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: Celebrating 30 Days of Kindness at Georgia School

GEMS students celebrate kindness

This year, the fifth graders at Georgia Elementary Middle School are focusing on kindness.  Teachers started the year challenging the students to 30 days of random acts of kindness.  The students kept track of their acts of kindness on slips of paper and hung them outside Mr. Demar’s and Ms. Mandigo’s classrooms. 

During these 30 days, we saw students inviting new peers to sit with them at lunch or including them in play at recess. Teachers saw students leaving notes of appreciation for our custodial staff and other staff members throughout the school. They witnessed students picking up items off the floor that other students had dropped.  Teachers saw students supporting and encouraging each other. It has been great to experience all the random acts of kindness being extended by so many of our students. 

Along with the 30 days of random acts of kindness, each student painted a kindness rock. These rocks are under the lone tree by the labyrinth. 

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”


Through a generous grant, the entire fifth-grade teaching staff and students were presented with Be Kind t-shirts. These shirts will be worn by all of fifth-grade on the last Friday of each month. The last Friday of the month is also when the fifth-grade students are recognized for their many talents.

GEMS students display their kindness t-shirts

Building on the theme of kindness, fifth-grade students will participate in a Holiday Toy Drive for children. As many students as possible will bring gifts to school by December 14th to distribute within our community. 

It has been a great start to the school year!

UN SDG Global Goal 4: Quality Education

THE FWSU STORY: Playing with Math and Literacy in Georgia Preschool

If you visit our preschool classrooms you will find so many learning opportunities for children.


These children were playing bakery and wanted to take down orders.


Children are given many different writing tools and mediums to explore writing and drawing.  When children experiment with writing tools, they develop symbolic thinking skills and fine motor skills.  Marks take on meaning.


This boy was saying letter names as he made marks on his paper.


These children were playing restaurant and taking orders.


Two of the preschool classrooms have “Shape Shops” up and running in dramatic play.  The shape shops are places where you can buy shapes.  You should hear the math language being used as children buy and sell shapes.  They can use the shapes to create a piece of art!


There are shapes to cut in the sensory table…


There are shapes to play with on the tables!


Math and literacy opportunities pop up in the most unexpected places.  What opportunities do your children have at home?  If you start looking and noticing, I bet you will be surprised at how many opportunities there are in your conversations, routines, and play.

Stay connected with all that is happening by visiting the Georgia Elementary Preschool Program blog

THE FWSU STORY: The Fairfax Long Range Facilities Planning Committee is Looking For Your Feedback

The Long Range Facilities Planning Committee (LRFPC) consisting of community members, school board representatives, administrators, staff members, and parents continue the process of developing recommendations to address the future needs of our school building.

LFCPC Blog 1

The charge of this committee is to determine the facility requirements that will support current and future educational, safety and physical needs of our students, staff, and community for the next twenty-five years.

LFCPC Blog 5

At the same time, remaining aware of the fiscal constraints of our budget and community.

LFCPC Blog 2

The committee developed a list of improvement projects that have been identified through input from our community, school personnel, and building assessments.

LFCPC Blog 3

We are asking for community members to rate each project in terms of how important that item is for you in an overall building plan. The projects have been separated into four different categories: (1) Safety, (2) Efficiencies, (3) Accessibility and (4) Opportunity.

LFCPC Blog 4

Please complete this Building Improvement Questionnaire for the BFA Fairfax School to provide input to the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee by clicking on this link below:

Or you can access the survey using this QR Code:


There will also be paper copies of the questionnaire and drop boxes located at the Fairfax Green Senior Housing, the BFA Fairfax Library, the Post Office, and the Fairfax Town Office.

Please feel free to contact Tom Walsh or John Tague if you have any questions or concerns at and/or  We look forward to continuing to engage our community in a process that serves our students for the next several decades.


THE FWSU STORY: What’s Happening in GEMS Preschool

It has been an exciting month of learning in the Preschool at GEMS! This year we currently have 88 preschoolers in our program who are placed in six preschool classes. Here is a look behind the scenes into the classrooms where our children learn and play.


Miss Sweet’s PM Class


Mrs. Howrigan’s PM Class


Mr. Anthony’s Afternoon Class


Mr. Anthony’s Morning Class


Mrs. Howrigan’s Morning Class


Miss Sweet’s Morning Class


Stay connected with all that is happening by visiting the Georgia Elementary Preschool Program blog

UN SDG Global Goal 4: Quality Education

Georgia Elementary Principal Steve Emery smiles as student stands by

THE #FWSU STORY: Celebrating National Principals Month!

October National Principals Month and I want to thank all of our building principals for their work. It’s no secret that the key to student success is a great school, and the key to a great school is a great principal.

