Neighborly news about our schools

Kathy Topping’s Class Creates New Chemistry

in Innovative teaching by

I never imagined that I would end my career teaching my students from my home.  When I started this job we didn’t have computers and even calculators were not normally used.  We printed all the material we gave students using a mimeograph machine.  Now I spend my weeks making youtube videos to teach lessons and demonstrate labs.  I use zoom to make visual contact with my students as they work on chemistry problems.  They use their cell phones to take a photo of their answers and email them to me.  I open them, download them, take a picture and make corrections using software on my computer and email them back.  I have tried to make the process as similar to the system they used when we were together as possible, but everything for all of us takes longer.

I am so proud of my students.  They have shown themselves to be resilient.  They have found ways to stay organized.  At school everything was organized for them.  Now they do this for themselves with the help of their parents.  At school, I could help them stay motivated when they faced a setback.  Now they do this for themselves.  They reach out to get help from me when they need it.  They have found ways to cope with unreliable internet.  I have one student who made an office in the back of his car.  He drives to the local elementary school to connect to the wifi because it doesn’t work that well at home.  My students still help each other.  They haven’t given up on their learning – they are finding ways to cope.  I am so proud of this group and I hope the community is proud of them also.

How have you been able to stay organized?

Kilee Rolland – The biggest task I’ve put myself on is organization everyday. No matter what time it is I am going to make sure everything is organized when I wake up for the day and put back in its place before I go to bed! 

Carmen Gallagher – I use my phone alarm, to remind myself to get ready for each zoom call. Depending on the amount of zoom calls I have per day, I have come up with a schedule of when I will complete my assignments.  On days when I have 1-2 zoom calls, I get most of my homework done and then have more time for myself for the rest of the week.  I always make a list of my assignments and the due dates, to decide which I will start working on first. 

Madison Roberge – In terms of staying organized, I’ve been creating systems for myself and using a planner. An example of this is I’ve been paperclipping the things I’ve sent into you together, and then paper-cliping together the things I have left to do. 

How have you been able to stay motivated?

Kilee Rolland – Staying motivated has been a real struggle at points, but honestly I’m always ahead and I think that’s what keeps me pushing through this hard time and staying on a routine and task makes me work harder everyday.

Noah McLane – For me it is the goal of getting into a good college in the future and ensuring I have all my proficiency’s hit in each class. 

Delanee Hill –  I stay motivated to do work, by trying to get it all done as quickly as possible so I can have the rest of the week to do whatever I want.

Madison Roberge – My primary motivation is honestly graduation. As well as that I know the sooner I finish my work the sooner I get to summer, specifically in lab!

What have you done when you get confused?

Kilee Rolland – There have been confusing time’s because we aren’t face to face, but thank god for email, Kathy you’ve definitely been the most helpful teacher throughout this entire process and have been willing to work with all of us, so thank you for that.

Noah McLane –  I have been pretty good I feel at reaching out to my teachers and setting up meetings or a conference to go over what I need to do in order to get the best quality of work.

Madison Roberge – I’ll send you emails if I’m confused and at one point we had a zoom call together so you could explain things further. Of course, face to face communication and feedback is preferred but I’m very grateful our school already had the financial resources for each student to have a Chromebook during this time.

How have you been able to help each other?

Kilee Rolland – Us as classmates are also able to still make contact over social media if we need help which is very nice at points if we don’t want to go right to the teacher.

How are you feeling about how much you are learning?

Kilee Rolland –I think everything I’m learning is going to be helpful there are things that are of course boring but I find that I’m in a better mindset right now with my school work, like I want to learn.

What is the best thing about remote learning?

Kilee Rolland – The best thing about remote learning I would have to say would be, being able to get things done on our own time. So for me it’s been Mondays I can everything done I possibly can except for things that don’t get posted so I’m not stressed throughout the week.

Delanee Hill – The best thing about remote learning is that I get to sleep in.

What is the hardest thing about remote learning?

Kilee Rolland – The hardest thing is definitely not being able to see people and all of my friends. Junior year is something we shouldn’t take for granted because everyone is in their own schedule and routine before graduation. So right now it’s been tough to not go through this with others by our side.

