travel predictable, meaningful and affordable for BFA Fairfax students. If a student knows when they enter high school that a trip to Spain will be offered during their Senior Year, they can plan accordingly. It has to be a system that is not dependent on a particular teacher. The Spanish teacher can’t be responsible for every trip to Spain. Other teachers will need to take their turn-perhaps the Spain trip can be ahistorical journey led by a Social Studies teacher. Once the system and structure for a trip is established, shifting the focus should be relatively easy. As the work of this group progresses, we will share details here.

So that’s what I learned on my trip to China. I met some great people, learned so much about Chinese culture and history, ate fantastic and exotic foods, and got to see pandas. We visited large cities(Chongqing has 35 million and Chengdu has 30 million) and small cities (Xichang has just 3 million people). We spent a lot of time in airports and also rode the “Bullet Train.”  It was an eye-opening adventure that I hope to help our students experience. 


John Tague is the High School Principal at BFA Fairfax. You can follow him @jtague252 

THE #FWSU STORY: Lifesaving Program Equips Fletcher Staff to Help Others

Emergency preparedness is a school-wide theme at Fletcher Elementary this year. As part of that effort, Thursday, Registered Nurse Pamela Scott, Chair of Emergency Preparedness for the Emergency Department at Northwestern Medical Center, trained Fletcher staff members on the lifesaving skill of bleeding control.

Northwestern Medical Center RN Pamela Scott present training to Fletcher staff.

Stop the Bleed is a nationwide awareness campaign and call-to-action that trains and empowers bystanders to address life-threatening bleeding as a result of trauma to an extremity. Scott, a 20-year veteran of the Emergency Department and certified instructor in Tactical Combat Casualty and Bleeding Control for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, teaches participants to control bleeding through direct pressure and bandaging, assess the need for a tourniquet, and apply one if needed. 

Staff members practice lifesaving Stop the Bleed techniques.

In addition to the no-cost training, in early October, Northwestern Medical Center’s Auxiliary allocated $20,000 to support the placement of bleeding control kits in schools throughout Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. The hospital’s website boasts that the donation is unique, as it is the first monetary support of equipment placed outside the Medical Center. The kit contains several individual sets of bleeding control materials including specially designed trauma scissors, gauze, and a tourniquet. Kits are typically located near a school’s publicly accessible defibrillator. 

For more information on saving lives with Stop the Bleed, go to

In 2013, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services reported that as much as 90 percent of patients with bleeding injuries could survive when expedited bleeding control is applied, as opposed to a 10 percent survival rate without appropriate and immediate treatment.

“Our emergency preparedness work at Fletcher vastly focuses on the prevention of emergencies and injuries, but it is incredibly important for our staff to know these kinds of simple, yet highly effective, responses to physical trauma that can make the difference between life and death for someone who is injured.”

Denette Locke, Instructional Coach
These simple steps can save lives. Here’s how Fletcher staff members learned to Stop the Bleed.

“With Fletcher’s rural location, the adults at our school truly become the first responders in any emergency situation,” special educator and safety team member Sarah Tucker said. “This training is about gaining the specific skills to help with bleeding, but it’s also about changing to a mindset that we need to act and not wait for help to arrive. That we can make all the difference.”

Good Health and Well-Being

Chris and Jackson

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