Saturday, November 10, 2018

Teaching School-wide Behavior Expectations

Champlain educators have come together to set school-wide behavior expectations and behavior goals. This fall has seen an increase in behavior conduct referrals and disciplinary responses compared to the previous two years. Throughout the month of October, faculty meetings have devoted much discussion to agreeing upon consistent ways of addressing misbehavior in the classroom, in the Student Support Center (formerly planning room), and in the principal’s office.

When Champlain adopted Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) over a decade ago, many months were spent establishing the “Pathway” system. It took years to refine practices for effectiveness and alignment. The Pathway listed steps for educators to address misbehavior, and are likely familiar to most Champlain families going back a long time:
  1. Give a verbal gentle reminder of the rule.
  2. Give a verbal redirection to follow the rule.
  3. Direct the student to the take-a-break chair in the classroom.
  4. Direct the student to sit in the buddy teacher’s classroom.
  5. Contact the main office and request assistance. 
The last step is referred to as a Pathway 5, and includes all “major incidents,” which includes:
  • Bus Violation
  • Physical Aggression/Fighting (with injuries)
  • Property Damage
  • Technology Violation
  • Threatened or Posed Danger
  • Bullying, Hazing, or Harassment
  • Repeated Minor Behaviors
Champlain’s Pathways to School-wide Discipline, developed in years past, includes everything from teaching strategies to reasons for expulsion. And there is a sixth step, “Accessing Outside Support,” that lists family involvement, the school nurse, principal, police, and outside agencies. While some steps have varied, the fifth and sixth steps remain strong. For this reason, every year office calls home are prioritized for handling major incidents, which unfortunately leaves little time to inform parents of minor incidents.

Families may be interested in the role of Burlington’s School Resource (Police) Officers, who serve as excellent consultants on issues faced by children, families, and schools. In addition, the Burlington Police Department abides by a longstanding agreement to partner with school officials on the most concerning behavioral issues, primarily at the middle- and high-school levels.

Two areas that our faculty has agreed upon are (1) teaching and reinforcing school-wide expectations consistently across our school, and (2) reintegrating students to class after a Pathway 5 or 6. By moving the Student Support Center to the main office, children can access higher levels of support and focus more on the goal reflection, reconciliation, and learning to improve behavior. When students have a Pathway 5, they can expect to come to the Student Support Center and experience the following:
  • Sit quietly and not interact with anyone.
  • Deescalate, re-regulate, and show respect.
  • Discuss what the issue was and what they need to do differently.
  • Follow directions and practice a replacement behavior through role playing.
  • Complete a reflection form to improve their behavior and share with their teacher.
  • Complete school work.
  • Reflect on the misbehavior and plan for restoring relationships.
When complete, students will be brought back to class, instructed to sit silently in the take-a-break chair, and wait for the teacher to talk with them and read the reflection form. 

The teaching of target behaviors launches during assemblies. With the help of our fifth-grade assembly leaders, Marina Twohig, Jane Laramee, and Ava Rolland, both October assemblies have addressed common behavior practices. On Oct. 30, their presentation focused on Champlain’s common expectations for walking throughout the school building:
  • Hands by your side
  • Staying in a line
  • Facing forward
  • Walking feet
  • Staying on the right side
  • Whisper or be silent
Parents/guardians may ask their children about the school-wide expectation practiced that week. Support from home to encourage students in meeting or even exceeding expectations is greatly appreciated. As part of this strategy, the Blue Note will feature the current expectation focus.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

An Interview with Brian Kelley, Champlain’s School Nurse & New Student Support Center and Location

An Interview with Brian Kelley, Champlain’s School Nurse 

Last spring Champlain’s school nurse Nancy Pruitt retired after many years of service. This fall many of our students and parents have gotten to know our new nurse, Brian Kelley, who has brought a wealth of experience and caring to our school. This interview provides an opportunity for all to make his acquaintance.

DD: What inspired you to become a nurse?

BK: Both of my parents were in healthcare so I guess I followed the “family business.” My nursing degree was my second degree, and I was very lucky that at the time I was choosing which part of health care I wanted to work in, there was (and still is) a nursing shortage. I was given a scholarship by the Freeman Foundation of Stowe, Vermont which was trying to improve the Vermont healthcare system.

DD: What made you decide to become a school nurse?

