THE FWSU STORY: March Madness is Alive at BFA Fairfax

For sports fans everywhere, the month of March brings the transition from the winter to spring athletic season, the (hopeful) spring thaw, and the inevitable excitement created by the NCAA basketball tournament, more commonly known as “March Madness.”

BFA Fairfax Bullets Varsity Basketball team

BFA Fairfax is experiencing its own version of March Madness this week as our Varsity boys basketball team will be playing in the Vermont Division 3 Final Four for the first time in ten years!


Led by a strong core of veteran players, a talented group of underclassmen, and first-year Varsity coach Dave Demar, the #6 seeded Bullets will take on #3 Williamstown in the state semifinals on Thursday, March 15 at 8:15pm.  A win would put the team in their first state title appearance since 2008, and hopefully pave the way for BFA Fairfax’s first-ever boys basketball state championship. Prior to 2008, the last boys team to experience this level of success dates back to 1965 and 1966 when the boys won the Class M Northern Final at UVM’s Patrick Gymnasium. Although our girls basketball program has had a number of league titles and final four appearances in recent years, the last girls state title dates back to 1981. Needless to say, a win on Thursday night will create a level of basketball fever that the community of Fairfax has not experienced for quite some time.


For those interested in purchasing tickets to the game, they will be on sale in the high school main office until 12pm on Thursday.  The Fairfax community has always been extremely passionate about basketball, with unbelievable levels of fan support at all games, at all levels of play.  We look forward to bringing our community together once again as the Varsity boys look to make history on Thursday night in Barre.


See you there, GO BULLETS!

Geri Witalec


Geri Witalec-Krupa is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at Bellows Free Academy Fairfax. You follow her @GLWit

THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Engages with National Author on World Read Aloud Day

In support of World Read Aloud Day, which is February 1st, children’s book author Mara Rockliff visited our school today.  Mara started her visit sharing a picture of her rowhouse in Pennsylvania. Then she shared a map of what it would look like if she were to drive to our school for a visit. The drive would take about eight hours, but she said it would be a little be longer than that because she would need to stop at Lake Champlain Chocolates first.


Our visit started with some questions that were generated by second and third graders during their library time with Mrs. DiGiulio. The audience learned that she is inspired by events in history that most people would not know much about. She gave the example of watching a jazz movie with her daughter and they realized that all the jazz players were boys. After doing a little research she found out about Lil Hardin Armstrong and her contribution to the history of jazz. This is what inspired her new book, Born to Swing.


The audience learned that she has written over 50 books and she chose to virtually share her book Gingerbread for Liberty. 

Christopher Ludwick is a German-born American patriot with a big heart and a talent for baking the best gingerbread in Philadelphia. No one goes hungry if he can help it–“Not in my America!” he says. When cries of “Revolution!” begin, Christopher marches off to feed General Washington and his hungry troops. But Washington never expects his favorite baker to sneak off on a risky secret mission across enemy lines…


Mara Rockliff shared that she has written a collection of mystery books under the pen name of Lewis B. Montgomery. She chose this name from her favorite three authors, C.S. Lewis, E.B. White, and L.M. Montgomery. At the end of our time with Mara, the students in first, second, third, and sixth grade also had the chance to meet her dog Daisy who often keeps her company while she writes.

THE FWSU STORY: Art Exchange Teaches Fletcher Students About Community

A collaborative art project is connecting Fletcher Elementary School students with their peers at BFA Fairfax in an effort to build an increased sense of community.


The idea for a student art exchange was born from a two-day Professional Learning Institute organized as part of the Franklin West Supervisory Union’s teacher inservice days earlier in the school year. The district’s Learning Institutes promote collaboration and professional learning between FWSU schools and capitalize on expertise both within and outside the supervisory union.

