BFA Fairfax HS Senior Named Vermont Presidential Scholar

Thursday was a busy day for BFA high school senior Bhupinderjit “Binny” Singh. It was also a proud day for the BFA community and Binny’s family.

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After attending classes at BFA all day, Binny and his family traveled to the Statehouse in Montpelier so that he could receive recognition as one of Vermont’s Presidential Scholars. They were joined by Franklin West Superintendent Ned Kirsch, BFA Fairfax High School Principal John Tague and BFA Fairfax Director of Guidance Dave Buckingham.

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Binny was selected for the honor from Vermont high school seniors based on his Academic Achievement, Involvement and Service, and Leadership and Character. Twenty five Vermont students were selected for this honor by the VT Agency of Education. “Binny is the first BFA Fairfax student to receive this honor in many years”, noted Dave Buckingham.

Binny has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school. In addition he has participated in Scholars Bowl, Cross Country Running, Student Council, National Honor Society and basketball. To serve his community, Binny has participated in blood drives, trail repair and worked at basketball camp. He is currently the vice president of the National Honor Society and the senior class.

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In his nomination, the faculty noted that, “when something needs to happen, you can always count on Binny to be involved. He is always willing to help anyone and does it with a positive attitude”

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When asked what the honor meant to him, Binny stated: “It’s an awesome experience to receive recognition of any type. I never thought I would be able to go to the Statehouse for the work that I do every day for myself and others. It’s very humbling to be included in this group of students.”

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After receiving the award and a few commemorative pictures, it was back on the road to Fairfax for the season opening boys basketball game versus Richford High School.

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Binny started the game, won the opening tip-off, and helped the team to secure a victory with 14 points, 4 rebounds, and  6 assists.

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The entire BFA Fairfax and Franklin West community is proud of the accomplishments of all of our students, including this fine young man. It is extremely exciting when we get to share our pride with the rest of the state. Congratulations, Binny!

GEMS Learning Community Lends a Helping Hand

The GEMS community took time to gather and celebrate the generosity of our community right before our Thanksgiving break. During the 4 weeks of the annual Meals Marathon Food Drive, students and families donated 4,018 food items and $76 in cash contributions!

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The Food Drive team gave special recognition to Mr. Toof (6th Grade Teacher) and Mr. Demar (5th Grade Teacher) who decided to motivate their students by adding in a little healthy competition to this annual event.  And in good spirit, Mr. Toof followed through by “happily” wearing a Cowboy’s jersey for a day in recognition that 5th Grade donated more items than the 6th Grade Team.

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Following the assembly in the gym, the students formed a “food line”….another tradition of the Meals Marathon. One by one, food items were passed along and loaded onto the truck that would take the items to the Georgia Food Shelf.

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“We couldn’t do this (help our community members) without your help” said June Waite who volunteers at the Food Shelf.

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“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.  For indeed, that’s all who ever have.” ~ Margaret Mead

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The Food Drive team is thankful to our students, teachers, parents and community members who helped make this an awesome, rewarding experience!


Target 4. Engaged Community Partners: FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state, and global partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.

Student-Led Conferences Focus on Learning and Presentation in Fletcher

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In Fletcher, sixth graders have deconstructed the traditional parent-teacher conference format in favor of Student-Led Conferences (SLC’s), and the structure is getting rave reviews.

“The student is the main player in the conference process,” sixth grade teacher Jasmine Tremblay told students. “Teachers guide students through the conference process and help prepare, but the responsibility of conveying information to parents and families rests on the students.”

Throughout the trimester, Tremblay’s student’s have continually self-assessed their progress across the curriculum based on learning targets. Their self-assessments, in conjunction with feedback from teachers, is combined with work examples in a learning portfolio that is used to demonstrate how they have met the learning targets. Students complete a self-evaluation for each academic class as well as behavior, reflect on their progress and set goals for continued learning.

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Last week, students practiced presenting their portfolios and substantiating their evaluations with evidence during mock conferences during the day before appearing in front of their families for Student-Led Conferences Thursday evening. Some conferences lasted as long as an hour and students had written formal invitations to their families. Students dressed the part, having been asked to look professional for their presentations.

Within each student portfolio was an evaluation for all academic subjects and behavior, a grade reflection for each area and examples of “proud” and “challenging” work.

During conferences, families actively engaged in conversations about each student’s progress, but also gave feedback on communication skills related to the presentation. Families completed a survey for teachers that asked about their experience with the conference, to what degree they feel their child was able to reflect on their progress and plan for future success and comment on any goals that they would like to see for the spring.

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During the evening conferences, several adults from school, including the School Counselor, Literacy Teacher Leader, Math Teacher Leader and Classroom Teacher, circulated between Student-Led Conferences gathering feedback for students on their speaking skills. They used a six-point rating scale based on the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts, specifically literacy, and provided reflections to students on their use of eye contact, volume, pronunciation, expression, varying sentence patterns for meaning, interest, and style, and their consistency in style and tone.