Nathaniel Rice – Honestly, the hardest thing about online learning is that it lacks all the charm and social intricacies of school. Like yeah, you can “see’ your friends, but is is it really “seeing” your friends? I don’t think so.  

Andrew Rice – “The hardest thing about remote learning is that it stunts real connection between students and teachers. You used to be able to go into their rooms for extra help, and you’d have that face-to-face interaction which helped me personally quite a bit. Now, you have less time to go to a teacher’s office hours, and because of remote learning, you never know what might happen that makes you miss those times. You could sleep in too late, you could be preoccpied with a family thing – who knows?”

Carmen Gallagher– Just being out of the classroom, has been difficult. When needing help on the new material, it becomes more challenging to fully understand without having your teacher in the same room, to explain. Thankfully, my teachers have been very understanding and helpful when situations become difficult. 

Madison Roberge – The hardest thing about remote learning aside from being on the computer all day is that we’re missing the student-teacher connections. Of course, everyone is doing their best with zoom but it’s just not the same. 

Who Are Washington Central Friends of Education?

in Uncategorized by

Back in 1992, East Montpelier resident Sue Clayton had the great idea of writing a newsletter to inform the residents of the five Washington Central Unified Union School District (WCUUSD) towns about what’s going on in our schools. People who never had children in our schools, or whose children have long since graduated, still pay taxes to support these schools. Sue reasoned that these people might be willing to support the schools in additional ways if they knew what the need was. Without a child or grandchild in the schools, citizens had no way to be connected to the schools, understand what was happening in them, or feel involved and supportive. The first issue of Bus Stop Conversations was published on Nov. 17, 1992. For 26 years, Bus Stop Conversations was produced twice a month during the school year with stories, highlights, and events from our six schools. Much has happened in that time.

Bus Stop Conversations is one of the signature projects of the community-based non-profit organization, Washington Central Friends of Education (WCFE), but not the only one. Over 19 years ago, Carolyn Shapiro and Deborah Bogart approached WCFE with their proposal for the Branching Out complementary mentoring program for students who want to expand their learning beyond the classroom. Carolyn and Deborah came to WCFE because we are a non-profit organization that can accept tax-deductible donations from foundations and individuals, and we are flexible and nimble enough to start new projects in a way that just doesn’t work for schools, which move much more slowly.

After over 10 years of support from WCFE, Branching Out is now fully incorporated into U-32 Middle/High School. Fifteen years before Personalized Learning Plans and Flexible Pathways made their way into legislation, Branching Out students were using them! (The Vermont legislature actually mandated that all students in grades 7 through 12 would have Personalized Learning Plans beginning in the 2018-19 school year). Branching Out is a great example of WCFE’s goal of bringing the community into the school in a positive way.

Service learning and personal learning plans are a couple of the major trends that have made it into the school district because of WCFE. We are able to apply for and manage grants that the schools just don’t have time or capacity for, bringing innovation and experimentation to the schools.

Another WCFE program is Girls/Boyz First Mentoring, which provides adult mentors to youth ages 8-18 in Montpelier and the Washington Central Supervisory Union. Currently, 38 area children are able to enjoy meeting weekly with their mentors from their communities. For the last 22 years, over 135 community mentors have worked with over 150 children from the age of 8-18. This close, personal involvement of caring adults occurs at a critical time in the lives of young people when they are making decisions and choices that can impact their future.

We also serve as fiscal agent for Central Vermont New Directions Coalition (CVNDC), a community-based prevention coalition whose goal is to increase healthy behavior and decrease substance abuse. Started in 1998, CVNDC was one of the first prevention coalitions in Vermont, and it is currently the only prevention coalition in Washington County. WCFE has managed a variety of state and federal grants to support the Coalition’s work. CVNDC was the first large project that brought Montpelier Public Schools (now Montpelier-Roxbury Public Schools) and Washington Central schools (now WCUUSD) together, proving that great things happen with collaboration.

In 2001, WCFE was a founding partner in the Community Connections afterschool program. For many years we helped build and support the program in all nine WCUUSD and Montpelier schools. This major initiative continued the model of cross-district collaboration that began with CVNDC, and it models a philosophy that education crosses school and town boundaries and schedules.

