THE FWSU STORY: Farm to School Harvest Supper Connects Fairfax Community

On a beautiful October night, the BFA Fairfax Farm to School Club was proud to host its first Harvest Supper.

BFA Fairfax Farm Garden

BFA Fairfax students harvesting vegetables from the School Farm for the Harvest Dinner.

The dinner hosted 200 guests and brought together families and community partners to celebrate the start of autumn, and showcase local products, much of it provided by the BFA Fairfax school garden.

Families enjoying the Harvest Dinner.

Families enjoying the Harvest Supper.

The Farm to School Club coordinated this entire event from menu planning and cooking, public relations, ticket sales, event logistics and entertainment. This was the culmination of two years of work by our students and staff to create a PreK-12 Farm to School program in our school.

In addition to providing for the meal, students offered live entertainment!

During the meal, students provided live entertainment!

In the fall of 2015, a small group of interested volunteers including a school nurse, a parent, a high school student, the chef from the Abbey Group, and a principal attended a Farm To School seminar in Middlebury, where we began formulating a plan to bring Farm to School to Fairfax.

Harvest Dinner 8

Community members tour the School Farm.

Upon our return, several high school students began meeting with Fred Griffin to develop a Farm to School Club and began researching and developing a plan to create a farm behind the elementary school building.  The students learned about the University of Vermont Design process, and with support from Jane Sorenson,  wrote a step by step Master Plan.

A delicious harvest meal was served up by students!

A delicious harvest meal was served up by students!

Fast-forward to the fall of 2017 and our Farm to School program is thriving. Students are maintaining a 4000 square foot production garden that provides fresh produce every day to the cafeteria for consumption by our students and staff.  We have built a greenhouse, a toolshed and installed water and power to support our work.  Students have expanded the size of our farm by plowing and cover-cropping plots for each grade level, designed and built a bridge to access a drainage ditch, planted apple trees, a blueberry and raspberry nursery, and developed a composting area.  Our students’ success through Farm to School was recognized in February of 2017 when Shannon Mahoney and Caitlin Allan spoke to other Farm to School programs, state representatives, and the Governor about our journey and the impact on our school community.

Harvest Dinner 6

BFA Fairfax High School Teacher Fred Griffin speaks at the Harvest Supper.

We are really proud of how this program has resonated with students, staff, and community members. The Harvest Supper marked the beginning of a new tradition that will bring our community together to enjoy a wonderful meal, allow community members to engage with each other, and provide an authentic audience for our students to showcase their work and learning through their participation in the Farm to School program.

BFA Fairfax is excited about this new community tradition to celebrate the School Farm harvest bounty!

BFA Fairfax is excited about this new community tradition to celebrate the School Farm harvest bounty!

THE FWSU STORY: Celebrating Outstanding Teachers of 2017

Each year, the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont, together with Supervisory Unions and School Districts across the state, join together to honor the accomplishments of our state’s outstanding educators. Two outstanding teachers from FWSU were recognized in a ceremony at the Grand Maple Ballroom in the Dudley H. Davis Center at UVM on October 12, 2017. 

Amy Rider and Tammy Boissoneault

FWSU Outstanding Teachers of 2017 with their Principals


Tammy Boissoneault is the type of educator we all aspire to be. First and foremost, she is committed to ensuring that all students find their place, their voice, and their passion inside and outside the classroom.

Throughout her career, she has been a strong advocate for educating the whole child. She was instrumental in the successful implementation of the Responsive Classroom model nearly two decades ago. This work is a critical component of the BFA Fairfax environment even to this day.

Tammy and Amy at the Outstanding Teacher Celebration

Tammy and Amy at the Outstanding Teacher Celebration!

“We are fortunate and grateful to have Tammy as a member of the faculty at BFA Fairfax.  She has made a profound difference in the lives of countless students and families in our community.  Please join me in congratulating Tammy Boissoneault as this year’s BFA Teacher of the year!” – Principal Tom Walsh


Tom Walsh is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Elementary Middle School. You can follow him on Twitter @ecucatamount




GEMS School Librarian Amy Rider is dedicated to students and staff all year long. Her tireless efforts are always given with a smile, and her creative talents often go by unnoticed. Amy is here throughout the summer and works late each day. She works tirelessly to keep the library current in all ways. Amy is dedicated, thoughtful, helpful, and a fountain of knowledge!