According to sixth grade teacher Jasmine Tremblay, the goals of Student-Led Conferences include increasing students’ accountability and autonomy with academics and learning habits, to hone verbal communication and critical thinking skills, to emphasize a student-centered approach to learning, to build relationships with families, to support students in reaching the required speaking standards and to teach students how to persuade others by substantiating claims with evidence.

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“The adult family support is the second most essential attendee to the Student-Led Conference. Your student is the first,” Tremblay wrote to families. “The adult support must be willing to let the student speak.”

Families are expect to support students in meeting their ongoing academic and behavioral goals at home, and sharing any lingering concerns with the teacher independently, if necessary.

“I felt that Student-Led Conferences really gave students a chance to manage our grades and talk to their parents about it instead of the parent teacher conference when your parent comes home and asks what you think of your grade and you can’t answer. Also, it’s great because it helps us with our speaking skills and presentation skills. Another, reason that it helps is it show our parents how much we’ve grown and how confident we are,” sixth grader Christina Ashley said.

“I thought that the Student-Led Conferences were interesting. I think this because it’s different and new and something we’ve not done before. I was a little nervous at the beginning but when I got into the flow my nervousness went away. One thing that I did during that conference was I got to lead it and I got to show my parents the grades instead of the teacher showing them. That was nice because you can tell why you got the grade you got. Also, we practiced a lot for this.We had scripts and we also had the teachers pretend that they were our parents. That was nice because it gave us the chance to practice. Overall I think this student led conference went well and I think we should do it next year,” sixth grader Brody Chipman said.

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“I think that having this kind of conference is important because your parents want to know how you’re doing from you. It’s also important because it gives you a chance to show your parents that you are capable of taking the blame for the grades you have and also taking the fame. During the conference I felt like my mom was proud of me for explaining my plan to make my grades better and I was also proud of myself for being able to lead a conference with my mom. I think more schools should do student led conferences to be more confident with talking to people and being independent and handling things on your own. The conference went well and now I know that I can do more leadership stuff like this in the future,” sixth grader Jaylin Alderman said.

Students will write formal thank-you notes to the adults that attended their conferences.

Read more about Student-Led Conferences here.

FWSU Action Plan

Target 2 – Leadership in a Student Centered Learning Environment. FWSU will foster development of teacher and student leaders who provide innovative opportunities for local and global student-centered learning.

Action Steps – (1) Provide multiple avenues for students and staff to lead, advocate, and serve within the school and community. (2) Ensure students and staff take an active role shaping their learning using rich, authentic questions, problems they identify, and diverse resources. (3) Develop learning habits, communication and problem solving skills necessary for collaborative learning and leadership.

Indicators of Success – (1) Teachers embrace role of coach, facilitator and co-learner in a student-centered learning environment. (2) Student voice will have the power to impact the perceptions of others.


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Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

Up for Debate at GEMS

When you enter Matt Toof’s 6th Grade Social Studies classroom on a debate day, excitement and energy are front-and-center, along with a hefty emphasis on the development of Transferable Skills.

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This year, all teachers and students in FWSU are working to deepen their understanding of proficiency in the area of Effective Communication. Teachers across the district are “scaling up” their learning tasks in key content areas in order to produce evidence of growing proficiency in important performance indicators. The 6th graders in this class at GEMS are regularly demonstrating this important evidence in a context that is relevant, authentic, and highly engaging.

poiont clarityAmidst of sea of dresses, collared shirts, and even some ties (these students take debate days very seriously), the chatter of students’ rehearsal of key points is quieted briefly as Mr. Toof sets the expectations for the debate. This includes a clear and concise review of the skills that students have learned, practiced, and will apply. These skills represent a comprehensive teaching and learning design integrating key social studies, ELA, and speaking and listening standards. Students have spent considerable time reading a Junior Scholastic article (anchor text that frames the resolution for them), researching, discussing, and getting claims and counter-claims set up and backed up by multi-media representations of evidence. After the experience, they produce a written response. As Matt says, the class is a “double dose of literacy” for the students.

I'd like to sayOn this particular day, the required resolution is: Should celebrities endorse junk food? Following words of encouragement to both the affirmative and negative teams from Mr. Toof, the two sides (inclusive of all class members) “huddle up” in opposite corners of the room for one final review of their well-planned positions and to decide who will deliver the Constructive (introductory) Speech.

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iPads at the ready for referencing key points and fact-checking, the debate begins. Instantly lively, the thrill of rebuttal sends hands shooting up as each point is made. Mr. Toof suggests, although still early in the year, that the class is ready to use their skills to be patient and take respectful turns without raising hands. The students’ accountability increases as the debate continues. The suggestion is met with success. Student agency grows.

backing it upDuring the process, Mr. Toof records criteria-based evidence for each student. And there is plenty to record. Students quote the article, build on each other’s ideas, rebut various points through both questioning and elaboration, challenge and defend sources, and project several forms of evidence on Apple TV. Throughout, Matt continues to coach, providing just-in-time feedback that moves the debate forward.

