Congratulations 2017 BFA Fairfax Graduates!



“There’s a lot of important lessons that you learn in high school. However, the lessons that I may have learned may not be the same as my classmates. All of our experiences were different in high school. There were highs and lows for every single one of us. But I hope that you will look back on these days as some of the best of your life.” – Jake Hakey, President of the Class of 2017



“We will have to face our fears of the unknown, our fears of failure, and our fears of the future. So how do we overcome these fears? Trust yourself and the process. Know that your experiences have shaped you into the person that you are today and that you have the talents, capabilities, and skills to achieve your goals as long as you put in the effort and hard work.” – Rebekah Larose, Salutatorian



“Never be afraid to take time to yourself.  Practice self-care every day, whether that be by drinking a cup of tea, or getting eight hours of sleep.  You are the most important person in your life.  Give yourself the care you deserve.”  Sophie Lee, Valedictorian



“For the first time, the structure and protections we have experienced as children and young adults will no longer be there to shield us from our mistakes and the variables of life. From this moment forward, we are truly exposed to the world, free to make our own decisions and experience new life.” – Julia Stergas, Class of 2017




“I believe that they have fulfilled our vision. BFA Fairfax graduates have the knowledge, skills, and experiences to make the best choices for themselves, their profession, and their community. All that they need now is to take that leap of faith into their future.” – John Tague, High School Principal




“Congratulations to the graduating Class of 2017. What a wonderful group of students!” – Ned Kirsch, FWSU Superintendent






Congratulations, graduates! We are so proud of your accomplishments!

FWSU Students Seek Answers Using GPS Technology


As a culminating event to an orienteering unit, first-graders took their learning outside with GPS units. Under the guidance of fifth-grade student leaders, the first graders learned how to program and navigate with the GPS units.

Global Positioning System (GPS) is a technology that is obviously embedded in our students’ everyday lives. This technology can help students explore real-world problems in an interdisciplinary and engaging way. When you combine this technology, with gamification, you get geocaching. Geocaching is an activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates.

To prepare for the navigation activity, the fifth-grade student leaders set up a geocaching course for the first graders. During the outdoor activity, students work in groups and used GPS units to locate various waypoints in the schoolyard at BFA that were hidden but the fifth-grade leaders to gather puzzle pieces.


First-graders persevered as teams to navigate and seek the geocaches using their problem-solving skills to reach their goal of finding the hidden caches. Each team member took turns in different roles as they helped contribute to their teams.


After successfully finding all 25 geocaches, the first-grade team returned to their classes and used the puzzle pieces they had gathered to completed the final stage of the challenge, making a final map.


A special thanks to the hardworking fifth-grade student leaders who made this all possible. Their leadership with the lower grades students was a valuable lesson for all.


Appreciating our School Administrative Support Staff

The end of the year is right around the corner and soon the hustle and bustle of our hallways and classrooms will be quiet. Throughout the year we rely on our bus drivers to pick up and drop off our students safely – thank you. We rely on our maintenance and custodial staff to keeps our schools clean – thank you. We rely on our para-educators to support our students in the classroom – thank you. We rely on our nurses to keep us all safe and healthy – thank you. We rely on our teachers to deliver a world class education – thank you. And we rely on our administrators to make sure our schools are nothing less than awesome – thank you.

But in today’s’ story, I want to shine the spotlight and thank our building office professionals who are the first faces of our schools.

IMG_3881They serve a multitude of roles and frankly our schools could not run efficiently without them. They keep track of all the details from scheduling the principal to managing parking spaces.


They take every phone call and help deliver “forgotten” lunch boxes and musical instruments. They organize school mailings and make sure all of the student data is up to date and correct.


They organize graduation and make sure every transcript and reference letter is delivered to the right college. They know all of our students and families. They find lost clothing and sometimes offer first aid.

All in all, they always make sure that everything in the school is just right. And we know that our schools could not do it all without each of you – thank you, Carol, Jen, Val, Sally, Corrina, Rhonda, Aleta, and Sharon!


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Ned Kirsch is Superintendent of Schools at FWSU. He is a constant contributor to The FWSU Story. You can follow him on Twitter @betaVT

FWSU Welcomes Jessica Castine as New School Psychologist

FWSU is pleased to announce that Jessica Castine has joined our district as our new School Psychologist.