BK: One of the great things about being a nurse is that there are so many different things you can do in the field. I have worked on research studies, taught in the UVM School of Nursing, worked in hospitals, and more. I never thought of pediatrics or school nursing as a career path, but somehow I have ended up working with pediatric populations in some capacity for the last 12 to 15 years I have worked with children with special-health needs for over ten years and even did some work at Champlain Elementary in the past, so I already knew the school and some of the staff. School nursing is great in that every day is different, which I really like, and the schedule works very well for my own children who are in eighth and second grade.

DD: What are some of the most common reasons why children come to the health office?

BK: Children come in for all types of reasons. As you can imagine we hand out a lot of band aids and ice packs for the bumps and scrapes that happen on the playground and in the day-to-day happenings of an elementary school. However, I also see a number of students who come in who are upset and not feeling well. Sometimes they know why they are not feeling well (such as, they have a cold), but sometimes they are not sure what’s making them not feel well. Often these students seem to be having physical symptoms of some stress in their lives. Sometimes it is an argument with a friend or some other stress in their lives. For many of these students, what they need is someone to talk to and a calm safe space to decompress for a few minutes. It’s amazing how just listening to them in the health office for a few minutes can be so helpful.
DD: What do you think are the greatest challenges to children's health in 2018?

BK: In my opinion the biggest impacts on children health today are the extremes that we see from the “haves and have nots” division in our society today. We have poverty in Burlington and the school system, which we know impacts the health of children of those families dealing with poverty. On the other end of the spectrum are the problems of excess - childhood obesity rates continue to creep upwards nationally and I worry about the sedentary lifestyle that may impact a student’s health in a number of ways.

Champlain’s New Student Support Center and Location

Burlington elementary principals have agreed to rename the planning room at each of our schools to the “Student Support Center” (SSC). Much more than planning happens in the SSC to support the unique needs of every student, such as meditation, reflection, quiet schoolwork, and dialogue. New to Champlain this fall, yet quickly establishing great connections with our students, “Miss Emmie” Headrick has a strong background in youth mental-health care with NFI of Vermont. She can be in such demand, that our school counselor and principal often respond to student needs. To improve Champlain’s effectiveness in supporting and coordinating our students’ needs, we have moved the SSC from the east hallway near the gym to the main office, directly across from the principal. In this way, students will have greater privacy and access to the school counselor and nurse. The new location also will improve the quality of in-school suspension and, when needed, ease of transition home or back to class. Any parents with questions may contact Miss Emmie at

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Proposed Renovation of BHS, Learning Highlights, College Students & Halloween at Champlain

Learn about the Proposed Renovation of Burlington High School
When I ask Champlain alumni about life and learning in the high school, they say, “I love it! It’s great!” They’re talking about the academics, cultural diversity, co-curricular programs, and community. Likely they’d tell another story when it comes to the physical building. An oft-cited concern pertains to the lack of accessibility for people who cannot climb stairs. During the August inservice, this was seen among adults who had to travel long distances across several buildings to get from one floor to the other within the same building. Injuries and physical disabilities greatly increase the dependence on school-wide accessibility and the challenge to arrive at class on time.

Wheelchair accessibility is just one of the many areas addressed in the exciting proposal to renovate Burlington High School. Security improvements, natural lighting, 21st century learning environments, a makerspace, and a freshman academy feature prominently in the plan. Infrastructural upgrades will be extensive for modernizing and increasing energy efficiency. Parents, students, and community members are invited to tour Burlington High School on these scheduled dates: 
Wed. Oct. 17 at 6:00 PM Tue. Oct. 23 at 5:30 PM Sat. Nov. 3 at 9:00 AM
Burlington residents will be asked to vote on the proposed renovation on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 6. To register for a tour, visit:
To learn more about the proposed renovations and watch an animated video, visit:

Some Highlights of K-5 Learning at Champlain from Teachers’ Newsletters
Kindergarten mathematics: This week students will learn more about the number zero and will practice decomposing the number five. We will also practice number formation!

First-grade writing: Small moments: Writing stories using spaces, correct punctuation, and correct spelling of snap words.

