Saturday, June 17, 2017

An Interview with a Very Special Champlain Teacher Ms. Jill Sikora-Cain and Thank You!

DD: When did you first start teaching, and what did you teach?

JSC: I began my career working as a substitute teacher, kindergarten through twelfth grade, in the Boulder/Denver, Colorado area.  My first full-time teaching position was working at a private school in Boulder. I taught fifth and sixth grades for three years. My career at Champlain Elementary began in 1987 as a fourth grade teacher, but most of my time since then has been working at the third grade level.  

DD: What is your favorite topic to teach?

JSC: My favorite topic to teach is art.  Over the years, I have incorporated art into many subject areas, especially science and social studies.

DD: In your view, what are the best things parents can do to support their children's success in school?

JSC: For children to be successful in school, it is important for parents to spend quality time with their children, ask questions, read together, emphasize the intangibles in life, and instill a sense that learning and knowledge is essential to their wellbeing and long-term success.

DD: Many teachers are baby boomers and are retiring quickly. Without their wealth of knowledge to benefit young teachers, what advice would you give them today?

JSC: To new teachers everywhere, my advice to you is to stay organized, remember all of the good you are doing when things are difficult, and, most importantly, relax and have fun with the kids.

DD: What is one of your best memories of Champlain?

JSC: It’s the incredible faculty and staff members that I have had the privilege of working with over the past thirty years who I will always remember. Over the years, the Champlain community has been blessed to have such a remarkable group of dedicated teachers and staff.

DD: What are your retirement plans?

JSC: During retirement I plan to spend more time outside. I enjoy gardening, hiking, skiing, scuba diving, and traveling. Hopefully, I will have more time for family and friends.

DD: What else would you like to tell our Champlain community?

JSC: Keep up the good work!  It is noble work that truly and positively impacts each student and our community generally.
Thank You for a Wonderful School Year!
On behalf of the entire Champlain faculty and staff, I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to the hundreds of kind and caring parents, guardians, and community members who have contributed their time and energy to the students of Champlain. From volunteering in Morning Champions and classrooms to chaperoning field trips and co-curricular activities, the love and devotion of your commitment have affirmed my ideals for Vermont and my hopes for our country.

This year Champlain embarked on a new approach to student behavior management with restorative practices and peer mediation. Our students and parents/guardians understood this philosophy of educational justice and participated in conversations that repaired relationships and taught social-emotional skills. In this way, we reduced detentions and suspensions and increased Lunch Bunch groups and mentoring activities. Without your patience, understanding, and forgiveness, restorative practices could not succeed.

In addition, Champlain’s Parent-Teacher Organization continually brings many voices together and supports the learning of all students by organizing exciting family activities, such as the Harvest Fest, Trivia Night, and the Fun Run. In turn, these activities allow the PTO to raise funds and give grants that directly support our classroom instruction, field trips, artist residencies, peer mediation, and more. Thank you, everyone, for getting involved and making a positive difference in our school!

From Peter Pan’s “I Won’t Grow Up” - Dr. D’s Adaptation for Champlain’s 2017 Step Up Day
I wanna grow up.
(I wanna grow up)
And go to middle school.
(And go to middle school)
Take a lot of different classes.
(Take a lot of different classes)
And be nobody’s fool!
(And be nobody’s fool)
Since growing up means
It would be, the time for every opportunity
I am growing up, growing right up, growing on up
That’s me!
It is I,
It’s me!
Yes, me!
I wanna grow up.
(I wanna grow up)
I want to meet new friends.
(I want to meet new friends)
Do my absolute best.
(Do my absolute best)
Start cool new trends.
(Start cool new trends)
And if it means I must prepare
To learn and work and take good care
I am growing up, growing right up, growing on up
Yes me,
Yes I,
Yes me!
I’m there!
I wanna grow up.
(I wanna grow up)
Gonna grow to the best.
(Gonna grow to the best)
You’ll see me succeed.
(You’ll see me succeed)
And help all the rest.
(And help all the rest)
'Cause middle school is awfully great
No reason for anymore debate
I am growing up, growing right up, growing on up
Yes me,
Middle school,
Here I go,
Growing up! 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Fun Run and Mini Milers: An Interview with Champlain Volunteer Elzy Wick

DD: How did the Fun Run get started?