Fletcher Elementary’s second and third-grade teacher, Lorrene Palermo, along with art teacher MC Baker, and BFA art teacher Kim Desjardins, conceived of the art exchange idea based on the concept of artist trading cards, or ATCs. Introduced in 1997 by Swiss artist Vanci Stirnemann, ATCs resemble sports trading cards in both appearance and concept. Originally, artists created unique trading cards that were signed and traded as part of a collaborative cultural performance. At Fletcher and BFA, students created and exchanged unique bookmarks based on the original idea.bookmark1

“We wanted to build a connection between our students as well as a greater sense of community,” Baker said. “Our schools are so close to each other yet they often seem so far apart. Too frequently we live in our own little world. It’s important to learn about – and with – others.”

Students from both schools used FaceTime, an online video communication platform, to work on the project. In Fletcher, students studied American Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko’s “color field” paintings and discussed how colors evoke emotions in art.

“Students were excited to see that their art can reach a wider audience,” Baker said. “It helps them understand that their work can easily be viewed both in the school hallway and across the globe. The word “audience” is no longer limited by someone’s ability to drive to a gallery or theater. There are many ways to share art.”


At Fletcher, Lessons emphasized art-related vocabulary, as well as Rothko’s style of adding layers of colors and tones to a painting. Using textured rollers, brushes and their hands, students worked in groups to design paintings on large sheets of paper that would ultimately be divided into the individual bookmarks.

“The group work was lots of fun and an exciting, collaborative approach to making art,” Baker said. “It complimented the project’s theme of a community share through art.”


Using music, books, discussion, yoga breaks and other sources of inspiration, students brainstormed the words that would ultimately be written on their bookmarks. The final step in the project was to learn about mazes and labyrinths and create such a design on each bookmark using three-dimensional paint.

“The ideas was that there would be a centering and calming word on one side, followed by a finger maze or labyrinth on the other side,” Baker said. “The whole bookmark would be created from the student’s paintings and would be a resource for them when they need to refocus.”


According to Baker, the project focused on four Global Goals, including teaching students about good health and well being, reducing inequity, providing a quality education and peace and justice within strong institutions. The project also focused on art standards that included students creating, presenting, responding and connecting.

The bookmarks were exchanged between the Fletcher and BFA students.

THE FWSU STORY: It’s Time to Take the Plunge!

The Penguin Plunge is Special Olympics Vermont’s largest annual fundraising effort with events in Burlington and at Stratton Mountain. Last year individual BFA Fairfax members joined forces to create a truly amazing Penguin Plunge team.

A BFA Fairfax student bravely takes the Penguin Plunge to support Special Olympics Vermont.

A BFA Fairfax student bravely takes the Penguin Plunge to support Special Olympics Vermont.

Together, the 16 team members raised just under $4,500 for Special Olympics Vermont! Their fundraising efforts provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in thirteen Olympic-type sports for more than 1,310 athletes with intellectual disabilities. The organization works to break down barriers for children and adults with disabilities and provide life-changing sports opportunities. Unified Sports offers students with and without disabilities opportunities to train and compete together as they build communities of respect and inclusion.

The BFA Fairfax Penguin Plunge Team 2017!

The BFA Fairfax Penguin Plunge Team 2017!

This year’s Penguin Plunge will take place at the Burlington Waterfront Park on February 3, 2018. The event starts at 9am and teams will enter the water in staggered waves beginning at 11am. We are looking for participants! Please join, Heather Weeks, Cindy Anderson, Saybra Varisano, Madison Lutz, Michelle Lynch, Wyeth Haddock, Hunter French, Wyatt French, Rowan Albee, Tristan Metruk, Josh Metruk, Aydin Naylor, Adam Lawrence and Oliver Lawrence plunge into the icy waters of Lake Champlain.

Taking the icy Plunge for a good cause!

Taking the icy Plunge for a good cause!

Want to be part of the Penguin Plunge in 2018? There’s still time to register for the BFA Fairfax team. If you would support the work of Special Olympics Vermont you can make a donation to our team – it’s fast and easy.

Team BFA Fairfax!

Team BFA Fairfax!