Second-grade reading: Reader’s Workshop - Students have mastered classroom expectations for reading to themselves for 35 minutes! Since meeting this goal, we started partner reading last week, where students can read, explore and question together. Additionally, we’re discovering different strategies to figure out tricky words and infer their meaning. We’re very lucky this year to be book buddies with Ms. Legault’s fifth grade class! Each student has a big book buddy they read with every Friday morning!

Fourth-grade science: We continue to practice acting like a scientist to conduct meetings and discussions. We have been using our team building exercises to understand that it’s normal not to get something right the first time you try. Students worked through their frustrations of having to go back to the drawing board many times to achieve a desired end result. This was very meaningful work!

Fifth-grade community building and social curriculum: The social curriculum this fall has been based on work around seven “Habitudes”. Habitudes are the habits and attitudes that have been determined to enhance success in students socially and academically. The seven habitudes are imagination, curiosity, self-awareness, perseverance, teamwork, compassion, and adaptability. We brainstormed what each word meant to us and have done a variety of activities to support each habitude, such as finding hidden images in a scribble (imagination), asking questions about an ordinary object (curiosity), and participating in engineering challenges (perseverance). Learning these “habitudes” will help support our self-reflection work and learning goals development. If you stop by our classroom you will see several examples of our work around habitudes on the walls!

University of Vermont and St. Michael’s College Students Learn the Craft at Champlain
Every year Champlain Elementary School hosts college students to learn from the expertise of our faculty. This fall SMC students Delia Conlon and Margaret McKeon and UVM students Caelynn Carroll, Kelly Clark, Jaclyn Cline, Moriah Covey, Pigeon Nelson, and Samuel Whitman will be observing instruction, supporting students’ learning, or student teaching.

In addition, Gail Shampnois and John Meir, directors of the University of Vermont Office of Student & Community Relations, have asked Champlain and Edmunds Elementary School to take part in a short video about restorative practices. Champlain will focus on peer mediation; Edmunds will center on classroom circles. This collaboration arose when two former Champlain students, Nyankor Ateny and Marcus Bussiere, presented at the International Restorative Practices Conference last June. UVM’s student leadership class will be leading the video project.

Halloween at Champlain
The Burlington School District has established clear guidelines regarding Halloween in alignment with our mission of diversity and equity. We will not have a school-wide event. Students may not bring candy or wear costumes to school. In the days ahead, teachers may contact parents and inform students about special activities on October 31st.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Reading to End Racism with BHS Students, Donations of A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, and Zero the Therapy Dog

Champlain Hosts Reading to End Racism with Burlington High School Students
Sixteen Burlington High School (BHS) students and English Learner teacher Susan Blethen arrived before the morning bell on Wednesday, September 26 for Champlain’s first elementary-high school partnership in Reading to End Racism. Our BHS guest readers drew from all grade levels. Freshmen and one sophomore included Samjana Rai, Ezra Totten, and Kawther Hashim. Representing the junior class were Saja Almogalli, Ruqaiah Dobian, Julius Dodson, Ruby Guth, Chris Kombu, Neelie Markley, Lilly Mitchell, Ryan Pham, and Cecile Yangambi. From the senior class of 2019 were Narou Diop, Jamilo Iftin, Neema Modeste, and Abdi Mohamed. 

In preparation for the event, longtime Burlington resident and diversity consultant Denise Dunbar returned to Champlain to lead a training for our faculty. She shared that since she had experienced Jim Crow laws as a child, not since then has she seen racism like she does today, including in Burlington. Our need to teach against racism has a new urgency, and she was thrilled to know that equity activities will continue all year, every year in every teacher’s classroom, in guidance classes, and with guest presenters. Together we reviewed the circle process before and after the book reading and the expectations of high school students, who would reflect on their connections to the text and why they came to Champlain to help fight racism.

Last Wednesday shortly after arrival, the readers quickly dispersed to grade K-5 classrooms. Each grade read the same book, establishing a learning sequence in Reading to End Racism for the first time as part of Champlain’s Equity Curriculum. All books are available in Champlain’s library:

Book & Author    
Book & Author    
All the Colors of the Earth  
Sheila Hamanaka
Amazing Grace
Mary Hoffman
The Color of Us
Karen Katz
Through My Eyes
Ruby Bridges
Be Kind           
Pat Zietlow Miller
The Day You Begin
Jacqueline Woodson
For forty minutes, our school was very quiet. No one buzzed the office. All students sat together on the carpet, listening to the big high schoolers reading from their teacher’s special chair. Some read as partners, and some classes joined together for a richer experience.