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Jessica Castine is a licensed School Psychologist that has worked in a variety of settings including public schools, post-secondary education, mental health agencies, and clinical facilities. She obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the State University of New York, College at Plattsburgh. She earned a Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Studies in School Psychology from the State University of New York, College at Plattsburgh.

Jessica has a strong knowledge and extensive experience working with childhood/adolescent disabilities, as well as counseling, psychological assessments, and behavioral programming. She has worked with a variety of individuals with disabilities/disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Traumatic Brain Injuries, etc. Jessica’s professional experiences include working at Chittenden East Supervisory Union, Howard Center, and the Neuropsychology Clinic at Plattsburgh State University. She will use her extensive knowledge to help students succeed.

Jessica will coordinate and utilize resources to expand the continuum of specialized instruction and intervention and increase the capacity to meet the needs of all students while reducing contracted evaluation services. She will conduct evaluations for special education purposes along with proactively focusing on behavioral needs across the district. She will provide Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) training to support the creation and implementation of behavior plans. She will also collect data on the use of 1:1 supports to ensure that students are receiving the most effective services possible.

We are excited to have Jessica join the FWSU team! Her expertise will enhance our capacity to support the needs of all learners.

FWSU Early Educators Share Knowledge, Expertise & Beliefs

Providing high quality pre-school education in all of our communities is a constant focus at FWSU. Preschool provides a foundation for learning both socially and academically, that experts agree, will help children in elementary school. The mission of FWSU’s Early Education program is to nurture young children’s sense of wonder while laying a solid foundation for lifelong learning through a play based, inclusive environment. fweet5We are fortunate to have an outstanding early education team at FWSU. Working together this year, the Franklin West Early Education Teachers (FWEET) and FWSU Act 166 Coordinator Diana Langston, have been sharing their knowledge and expertise with each other.   Discussions on pedagogy and curriculum have enabled the team to define the mission statement, philosophy and program goals of FWSU’s Early Education program. In addition, the team also developed an Early Education Handbook for the 2017-2018 school year. The handbook will be a guide for parents wanting to understand more about our programs.

The following is an overview of our program’s philosophy.

Our early education programs are based on the belief that young children learn best through active involvement in their environment and develop their skills and knowledge through these experiences. This involvement promotes the growth and development of the whole child; physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually.

We believe that children learn best in a hands-on environment that is nurturing, inviting, and supportive to experiment and take risks.  Ultimately, children are encouraged to embrace their own specific learning style.  Our classroom learning environments are designed to make children feel safe physically, psychologically, socially and intellectually. This environment allows children to explore and interact with adults, other children and to self select a variety of materials. With compassion and insight, we implement best practices in our work with young children across all developmental domains.

Our teachers focus on developing relationships, taking time to get to know all children, their families and background, their interests and passions, their learning styles and the way they think.  Teachers act as facilitators:  asking questions, presenting challenges, and supporting the children’s efforts to make meaning.  Sometimes teachers take a more active role by introducing new content, ideas and materials.  Teachers create a community within the classroom where all children feel encouraged to share ideas and opinions.  They observe, document, cheer and reflect in order to nurture children’s self esteem and skill development.  The children learn as much from each other as they do from adults in their learning community.

Teachers include families in the learning community. Each child’s family and cultural identity is respected as partnerships are formed between home and school. Ongoing communication is vital so that teachers and families work together to support the uniqueness of each child’s learning and development. Teachers are architects of a community of learners, wherein all children have a sense of belonging. Working together, teachers and families can fortify this sensibility outside of home and school, constructing a caring community into which every child can step with confidence.  

“Childhood, we believe, is of itself, important and to be cherished.” – Franklin West Early Education Teachers.


Target 2 – Leadership FWSU students and staff lead innovative, personalized learning opportunities, both locally and globally.

Action Step -Design multiple avenues for staff to lead, advocate, and serve within the school and community

Indicator of Success – Staff leaders innovate and take risks when faced with new challenges


Celebrating Our FWSU First-Year Teachers

Last week about 20 teachers who were “new” just 10 short months ago joined their mentors, FWSU Mentor Coordinators, and administrators to celebrate their first year. The event took place at the Grace Farm October Barn in Fairfax.