EW: Nine years ago the Fun Run started with two parents whose kids are now grown. It was a one-mile loop around the school that people could do up to three times. It was fun, though it wasn’t a big fundraiser. The loop wasn’t great on a hilly run and someone had to be posted in order to watch traffic. We didn’t have access to bathrooms, so the event had to be short. When I took this on myself a few years ago, I tried the Fun Run on Oakledge Park. Additionally I asked area businesses to sponsor the runners’ free shirts. We were also able to turn this into a bigger fundraiser. In past years we’ve had ten shirt sponsors. For $100, we add their logos to the shirts. The sponsors said this was their best advertising deal, so maybe next year we’ll increase the fee. I would like to keep the registration fee down to $5 and keep it accessible. The raffle sales have been up. Another parent, Kate Kenny, helped get raffle prizes, so we had a lot this year. The Fun Run raised $1,700 last week, which isn’t a huge amount, but this is just profit that goes to our Parent-Teacher Organization and school.

DD: What is Mini Milers exactly?

EW: Mini Milers is a Run Vermont program, which an organization that manages the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington. They also created the “Ready, Set, Run Festival,” that is a youth-run race that takes place the Saturday before the marathon. 750 kids run in this event. The purpose of Mini Milers is to involve kids in a ten-week program devoted to the sport of running in a fun, group setting. There are thirty Mini Miler sites throughout the state, mostly in schools, plus an adaptive program. A volunteer leader coordinates and teaches the program, recruits the students. Run Vermont provides a whole leadership manual. We use it as a guide, since getting fifty-five kids together after school, who just want to run, requires us to be flexible. We focus on being a good teammate and sportsmanship. We run three loops: two by Oakledge and one in the Five Sisters Neighborhood. In previously years we started the program in March, but kids were in tears because it was so cold. Now instead we start in April. We also expanded the program from grades 3-5 to K-5.

DD: Who else is involved?

EW: Kyle Darling from SkiRack has helped a lot. For two years, Kyle and I were co-leaders, with the help of outside volunteers. Parents’ help is key, too. In the future, I would like us to partner more with the King Street Center, so that more families can access Mini Milers and attend the Fun Run.

DD: What’s so special about running?

EW: First of all, it’s a lifelong sport. Your can do it by yourself or with a group, and wherever you are. It gets you outside, seeing the world. You can run competitively or not. It’s a good foundation for other sports,


like basketball and soccer. Even if students don’t go for daily runs, they learn what that means and can always do it. There are some kids in the program who go out for runs on their own or with a parent. We encourage them to run, with the goal of twenty-six miles for the program. Students get a tag that I punch holes in for each mile. On Wednesdays we count their miles and they tell what they did on their own. It’s the honor system. So far five students have reached the goal, and I expect ten will in total. We will have a ceremony on Wednesday, June 14 at 2:30pm. Every student will get a medal and certificate.

DD: What are your future plans with running at Champlain Elementary School?

EW: I am going to stick around. Another parent, Heather Chernyshov, will be helping me for the future. For the Fun Run, some people say don’t change a thing. Others say it should be for the whole Burlington community. I go back and forth about keeping it as it is. Sustainability Academy has a partnership with City Market for a 5K community run. Next year I would like to start a committee. We always need more ideas and hands to pitch in. We can do a signup board at Curriculum Night next fall. Anyone who wants to get involved can email me at elzywick@gmail.com.


DD: Thank you so much! Teaching young people to run on a regular basis is a healthy, lifelong habit. This was my second Fun Run and I loved every minute! What a great event for our school community to come together and celebrate fitness and friends!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Moving Conversations, Part II

Starting in kindergarten, Champlain educators teach about diversity, equality, and the right for everyone to learn. Our motto, “Be Safe, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible,” allows all to thrive academically and socially. Yet we inherit inequalities that are hard to understand and block out. For example, a student had teased another for his clothing. In a moving conversation, her parent admonished, “That’s not her fault. Maybe her parents can’t afford anything else. You can’t make fun of people for things they can do nothing about.” Another time a parent questioned his child, “If you talk to teachers like this, of course they’ll be mad at you! Why would you deserve respect when you don’t show it?” At times like these, students are 100% present. Meeting with the parent and principal together was not in mind when they made less-than-best choices.