Students pose with Principal John Tague and Assistant Principal Geri Witalec-Krupa
BFA Fairfax Secondary Principal John Tague and Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Geri Witalec-Krupa

The great thing about being is a principal is that each day, sometimes each hour, is a new and different experience. An “ordinary” work day is nothing but a dream and most days, no matter what the plan is, that plan is always subject to change. It makes each day fun and every day a challenge.

Principal Christopher Dodge pictured with two Fletcher Elementary students
Fletcher Elementary Principal Chris Dodge

Our principals set high standards for their schools and work tirelessly with students and teachers to make everything work. They are at home observing and evaluating classrooms as they are supervising a lunchroom filled with students, putting on a band aid or just having fun at bus time.

Georgia Elementary Principal Steve Emery smiles as student stands by
GEMS Elementary Principal Steve Emery

Our principals care about each and every one of our students. They want them all to be successful not only in school but in every facet of life. They are there to support students when asked and sometimes when they aren’t – they just know.

BFA Fairfax Secondary Principal John Tague
BFA Fairfax Middle/High Principal John Tague

I know our principal’s worry in private and lose sleep over issues that occur in school. But each morning they arrive and push everything else aside to find new ways to get things done. Most times, principals smile and nod although the to-do list of tasks seem endless.

Ultimately the most important attribute that all of our principals share is the love and trust they have in the schools in which they work. Our schools are so fortunate to have amazing school leaders!

BFA Fairfax Elementary Principal Tom Walsh poses with classroom of students
BFA Fairfax Elementary Principal Thomas Walsh

Thank you Steve, Frank, Geri, Chris, Tom, and John.

UN SDG Global Goal 4: Quality Education

Ned Kirsch Superintendent

Ned Kirsch is the Superintendent of Schools at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter at @betavt.

THE #FWSU STORY: Magnificent Mondays at BFA Fairfax

Every Monday for the past two years, students in first grade at BFA Fairfax have eagerly participated in Magnificent Monday.

Magnificent Monday at BFA Fairfax

It is an important example of how our school demonstrates a belief in the value of allowing students significant opportunities to create, collaborate, innovate, and play.

The future belongs to a different kind of person." Daniel Pink

It is an amazing time in public education.  After a decade of focusing on preparing students to perform on standardized tests, a significant shift is taking place.

“The ability to innovate—to create something new and better—is a skill that organizations worldwide are looking for today.”-George Couros

This is not a new concept.  Rather, it is a recognition that our students must learn and apply a comprehensive set of skills for success in an ever-changing world due to technology and an abundance of information.

“Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”-Sir Ken Robinson

Magnificent Monday provides every student learning experiences that allow them to be designers, problem finders, engineers, and artists.  It is sometimes messy, slightly chaotic, always full of positive energy, and the results speak for themselves.

Students on the cardboard bus

“65 percent of students we’re currently training will have jobs that don’t exist yet.” -Alexis Ringwald

For example, last week was Cardboard Day where students were allowed to design anything using cardboard. A small group of students wanted to create a vehicle.  One member of the group uses a wheelchair, so the group designed the bus to accommodate all group members.  The final product was less important than the learning, collaboration, and empathy in which students engaged.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try.” –Dr. Seuss


Another activity required students to apply their knowledge to create an insect.  There were no constraints, just four criteria.  The results were amazing and no single insect was the same.  Most importantly, it was clear that students understood the objectives of the unit and could apply the content.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination circles the world.”- Albert Einstein


Sometimes we only focus on what we see to measure success. Magnificent Monday’s success is apparent from what you do not see.  There is rarely a behavior issue and students do not require frequent prompts and reminders to be engaged or follow expectations. They are happy, highly motivated, focused, and excited about learning.

A huge thank you to the First Grade team for inspiring our students to be creative, empathetic, collaborative people.  You all rock!

UN SDG Global Goal 4: Quality Education



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: Reaching All Learners through Professional Learning for Teachers

Over the past three years, in an effort to create a best practice approach to literacy instruction, FWSU has offered Reading and Writing Workshop courses. These courses were designed for grades K-6 and were attended by district teachers as well as teachers from nearby districts.

The courses met for four days during the summer, with two follow-up half-days during the fall to allow teachers to learn about the workshop model and then apply it in their classrooms with opportunities for feedback during the fall classes.  

While the focus has been on either Reading or Writing Workshop in the past, this year the course was designed to provide an overview of the workshop model and allow teachers to apply it to either reading or writing base on their personal learning needs. 

"The kids seemed more engaged than they had been before." GEMS Teacher

Research in cognitive science shows that people learn best when information is presented in a model that matches the workshop model.  This model need not apply only to literacy but can be applied to all areas of the curriculum.