Join us at the Penguin Plunge 2018 and cheer us on as we show that we’ve got 32 degrees of courage!

THE FWSU STORY: A Closer Look at the Arts at BFA Fairfax Elementary

The last few weeks have provided multiple opportunities for our elementary students to showcase their hard work and performance skills to authentic audiences and our students have not disappointed.


The cast of Hansel & Gretel

This time of year is always full of events that engage our community in celebrating our music, visual, and dramatic arts programs. Whether a band concert, a holiday choral concert, a showcase of student artwork posted throughout the school, or a drama performance, our students are challenging themselves to learn and grow.

3-5 Grade Concert

3-5 Grade Concert


3-5 Grade Concert

The Arts programs at BFA Fairfax have steadily grown over the past few years through the opportunities and numbers of students participating. I am so proud of our students for enthusiastically embracing the opportunities to act, sing, play music, and create artwork.


Elementary Artwork

Elementary Artwork

Elementary Artwork

We are fortunate to have amazing staff members that foster our students’ interest and share their passion for the Arts.


K-2 Concert

Finally, a huge thank you to our community for providing the financial support, continuing to attend our concerts and plays, and admiring our emerging artists.

Elementary Artwork

Elementary Artwork

The past few weeks have served as another reminder to me that the Arts are thriving at BFA Fairfax Elementary!

Principal Tom Walsh

Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary Middle School and is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @educatamount

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Students Experience World Cultures at the International Festival

On December 1st, students in BFA World Language classes attended the International Festival in Essex.


The International Festival is held in Essex each year.

The students were working to meet the Culture Proficiency in the World Language Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements. The International Festival is sponsored by the Vermont Performing Arts League as “annual celebration of cultures from around the world, bring their crafts, food, music, and dance to our doorstep.” The field trip was organized by BFA World Language teachers Kerri Brien and Alana Torraca.

“It was a great experience at the Vermont International Festival to see the other cultures around world and experience what they experience.” -Student

Students learned more about world cultures through this experience.

Students learned more about world cultures at the International Festival.

The students’ goal was to answer the question: “What is culture?” and help to create a diversity statement for BFA.  When they arrived, the students entered an exhibition hall filled with crafters from over 40 countries. They interacted with the crafters and were able to purchase items for themselves and others.


Items from around the world were available for purchase and were on display.

“It was exciting to move in sync toward a cultural competency goal with our growing World Languages program!  I witnessed BFA Fairfax students at the Vermont International Festival tasting international foods they’ve never seen before and bringing home the unique crafts from a variety of countries.” -Kerri Brien, Spanish teacher


Musicians provided students with an intercultural learning experience during the trip.

Within the main hall, there were two performance spaces featuring a variety of musicians from different cultures. Several students took advantage of the opportunity to dance along with other students in attendance.


The international food was an incredible experience for our students!

Near one of the performances spaces, the Festival had a food court where students were able to purchase ethnic food from countries including Ethiopia, Austria, Africa, Turkey, Tibet and the Philippines.

Students presented their learning to the rest of the school.

Cultural Ambassadors presented their learning to the rest of the school.

“Because Fairfax is such a small school the International Festival was a great way to view all the cultures we don’t usually see.” -Student

After a morning spent exploring culture, the students returned to BFA to begin the work of making meaning out of their experience-which is where learning happens. They created visual representations of culture. They surveyed other students and staff about diversity. The students displayed their cultural ideas at a cultural fair in the high school main lobby. They displayed artifacts (many from the collections of their teachers), videos and their definitions of culture. Students from the elementary, middle and high schools stopped to speak with and learn from our cultural ambassadors.

“As we continued to explore culture and diversity after the festival, students looked at diversity statements from other schools and discussed the need for a diversity statement at BFA.” -Alana Torraca, French teacher

Clothing from around the world was on display at school.

Clothing from around the world was on display at school.

“It’s important to show that diversity is not what you look like or what you wear; it’s about what you believe and value”- Weston, student