GEMS Outstanding Teacher Amy Rider

2017 Outstanding Teacher Amy Rider with Principal Frank Calano, Georgia Elementary Middle School

As an educator, Amy is conscientious and tuned into the needs of all students.  Amy has the ability to help all grade levels. She is patient, helpful and always working to benefit our students.  She often goes above what’s required to benefit the children of Georgia.  She knows each student by name and knows their personalities. Amy truly cares about every child’s access to books of interest.  She connects with students on all levels and supports teachers in achieving their students’ reading goals. Amy reads to each elementary class and brings books to the preschool classes.

Amy helps teachers with themes/research information; she is generous with her time and resources and will do whatever she can to support students and staff.  She is very flexible and knowledgeable – always researching something new for teachers and always willing to help teachers with extra duties pertaining to their curriculum. She jumps in to help out and is always willing to do extra. Amy is respectful, responsible, safe and helpful in a positive way.


Amy collaborates with students and staff at GEMS.

Take one look at the library!  Amy has worked so hard to create a special physical environment; a welcoming, modern space for GEMS and the Georgia Community. She is a magician with the use of space, technology, and books to enrich and further the progress of ALL GEMS’ community of learners…from the age of 3 to 73! She is an incredible problem solver and remains open-minded and hopeful in all circumstances.

Amy is a true star in our buildings and exemplifies PBIS in words and actions.  Her contributions to the school climate are so important; it’s like she affects us all in a quiet and positive way. The library is the heart of the school. Amy is that heart.

Congratulations, Amy, GEMS is proud of you!

frank calano


Frank Calano is the Middle School Principal at Georgia Elementary Middle School. You can follow him on Twitter  @calano_frank

THE FWSU STORY: Coffee House Still Going Strong at BFA Fairfax

Coffee House Mural at BFA Fairfax

On Friday nights throughout the year, the Middle School Gym is transformed into an intimate performance space filled with students, parents, and other community members.

Students share their talents with peers at BFA Coffee House!

Students share their talents with peers at BFA Coffee House!

Last Friday night was the kickoff to another season of BFA Coffee House. Coffee House is a student-led, student-produced, and student-performed event that showcases the talent of our amazing young people (and occasionally, staff members) surrounded by baked goods and, of course, coffee.

Coffee House has been a tradition at BFA for the past ten years. Obviously, the students who initiated this exciting opportunity have graduated, but new leaders have emerged to keep the show moving forward. In addition to fresh leadership, each year new students arrive bringing their own unique talent and energy to the project.

“It’s really nice to learn a new song and be able to perform it in front of a community. It’s a cultural mixing pot for the arts. It’s a safe environment.” – Quentin, Student Performer


BFA’s Coffee House is produced and performed by students!

One of the best parts of the first Coffee House is watching new students take a risk and share their talent with their peers. The performer’s excitement when they hear the cheers of the crowd is exhilarating. Typically, students continue to perform throughout the rest of their high school career. This makes every Coffee House a custom blend of new talent and seasoned performers — a mix of singing, poetry, comedy, piano, and magic.


Many students continue to perform at BFA Coffee House throughout their high school experience.

“I love the sense of community. We are all supportive of the community and each other. We all come together to appreciate the arts.” – Annalise, Student Performer

The next Coffee House is scheduled for December 1st at BFA Fairfax. Mark it on your calendar so you don’t miss this student-designed and orchestrated experience.

A Year of Innovation, Part III

This is the third and final blog post in the series featuring the unique innovative lab spaces enhance learning at FWSU.  FWSU is proud to offer innovation spaces in all three of our schools. and how each of them impacts student learning. Today, you can learn about innovation space at Fletcher Elementary.


Last year, Fletcher School received a 3D scanner, 3D printer, 10 HP Notebooks, a large format printer and large format display to create a Learning Studio in the classroom. Students use the equipment to participate in tasks provided by Digital Promise. This digital learning studio was awarded as an effort from HP and Microsoft’s to provide and support next-generation learning, international collaboration and the “maker” movement in education.