Teachers had time to catch up with each other, their mentors, and various school personnel who joined us to share the highlights of a long day, the newly warm weeks, and most importantly, their first year.


Superintendent Ned Kirsch and Director of Curriculum Linda Keating welcomed everyone and thanked them for choosing FWSU and for their service to our students. Psychologist Joelle van Lent was the featured speaker. Dr. van Lent brought this group of teachers full circle to reflect on such an important year in their teaching lives. She was the featured speaker in August, supporting our new teachers along with the FWSU Mentoring Program in building “communities of resilience.” Her work then centered around fostering resilience of students. For this celebration, she focused on the resilience of the teacher.


Dr. van Lent shared many factors that can promote the resilience of teachers and lead to greater satisfaction. Some of those factors are resourcefulness; having vision, goals, and purpose; humor; optimism and hope; flexibility; and an open mind. These factors resonated with our teachers, along with two other critical factors that new teachers consistently report that their mentors provide: social support and an active approach to problem-solving.


Dr. van Lent also urged the group to focus on the positive aspects of their identity as teachers who work diligently to meet the diverse needs of all learners. She stressed the importance of taking a deliberate pause to reflect on their dedication and service to students, the comfort of collegial support, and most especially, pride in the talents and resources that they each bring to the job.


And true-to-form in her understanding of teachers, it was fitting that Dr. van Lent would leave this group with a new set of ABCs for resilience: Awareness, Balance, and Connection.


The celebration culminated with awarding certificates of participation and appreciation for the new teachers and their mentors, as well as our three Program Coordinators: Amy Rider, Melinda Carpenter, and Emily DiGiulio. In addition, all teachers in attendance received a copy of Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom by Patricia A. Jennings, a perfect read for some well-earned relaxation time this summer.

FWSU Amplifies Personalized Learning for Professionals

In an effort to further personalize learning for FWSU teachers this year, in addition to the FWSU Professional Learning Institutes, teachers were offered an opportunity to extend and deepen their professional knowledge and skills through a graduate-level independent study.

The FWSU Deeper Learning Institute is an action research model for professional learning which uses the Plan-Do-Study-Act Model. Teachers design and execute their plan to address one or more areas of professional practice in teaching and learning, incorporating one or more of the 4 Targets of the FWSU Action Plan: Proficiency-based Personalized Learning, Leadership, Flexible Learning Environments, Engaged Community Partners.

To accomplish their goals, participants in the Deeper Learning Institute create and implement a Personal Learning Plan and both develop and use Professional Learning Targets and Scales to help themselves deepen their own learning of 21st century pedagogy that also results in Deeper Learning competencies for students in the areas of content knowledge, transferable skills, and growth mindset. These competencies will help our students reach new understandings and growing levels of proficiency.

Participants are required to target one or more of these areas of Deeper Learning in Professional Practice in their learning plan:

  • Curating Learning: How do I build a big picture perspective of the goals and outcomes of proficiency-based learning along with the personal skills and interests of my students into my planning process?
  • Launching Learning: How can I construct lessons and learning opportunities that invite students into the learning process and maximize their success in a proficiency-based learning system?
  • Consolidating and Transferring Learning: How can I use a variety of strategies and tools that will ensure all students can consolidate and transfer important learning in meaningful and personal ways?
  • Assessing Learning: What kind of assessment strategies can be used to enhance learning impact, close the gap between teaching and learning, and provide reliable evidence of proficiency?
  • Personalizing Learning: What kinds of designs help to make learning personal and how does that impact instruction that must be designed to meet the needs of all students in progress toward proficiency?
  • Supporting Learning: How do I create strong, caring, and trusting relationships with students to facilitate and personalize learning, and ensure that all students get the instruction and intervention they need to make continuous progress toward proficiency?
  • Leading Learning: How can I participate fully in my school and contribute to a culture of practice and engagement in quality, proficiency-based learning systems?

In May 2017, the participants will attend a culminating event with their peers and invited guests to present their findings along with a plan to standardize their actions and impact larger-scale school improvement.