Peer mediation (PM) allows students to facilitate and support moving conversations outside of class. Those in conflict have learned to trust the process of talking, listening, and problem solving, as if walking across a bridge back to friendship. A student too embarrassed or distressed to talk with peers can be very moving. The facilitators and I describe PM, predicting a positive outcome. “If you don’t tell what happened, we can never know your point of view,” a peer might say. “We’re all being affected by this, and that’s not fair. We all want to put this behind us.”

Since April, a staff-member of Spectrum Vermont has begun working with Champlain students. Yuol Herjok Yuol (BHS and Lyndon State alum) mentors a student group by meeting once a week and discussing issues that matter to them. Our school counselor Greg Kriger and many teachers host similar groups (oftentimes called Lunch Bunch) to strengthen connections and improve their experience at Champlain. One of the most challenging topics brought up is race. Our students learn about the equality of all people and the importance of cultural competency. Nevertheless the outside world of demeaning stereotypes and epithets trickle in. In our school community, students have found space to explore these issues. For example, in a fit of anger, students of any ethnic background might shout fighting words that divide people by race. They know these words, soaked in meaning and history, instantly grab all attention. Some statements are crueler than others and require different responses from the principal, based on Burlington’s Harassment, Hazing, and Bullying Prevention Policy F29. Oftentimes a moving conversation is needed instead. In every case, the student goes to the principal’s office right away. I call parents, and we all talk together. Every time, the parent’s words make a huge impact and the tears come. The student can’t explain why such terrible words came from her/his mouth, but s/he is full of regret and wants to apologize to whomever had heard.

One time a student did not accept the other’s apology. He said to his classmate, “I need to see your apology in your actions, not your words.” That gave the harmer much to think about, and we talked about kindness and respect for differences. Afterwards the harmed student and I debriefed the conversation. “Your classmate will remember your words for a lifetime. You made a huge impact, and we can expect positive changes for now on.” We had all been moved by this conversation.

This is among our toughest work as educators. This was not a theory or storybook about “stars upon thars.” This practice could only happen in an ethnically-diverse school, where educators show sensitivity and tenacity to directly face problems. This was the real life of children grappling with America’s painful legacy and practicing ways to change their world.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Moving Conversations, Part I

At Champlain we listen and talk all day. The whole of teaching and learning from each other stands on the  relationships we build, mainly by talking. School begins with Morning Meeting, when teachers and students greet one another, discuss day’s activities, and address matters affecting their class. Sometimes a whole grade level meets for Town Meeting to celebrate their community or learn about special topics, or the whole school meets to watch student and adult presentations. These activities from the Responsive Classroom and Positive Behavior Intervention System models teach Champlain students Common Core speaking and listening standards:

SL.1.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups. Third grade adds this component: building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.


Moving conversations along to get to the heart of the matter is necessary for addressing concerns about student behavior. Children know right from wrong, though sometimes we need a few conversational rounds before recognizing their role in a conflict. When we engage in moving conversations, children often express their shock, embarrassment, and regret. If their behavior is repeated, we create plans to support better choices in the future, and involve Mr. Greg Kriger, Champlain’s school counselor. In the principal’s office, usually a parent, teacher, guardian, peer mediator, friend, or frenemy join us.


Hearing right from wrong from a parent/guardian is among the most moving conversations that happen. The deep bond between parent and child stands on a foundation of faith and trust of which every educator dreams. In our conversations, the opposite poles of “should-have vs. shouldn’t have” melt into the complexity of a school’s social-emotional environment, set against the backdrop of our society. We are not only ourselves, but products and representatives of our history. We adults remind children not to get overwhelmed, but to remember that the only actions we can control are our own. Every day in elementary school, we have the chance to make things better than before. To be continued next week...

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Letter to Parents/Guardians of Incoming First through Fifth Graders

Dear Parents and Guardians,
As we continue to create balanced classes for the 2017-18 school year, we ask you all for the trust and flexibility necessary to meet the needs of all our students. Our grade-level teams spend an extensive amount of time, from April to August, to assess the strengths and needs of each child and create optimal, balanced classes.
We believe that it will be very helpful for your child’s teacher next year to learn more about him or her in advance. For this reason, we have created a brief questionnaire for you to share the what you would like the teacher to know, of which she or he may otherwise not be aware.
Please return your responses to the questions below to Janet Breen in the main office by Friday, May 26. If you prefer email, please contact: jbreen@bsdvt.org.
Thank you for your participation and support of our students’ success in 2017-18!
Sincerely yours,

Dorinne Dorfman, Ed. D., Principal
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Your Child’s Name ___________________ 2017-18 Grade ______
1. What do you feel are your child’s strengths and learning styles?