In addition, as a result of FWSU Launch, Fletcher school also purchased The Fletcher School purchased 15 OSMO units last month as part of a Launch FWSU Grant underwritten by the Bay and Paul FoundationOSMO is a revolutionary new technology that uses the camera vision of an iPad, along with a specially designed reflector, to recognize and capture what is happening in front of it. In other words, it combines digital vision and recording with the physical manipulation of materials.


This year, the innovation space is continuing to grow with the addition of the mobile maker space. This new resource will allow the innovation space to expand and be a part of multiple classrooms. In addition, FES is looking how it can incorporate the Cricut Maker as a tool for students to use in creative design.


Fletcher’s innovation spaces are designed to creatively make the most of the digital learning tools for a school of their size. We are looking forward to all of the innovative learning projects that will be designed in the innovative spaces at Fletcher.


THE FWSU STORY: Teacher Evaluation Committee Moves Forward

This year a team of teachers and administrators have started work to re-vamp the FWSU Evaluation System for teachers. The committee kicked off this week with our first meeting.  This is the fifth year of the committee and includes representation from all three of the schools in our district.  We have a variety of people that includes administration and teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school level.

The Appreciate Inquiry model.

The Appreciate Inquiry model.

The current system, developed five years ago, has served our system well. When we first introduced our current system we added features that changed the nature of how we approached evaluation and supervision. One of the features introduced was what we called the mini-observation.  Mini-observations have allowed our building principals to be in classrooms often and has also allowed them to give teachers lots of formative feedback too. Another important feature added was the idea of stakeholder feedback. Last year every student and parent had the opportunity to give feedback on their classes and school.


New teachers learning about the FWSU Teacher Evaluation model.

Although our current system works well and has allowed for innovation, it is time to move our system forward. Last year the Evaluation Committee put forward the idea of making our evaluation system mirror our schools work on proficiency for students. A system based on evidence and not mired in paperwork.evaluationWe began by using the appreciative inquiry protocol to guide our meeting and help set the agenda for our work this year.

We all had opportunities to share what we appreciate about our evaluation process, what could be, what should be, and what will be.  Key components of our discussion came back to meaningful work that encourages growth and is responsive to individual teachers.  Specifically:

  • “What Will Be:
    • Will value our teaching and encourage growth
    • Will recognize strengths and resources in our system and share those in new and innovative ways
    • Will clearly and obviously improve both academic instruction and the social/emotional learning environment
    • Will provide multiple sources of feedback (stakeholders: peer, too)
    • Will have a system or an approach for peer feedback
    • Will be part of a coherent system, integrated with other FWSU processes
    • Will be a safe process focused on improving instruction
    • Will be flexible and responsive to individual teachers
    • Will be clear, accessible, consistent, and easy to understand


While we have many steps on our path this year, we have our direction in sight and we look forward to sharing new ideas with you all!

h sikorsky


Heather Sikorsky is a third-grade classroom teacher at Georgia Elementary Middle School. She serves on the FWSU Evaluation Committee.


Ned Kirsch Superintendent


Ned Kirsch is the Superintendent of Schools at FWSU. You can follow him on Twitter at @betavt

Welcoming New Paraeducators to FWSU

Paraeducators are an integral component to ensuring the success our of learning community. All paraeducators provide valuable services to students in need of additional support. They fill many important roles in supporting the academic and behavioral needs of students. The roles of paraeducators vary depending upon the needs of the students. They provide individualized support to students in need and are essential to the educational team. They inspire, encourage, advocate, and support all learners.

We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all of our wonderful paraeducators for their important work supporting all of our students!  Their contributions are valued in FWSU.

  • New Paraeducators at BFA Fairfax  
Crystal Maynard

Crystal Maynard

Kori Caldwell

Kori Caldwell

Erin McKechnie

Erin McKechnie

William Pebler

William Pebler

karissa peltier

Karissa Peltier

Anna Phillips

Anna Phillips

Shannon Arnzen

Shannon Arnzen


  • New Paraeducators at Fletcher Elementary School
Caroline Hassan

Caroline Hassan


  • New Paraeducators at Georgia Elementary Middle School 
kaitlyn adams

Kaitlyn Adams

Anthony Lorenzo

Anthony Lorenzo

Virginia Gonyeau-Gutkopf

Virginia Gonyeau-Gutkopf

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith

Beatrice Potter

Beatrice Potter

Amy Popovitch

Amy Popovitch

Beyond the Championship Banner: How BFA Fairfax Defines Success in Co-Curricular Athletics