The Champlain faculty wishes to express its deep gratitude to Champlain’s Parent-Teacher Organization for purchasing additional copies of the books listed above and helping us meet our equity goals. A big thank you also goes to BHS principal Noel Green, proficiency-based learning coordinator Jocelyn Fletcher Scheuch, and of course Susan Blethen, who have supported our efforts and organized the “field trip” to Champlain. Our school library maintains a robust multicultural book collection. We encourage Champlain families to explore the titles and check these out to read at home. Please visit this link to see current offerings:

Champlain Library Receives Donations of A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns

Changing times change our culture and language. Across the country, groups of people meeting for the first time introduce themselves by name and preferred pronoun, she/her, he/him, they/them, ze/hir, or their name only. Pronouns often accompany people’s titles on web pages. Since appearance alone does not convey a person’s gender, introductions with pronouns really help. This fact and other helpful information is shared in Archie Bongiovanni’s and Tristan Jimerson’s A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns. Champlain parent Kathlin Bibens has generously donated ten copies to our school, and is appropriate for all readers. Five copies of this fast-read paperback will be available in our library for check out. Thank you for this very thoughtful donation!

Zero the Therapy Dog at Champlain Elementary School
By Terri Lessard, Champlain Instructional Coach

The primary role of a therapy dog is to provide comfort, support, and love to patients in hospitals, nursing home residents, school children, and many other people in need. Therapy Dogs of Vermont (TDV) is a non-profit organization of highly-trained dogs and their volunteer handlers. I would like to introduce Zero, as new Champlain School's therapy dog. Zero is an extremely sensitive, loving guy who turned 5 last April. He is a Wheaten Terrier so he is a hypoallergenic dog. When Zero is not "working" he loves to swim, chase squirrels, and jump for snowballs.

Zero and I have been a therapy team since 2016. Our work has included visits to Starr Farm Nursing home, multiple visits to work with students at UVM, being part of the therapy dog team sent to Hardwick following the tragic car accident, and most recently he has been providing support and smiles to residents at the Arbors in Shelburne. Zero will be at Champlain each Monday to support students in many ways including those who need a furry friend because they are having a tough day or students who just want to say hello, cuddle, or read to him. If you have any questions about Zero's therapy work please feel free to email me at If you would rather not have your child visit with Zero for any reason, please let the office know.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Champlain Adopts Cyber-Safety Curriculum & Thank You for Harvest Fest!

Champlain Adopts Cyber-Safety Curriculum in Grades 3-5

Every week we hear about dangers for children on the Internet: inappropriate websites, predatory users, addictive games, social scheming, and bullying. In November 2017, the Vermont Agency of Education formally adopted the learning standards created by the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE standards span the scope of K-12 into seven areas:
Empowered learner
Digital citizen
Knowledge constructor
Innovative designer
Computational thinker
Creative thinker
Global collaborator

Elementary schools strike a balance between (1) academic rigor and (2) social-emotional development. The first emphasizes the formation of foundational cognitive skills, such as reading, writing, mathematics, and critical thinking. The second moves children from “me” to “we,” building essential intrapersonal and interpersonal abilities for healthy friendships, families, and communities. Both build automatic responses of embracing challenge, problem solving, empathy, and citizenship for lifelong success in the larger world. Neither of these areas require technology, and in the early grades may distract from the larger goals.

Many topics once considered parents’ responsibility are now included in schools’ curriculum. While Vermont has incorporated technology standards for many years, the ISTE standards embed technology in virtually all subject areas. At the elementary level, teaching safety comes first. For this reason Champlain’s classroom teachers, the librarian, and the school guidance counselor selected the Digital Citizenship Curriculum from Common Sense Education to teach in grades 3-5, beginning this fall.
Since teachers begin using Chromebooks and iPads soon after school starts, Digital Citizenship lessons will be taught in September and October. Fifteen lessons in grades 3-4 include safe Internet surfing, effective searches, online privacy and passwords, and etiquette. In fifth grade, these topics are deepened, with ideas such as “Rings of Responsibility,” which poses the question: What kinds of responsibilities does a good digital citizen have? In the lesson, “Powerful Words,” students learn answers to: What should you do when someone uses mean or scary language on the Internet? At this upper-grade level, students delve into more complex conversations, such as Internet scams, media stereotypes, citations, and cyber bullying. Every lesson teaches new vocabulary to solidify abstract ideas into plain common sense when using technology.