Through work on the All Learners Project focus on math, FWSU has brought best practices in math instruction together with best practices in literacy instruction to create a Universal Framework for teaching and learning. 

There is so much student empowerment. We want our students to build their best reading life.

Teachers who participated in this most recent workshop course represented a wide variety of school personnel.  Not only were classroom teachers present, most of whom participated with members of their teams, but in addition, teacher leaders, science and math teachers, and a special educator completed the group.  These teachers taught students ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade. 

One of the most important aspects of the course is the ability for teachers to apply their learning to their own roles within their schools.  As a culminating event, participants create a final project individualized to their particular interest and role and present their learning in a short presentation on the final day of class.  Some of the most valuable learning from any class results from participants sharing their learning with each other. Math and science teachers brought explicit writing instruction into classrooms through their journals.  

For young students, realizing reading is everywhere is really important.

A special educator created solutions for the challenges that some students may meet within the workshop model. Teams of teachers and teacher leaders collaborated together through planning and co-teaching using the workshop model. Teacher leaders created materials to support teachers using the workshop model. A middle school teacher brought this typically elementary based model into her classroom. 

Writing is Writing

As FWSU moves forward with MTSS, the workshop model has moved from a reading and writing model to a way of thinking about teaching and learning.  Providing a clear and concise focus lesson, time for students to experience “just right” learning, and a closure that can provide quick formative data for next steps, the workshop model is a best-teaching model.


Juliet King is the Instructional Coach for Grades PreK-6 at BFA Fairfax. She has taught in-district teacher professional learning courses for the past two years.

THE FWSU STORY: At GEMS, First Days of School is All About Relationships

The new school year is off to a great start to the GEMS! The first days of the new year are always focused on creating relationships among students and teachers alike.


The goal is to build a promote respect and rapport across every member of the GEMS community.


This emphasis allows teachers to engage in positive interactions with their students, create classroom environments that are conducive to learning, and meet students’ developmental, emotional and educational needs.


Developing positive relationships between teachers and students is foundational to quality teaching and effective student learning.


The process is a year-long journey for all of us, but we are off to a great start!

Learn more about UN Sustainable Development Goal # 4 

frank calano


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



THE FWSU STORY: Students Prepare for Exhibitions at BFA Fairfax

Students at BFA Fairfax will share what they know, understand, and are able to do in a series of exhibitions throughout their time in grades 7-12. The exhibitions are built on the belief that:

Learning and growth are best understood and represented by the learner.

Essentially this means that the best way to know where a learner stands is to talk to them about their strengths, challenges, interests, and future goals. This is true for all learners, students and adults alike.


A team of teachers met during the summer to develop expectations and a timeline for exhibitions in grades 8 and 10. The team built a website that includes goals, expectations, a calendar and a variety of resources and information for students and families.

The first exhibition will be held at the end of the 8th-grade year. Students will prepare for the exhibition throughout their 7th and 8th-grade year by gathering evidence of their learning related to the transferable skills, reflecting on its importance, and exploring their passions and interests. Time and structure will be provided during students’ daily advisory time. The 8th-grade exhibition will include an audience that includes the student’s family, teachers, and choice of peers. It will be a conversation and presentation that focuses on what the students have learned, areas for growth, and plans for high school. This year’s 7th-grade students will be the first to participate in this process.

High school students will be participating in a similar, but enhanced experience at the end of their 10th-grade year. They will work on this process that, like the 8th-grade exhibition, includes gathering evidence and reflection, but also includes personal and career exploration activities. Students will work to prepare for their exhibition during advisories every Monday and Wednesday. The audience for the 10th-grade exhibition will expand to include community members who will learn about the student’s understanding, progress, areas for growth, and plans for their junior and senior years. This year’s 10th grade (the Class of 2021) will participate in an abridged version of the exhibition this spring. The Class of 2022 will prepare for and experience the full exhibition cycle. In fact, both classes have already started working! We will provide more details about becoming a community member of an exhibition panel as the year goes on.


The last portion of our exhibition plan is to develop a “capstone” experience for our seniors. Last year, a group of teachers began investigating models from other schools to find a model that could be adapted to match our goals and students. We will continue to explore and create a model for the senior year that will build on the exhibitions from grades 8 and 10. Our plan is to implement this capstone experience with the Class of 2021.

We are excited to provide students with the opportunity and structure to share their body of evidence for our Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements throughout their time at BFA Fairfax. We know that we learn so much more about a student’s learning and growth when they participate in a conversation than we will ever learn by looking at a number on a piece of paper.


John Tague is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Middle/High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @jtague252