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

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!