2. What do you feel are your child’s challenges?


3. Has there been recent changes in your child’s life? This could include changing family dynamics, moving, the passing of a loved one, or other logistical or emotional changes.


4. Has your child experienced a new physical or mental health condition or learning difficulty?
If yes, please explain:


5. What else would you like to share about your child with his/her 2017-18 teacher?


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Young Composers, School Safety, Lyme Disease Prevention & Burlington Kids

Champlain’s Young Composers’ Club Celebrates Another Year
By Ms. Betsy Greene, Champlain Music Teacher

The Young Composers' Club is coming to an end for the 2016-2017 school year. This year's members are Cassie Beste, Ezra Case, Tommy Coleman, Devon Ellicock, Trudy Farrell, David Francis Lutz, Vivian Halladay, Reid Hathaway, Morgan Kenny, Max Rectenwald, Miles Romm, Macie Steiner, James Strouse, Abbot Terkel, and Daniel Wick. We are all proud of their music compositions and participation in the Young Composers' Club.

Additionally, ten members submitted work to be considered for live performance by professional musicians (Opus 32) through Music-COMP, an online mentoring community where professional composers and other project participants critique student compositions in-progress on a password protected website and make suggestions about possible changes and improvements. There were over one hundred student compositions submitted elementary through high school. A total of twenty-six compositions were chosen to be performed and three were from Champlain Elementary School with a total of eight from the Burlington School District! The Champlain students chosen for Opus 32 are Cassie Beste with Rise, Macie Steiner with Gallaxy, and Daniel Wick with European Village. Additional students chosen from Burlington are Anna Halladay (BHS/Champlain alumna), Alex Wick (Edmunds
Middle/Champlain alumnus), Nancy McNichols (Edmunds Middle), Isaac Dunkiel (Edmunds Elementary), and Emily McNichols (Edmunds Middle). Their pieces will be performed at the Opus 32 Concert on Monday, May 15, at 6:30 PM in Colchester at the Elley-Long Music Center. The concert is free and open to the public. Again, congratulations to all the young composers here at Champlain School and we hope you may be able to join us at the Opus 32 Concert!

Safety Protocols in the Burlington School District and at Champlain Elementary School
By Dr. Dorinne Dorfman, Principal

On Wednesday this week, Essex schools experienced a “Secure the School-Lockdown” command in response to a possible threat to safety on its campuses. Staff and students followed strict protocols that required silence and confinement to rooms. Fortunately, everyone is now safe and school has returned to normal. All Vermont schools are required to adhere to strict safety protocols, taking every precaution to ensure safety at all times. Vermont also requires practicing Secure the School and Evacuate the Building procedures at least once a month. Typically every school maintains an Incident Command or Safety Team to prepare for and practice all commands. At Champlain we adhere to the Incident Command System, which is defined as:
a management system designed to enable effective and efficient domestic incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure. ICS is normally structured to facilitate activities in five major functional areas: command, operations, planning, logistics, Intelligence & Investigations, finance and administration. (FEMA, Incident Command System Resources, https://www.fema.gov/incident-command-system-resources)

The members of Champlain’s Incident Command Team include Janet Breen (Acting Incident Commander) Ashley Francke (Communications Officer), Kendre Guinane, Greg Kriger, Carl Terry, Nancy Pruitt, Lindsay Wilcox, Jessica Villani, and Billy Boos. As principal, I am the Incident Commander; Ms. Breen fills this role if I am not on campus.

The Burlington Schools are extremely fortunate to have a quick, effective emergency response system. Most of Vermont requires many miles of travel for emergency services to reach the scene. BSD’s central office staff maintains safety protocols that have been distributed under the leadership of Rich Amato, a former Hunt administrator who continues as the district safety coordinator. This month he has arranged for Robert Evans, Vermont’s safety consultant, to visit every school building to meet with each administrator and safety team. Joining our meeting at Champlain was Marty Spaulding, director of property services. In early May Mr. Evans will submit a safety assessment report to our superintendent.