Pep rallies, homecoming events, last-second winning shots, bonfires, and state championship games – these can embody some of the fondest and exciting memories of our high school years.  BFA Fairfax has been extremely fortunate to experience immense success in our athletic programs.  Multiple state championships, numerous league titles, and dozens of individual all-league and all-state selections are the result of driven and talented students, as well as passionate and knowledgeable coaches.  However, team talent is often cyclical, and inevitably a team will have a period that doesn’t quite meet some people’s notion of success as it pertains to the win-loss column.  


In a December 2016 article published by the National Federation of State High School Associations, Dr. David Hoch writes “A basic premise of education-based athletics is that winning is not the only or ultimate objective.  Instead, the growth and development – and this does not mean sport-specific skills – of student-athletes is the most important goal.”  At BFA Fairfax, this commitment to growth and development through athletic participation includes fostering skills in leadership, sportsmanship, communication, overcoming adversity, humility, perseverance, group success over individual success, and service to others.


Dr. Hoch identifies leadership, sportsmanship, team community service projects, and participation rates as some of the important indicators of the success of a school’s athletic programs.  I’m proud to outline these indicators as they relate to BFA Fairfax.



Each November BFA Fairfax sends eight student-athletes to the VPA/VSADA Student Leadership Conference.  This annual event hosts hundreds of the top student-athlete leaders from all Vermont high schools.  During two intensive days of training in leadership, goal setting, and life skills with renowned athletic and motivational speakers from across the country, our students gain valuable knowledge and insight to bring back to their school and teams.  The leadership skills and commitment to service demonstrated by our student-athletes in recent years have been a direct result of our students attending this annual event, and the countless dividends continue to be paid forward to our school and the greater community.



BFA Fairfax takes great pride in the multiple state Sportsmanship Award banners hanging in the Richard A. Brown Gymnasium.  Our teams, athletes, and coaches are often known as humble and compassionate, finding ways to avoid running up a score against a struggling team, or demonstrating respect to officials during a match or game.  Frequently it is our student-athletes who are identifying inappropriate fan behavior on the sidelines or stands in the midst of a game, and reporting it to coaches to have it addressed.  Although there is always room for improvement, BFA Fairfax makes every effort to embody the concept of sportsmanship throughout our athletic community.


Team Community Service Projects

Service to others is one of the core covenants of the BFA Fairfax athletic program.  In any given year, there are multiple athletic events geared toward giving back to our community or the greater world.  Recent student-driven service initiatives have included the annual Pink Zone cancer fundraising basketball games, Melanoma Society awareness games, Homecoming week events supporting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and Hunger Free Vermont, as well as more local initiatives such as officiating youth sporting events, offering free sport clinics, and assisting with upkeep of our school athletic fields.  


Participation Rates

For the past five years, annual participation rates in co-curricular activities (including non-athletic activities) at BFA Fairfax has steadily remained at 65-80% of our student population.  According to Dr. Hoch, “While some might argue that young people are more likely to be a member of a winning team, a survey of athletes will likely reveal that they participate because they enjoy being with their friends in a positive learning environment.  When a school’s teams are filled to capacity and offer every team level possible, success has occurred regardless of the seasonal win-loss records.” With research consistently demonstrating the intangible benefits of co-curricular participation, the 65-80% participation rate at BFA Fairfax is something of which we are extremely proud.  


As a former high school and collegiate athlete, I would be remiss if I said I did not enjoy winning.  However, as a coach, athletic director and administrator, my idea of athletic success has greatly transitioned since my playing days.  Empowering students to be confident, contributing members of society, who embrace a “we before me” mentality, and learn valuable life skills THROUGH athletics, is the ultimate definition of success. The championship banners and league titles are just icing on the cake, and if you do all the little things right, you’d be surprised how much icing you truly have.  


Hoch, D. 2016, December 20, Ideas on measuring success in high school athletics, National Federation of State High School Associations, retrieved September 19, 2017 from

Geri Witalec

Geri-Lyn Witalec is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at Bellows Free Academy Fairfax.