Our most recent initiative (2019) is the Equity Scholar-in-Residence Pilot Project at U-32. The Equity Scholar Project was started by ChangeMakers Partners to create a culture of equity at U-32 Middle-High School by embedding an equity scholar into the system. Working closely and collaboratively with school leaders, teachers and counselors, the Equity Scholar will provide both proactive and in-the-moment responsive education and coaching for staff and students regarding long term, emerging, and immediate issues of equity in teaching, learning, and school culture.

Over the years, WCFE has been responsible for many other projects and grants, including support for: the U-32 Ropes Course, the U-32 Community Building Fund, service learning, GIS (Geographic Information Survey), conflict resolution and peer mediation, etc. We produced the Seventh Grade Directory which contained pictures, names, addresses and phone numbers of the incoming students as well as indication by families that theirs was an alcohol-free home. We also sponsored Parent PotLucks at “Meet Your TA” Night to help parents get oriented to U-32.

Our goal is to foster communication and cooperation between the residents of the five district towns of Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester and the WCUUSD schools and to be a resource for those schools. Since 1992, WCFE has worked to bring the community into the schools in a meaningful way. In this day of declining enrollments and greater pressure on schools, community partnership is even more important now than ever.

UVM Teachers of the Year

in educational excellence by

Congratulation to Jane Howe-Boucher and JB Hilferty who were named this year’s Outstanding Teachers.

Jane Boucher has demonstrated leadership both at Berlin Elementary & throughout WCSU. She is an integral part of the PBIS committee and working to align Berlin’s successful work in PBIS with staff and student’s understanding of how to implement Transferable Skills. Jane’s ability to move all students towards wanting to do their best & understanding their capabilities is exemplary. Her students respond because they know she respects them. They work harder and extend themselves, working together because she has created a classroom climate that is safe and fun. Jane volunteers on the Curriculum Council, Social
Studies Committee, Curriculum Camp and Extended School Year Program.

Jane’s caring nature, infectious smile, and dedication to her students helps to remind all who work with her why we have chosen to become educators. She will always look for the positive in everyone, and help them to see that positivity in themselves.
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According to a student, JB (John) Hilferty “is just an awesome teacher!” He works tirelessly to make sure that his lessons are engaging and appropriately rigorous for each student. He is looked to by numerous staff and faculty members for advice and support. JB is the consummate teacher. Each year he strives to be better at what he does and he reflects on how he can better connect with and teach his students. He was one of the pioneers in Project-Based Learning, jumping in and really testing his own skills as a teacher. Students who have JB feel accepted and challenged; U-32 is stronger with him here.

JB rarely complains and is always there when he is needed. He shows true compassion for students, teachers, and staff. Everyone feels happy around JB. He is fun loving and always has a smile on his face.

40 years

in celebrations by

Pat Fair was honored for 40 years of service to Washington Central Schools on opening day, August 21st!

30 years

in celebrations by

Nanci Randall, Sue Anne Mayette, Maggie Desch and Tammy Joslyn were honored for 30 years of service to Washington Central Schools on opening day, August 21st.

25 years

in celebrations by

Jane Boucher, Mary Ellen Hill and Katharine Stone were honored for 25 years of service to Washington Central Schools on opening day, August 21st.

20 years

in celebrations by

Deborah Gregoire, Benton Larrow, Martha Israel, David Bazis, Peter Gora, Hollis St. Peter, and Stephen Towne were honored for 20 years of service to Washington Central Schools on opening day, August 21st.

15 years

in celebrations by

Suzanne Verchereau, Sarah Volinsky and Chris Williams were honored for 15 years of service to Washington Central Schools on opening day, August 21st.

10 Years

in celebrations by

Maria Paris, Jen Miller-Arsenault, Amy Koenigbauer, Catherine Guiffre, Aanike DeVries, Carolyn Beauregard, Erin Mooney, Susan Olander, Jodi Slade, Sheila Paterson, Michael Sherwin, Stacey Rupp, Callie Weller and David Willard were honored for 10 years of service to Washington Central Schools on opening day, August 21st.

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