Health Room Update- Lyme Disease
Lyme disease, caused by infected deer ticks, is becoming increasing common in Vermont. There have been a number of cases reported in Chittenden County. The ticks infected are usually in the nymph stage and are quite small, about the size of the tip of a pencil lead. The best way to prevent Lyme Disease is to prevent tick bites. For more information go to www.healthvermont.gov or contact your doctor.
While outdoors:
*Avoid high grass and bushy area as much as possible.
*Wear long pants and long sleeves to minimize exposure to ticks.
*Tuck pants into socks to keep ticks out.
*Wear light colored clothing in order to see tics.
*Check for ticks could look like a speck of dirt, remove right away.
While indoors:
*Check your body and check your children, pay special attention to armpits, head, and folds of skin.
*Showering within a few hours of being outside may be helpful
What to do if you get a tick bite?
*Remove the tick with a fine tipped tweezers as soon as possible. It can take up to 36 hours to transmit the bacteria that causes the disease.
*Wash your hands with soap and water, and wash the tick bite with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
Watch for symptoms of Lyme Disease:
*Symptoms may include fatigue, chills, fever, joint pain, headache. Often there is red rash around bite, this rash sometimes gives the appearance of bull’s eye.
*Call your doctor immediately if symptoms are present. Appropriate treatment of Lyme disease with antibiotics almost always results in full cure.

Burlington Kids Afterschool Registration for 2017-2018 school year is now open!

The Burlington Kids Afterschool Program is a collaboration between the City of Burlington, Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department and the Burlington School District! We offer after-school programming every school day after students are dismissed at either 1:50pm (Wednesdays) or 2:50pm until 5:30pm. To register, please fill out a registration packet located in the main office. Registration is first-come, first-served, and space is limited.

A New Look for Champlain Elementary School & An Announcement from Champlain’s Parent-Teacher Organization

A New Look for Champlain Elementary School
The Champlain community benefits from the talents and contributions from our parent and local community in so many ways, both visible and hard-to-see. This new look for our newsletter and letterhead is the result of a lengthy dialogue between artist and CES parent Glynnis Fawkes. Over the past two months, we have discussed ways of striking the right image for Champ. First we had to figure out just what distinguished a lovable sea creature from those angry or some other creature entirely. The faculty viewed drafts until we found just the right fit, closely resembling our creature in the learning center hallway. Ms. Fawkes also crafted the original font of “Champlain Elementary School” seen above, and created a color Champ as well.

This month the Society of Illustrators awarded Ms. Fawkes a silver medal for her graphic nonfiction book, Greek Diary, at the Annual Comics Festival MoCCAMs. Last year she was awarded for her book, AllleEgo. A wonder to behold of serious and comical illustrations, her professional work can be viewed at http://www.glynnisfawkes.com/blog.

All over Champlain, one sees any variety of Champ representations. Although we have updated our school letterhead to represent our mascot, we are not rebranding. Every Champ has a place on a poster, t-shirt, flier, etc. to represent Champlain. The Fawkes Champ fills an important need for an easily reproducible, black-and-white graphic design and a clean, “conversable” stationary. Champlain friends are always welcome to draw their version of Champ.

An Announcement from Champlain’s Parent-Teacher Organization
Are you interested in joining a board to help serve your local community? Do you seek to have a voice in the elementary school experience of your child? Your local Champlain Elementary PTO Board is currently looking for a few members to join an active, organized board to help support the Champlain school community. Your ideas and energy are welcome, and you will be joining returning members who have institutional knowledge of board operations, and who have a sense of the PTO activities that align with the school calendar. Help strengthen the school experience for your child, and others, when you volunteer to help support PTO activities such as Harvest Fest, book fairs, Box Tops for Education, Trivia Night, Fun Run, Green Up Day Tire Round-up, meetings with school board commissioners, and many other events.

This can't happen without volunteer efforts, and board members play a critical role in helping to support the PTO mission.  Responsibilities for maintaining a vibrant PTO are shared by many, and we seek your wisdom, energy, and contributions at any level.  Whether you may be interested in volunteering for a singular event, or might have interest in being a board member, we welcome your interest in serving your community.  Please contact PTO President Michael Fisher at mikthefish@hotmail.com to learn more about volunteer opportunities.