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As the class period draws to a close, final arguments and two-word summaries are presented. Student voice has taken center stage, a stage that has been set by the students themselves. As one of the students shared, ” This helps us a lot. We learn how to mark up text, how to collaborate, and how to prove our points with evidence in a fun, friendly way.” That about sums up what I observed: students’ hearts and minds purposefully engaged in this powerful performance task. No debating that!

FWSU Action Plan

Target 2 – Leadership in a Student-Centered Learning Environment FWSU will foster development of teacher & student leaders who provide innovative. opportunities for local and global student-centered learning

Action Step – Develop learning habits, communication, and problem-solving skills necessary for collaborative learning and leadership.

Indicator of Success – Student voice will have the power to impact the perceptions of others.


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Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

BFA Fairfax Student-Athletes Shine at 2015 VSADA Athletic Leadership Conference

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On November 9 and 10, eight BFA Fairfax student-athletes attended the 2015 Athletic Leadership Conference hosted by the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association (VSADA). This annual event, held at the Burlington Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center, brings together 300 of the top student-athletes from high schools all around Vermont for two days of leadership training and team building exercises led by renowned state and nationwide speakers.

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BFA Fairfax has sent student representatives to this conference for the past decade, and the skills and strategies our students acquire have had a direct impact on not only these eight individuals, but on the overall success of our co-curricular programs and student body on the athletic fields and in the greater school community.

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One of the highlights of the conference is the annual Scholar Athlete Banquet held Monday night, where the top ten senior student-athlete leaders (5 boys, 5 girls) from Vermont high schools are honored.  It was a special night for BFA Fairfax as two of our own student-athletes, Benjamin Bosland and Victoria Brown, received one of the ten scholarships from the VSADA.  Additionally, one of our football member-to-member athletes from Lamoille Union High School, Bill Hogan, was also a scholarship recipient.  Ben, Victoria and Bill gave powerful and inspiring acceptance speeches that highlighted the meaning of leadership, athleticism, and the power and impact of co-curricular participation.

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In an era where the media is often saturated with images of negative choices and actions in the realm of athletics, the VSADA Athletic Leadership Conference is an inspiring reminder of all that is good and meaningful in the world of high school athletics and co-curricular participation.  Our BFA Fairfax student-athletes are an impressive example of the impact of this opportunity on overall student success.

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Students Embrace Boundless Possibilities at BFA Fairfax

It has been an exciting week in the Guidance Office at BFA-Fairfax as several Seniors sent out their first applications to college to meet the Early Action deadlines of numerous colleges and universities.

Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson

The college admission process requires students to use real-life problem solving. From deciding areas of academic interest and determining the admission selectivity of colleges, to thinking about location, other activities campuses have to offer and of course cost of attendance.

Evan McGregor

Evan McGregor

Students need to access resources such as school counselors, teachers parents and college admission folks. They also need to be creative as they produce a college essay that captures their essence.

Cooper Gonyaw

Cooper Gonyaw

High school counselors help facilitate this process. What makes it so special is seeing students work through this process: working with students through troubles and supporting them as they bring their own unique personalities to this transition.

Hudson Elledge

Hudson Elledge

If a student wishes, they place a pin on a college map, hanging in the Guidance Office, after they apply. It is a genuine moment of success and a feeling of pride. We cannot wait to see the positive contributions of these students upon graduation and beyond! The possibilities are boundless!


FWSU Action Plan

Target 2 – Leadership in a Student Centered Learning Environment FWSU will foster development of teacher & student leaders who provide innovative opportunities for local and global student-centered learning

Action Step – Provide multiple avenues for students and staff to lead, advocate, and serve within the school and community.

An Interactive Start to Each Day at GEMS

GEMS SL58:00 in the morning is the most important part of each and every day.  Having students enter their classrooms feeling valued, welcome, and safe are pivotal for learning to occur throughout any school day.

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To foster this approach, at the Georgia Elementary school, we start each day with a Morning Meeting.  Morning meetings consist of greetings,  individual sharing, and working collaboratively to problem solve or participate in a morning message activity.  However, Georgia Elementary has created  a more  interactive digital approach that embeds math, science, and literacy skills and  for students to take on leadership roles while reporting out to their classmates.

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Some students become weather reporters where they describe the daily weather and plot it on a daily line graph.  Temperature, cloud cover, rain, and wind are reported out and plotted for monthly comparisons.

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Other students share the day of the Month, day of the week, and year and date of the day on a calendar. Days of school attended are counted out together as a whole class as one students takes the teacher role of leading the class.

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Math is incorporated as students add a penny to each day. Numeracy skills and place value are shown as students interactively add a penny to their class piggy bank each day.

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Coming to school each day is fun when you can be the teacher in some capacity.  Children s roles change weekly and everyone has a responsibility each week. Students do a great job taking on this challenge and many prideful smiles are daily.


FWSU Action Plan

Target 2 – Leadership in a Student Centered Learning Environment FWSU will foster development of teacher & student leaders who provide innovative opportunities for local and global student-centered learning

Action Step – Provide multiple avenues for students and staff to lead, advocate, and serve within the school and community.