At Champlain, students are not permitted to bring technological devices to school, such as cell phones, tablets, etc. If students accidentally bring any prohibited items to school (toy gun, electronic game, etc.), they are expected to bring these to the main office for safekeeping and return to parents/guardians. Please see the 2018-19 Champlain Family Handbook for a complete list of these items.

While inappropriate use of technology is uncommon at Champlain, when this arises, students meet with the principal or Student Support Center (formerly planning room) staff in order to review school rules and consequences. In addition receiving a Student Conduct Referral, parents receive a letter home explaining the technology violation and suggesting helpful safety tips to prevent future misuse.

2018-19 Champlain Family Handbook:
Common Sense Digital Curriculum:
International Society of Technology in Education standards:

A Huge THANK YOU for Harvest Fest!

Over many months, many hands of parents, guardians, faculty, staff, and community members bring the annual Harvest Fest to Champlain Elementary School. Champlain’s Parent-Teacher Organization president Kerrie Mathes and PTO Harvest Fest Committee started planning last June with the help of many school, parent, and community volunteers. Our local sponsors include Ben and Jerry’s, Burlington School Food Project, Champlain Chocolates, City Market, Creston Electric Instruments, The Great Northern, Market 32/Price Chopper, McKenzie Meats, and New World Tortilla. Champlain’s outdoor education committee meets year-round to support our gardens and educate our children about the natural world and gardening. Recent members are committee leader Sara Brown, Kerrie, and teachers Aziza Malik, Betsy Patrick, Stacey Isenor, and Jessica Villani. Summer garden parent volunteers include Alex and Heather Chernyshov, Carin Lily, Colleen O’Brien, Deanna Allen, Elizabeth Zippern, Kathlin Bibens, Katlyn Morris, Katy Wallace, Kerrie Mathes, Sara Brown, and Vanessa Berman.

Our school garden volunteers sow the seeds every spring for us to reap the benefits that feed our tummies and souls, and that educate our students to love our planet.

A very special shout out goes to Ms. Malik and Ms. Patrick again, plus new Champlain teachers Ms. Ashley Christiaanse and Ms. Erin Webster, who hosted the Stuck in Vermont crew in their classes. Additional thanks to local artist Haley Bishop for our newly painted garden sign. We also express our deep gratitude to Burlington Food Service Champlain Chef Kaye Douglas and Burlington School Food Project garden education coordinator Christine Gall, who contribute all year to help teach our students from garden to kitchen to table.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Safety at Champlain Elementary School

Every school in the country maintains an active Safety Team and plan. Burlington School District leaders meet monthly with local law enforcement and other emergency responders to discuss models and coordination for the most effective strategies in keeping children and staff safe. Champlain’s Safety Team, which also meets monthly and whenever the need arises, has had nearly the same membership for over two years. This consistency led to perhaps the most efficient building evacuation “fire” drill last Friday, in which everyone was out of the building within five minutes and lining up at least 300’ from the building.

Champlain’s 2018-19 Safety Team includes:
Dorinne Dorfman, Lead
Jessica Villani, Communications Officer
Janet Breen, Admin/Lead Designee
Carl Terry/Sean Livingston, Property Services
Brian Kelley, School Nurse
Kaitlyn Morrissey, School Counselor
Emmie Headrick, Student Support (Planning Room) Staff
Karlie Gunderson and Jennifer O’Leary, B’Kids After-school Directors

In addition, Burlington Police Department and BSD School Resource Officers support our schools in innumerable ways. “Officer Mike” Michael Hemond has replaced Officer Brian DiFranco. Corporal Jessica Norris remains with us for a second year. Drills have been scheduled for 2018-19 in alignment with Vermont State requirements, alternating between building evacuation and lockdown, with the exception of September, which requires both. Both the Burlington Police Department and BSD Property Services have been informed of the schedule and play important roles for smooth implementation. Champlain has agreements with two neighbors for emergency evacuation sites. Champlain is not an evacuation site for another school or organization.

Our primary site is: CrossFit Gym, 39 Birchcliff Pkwy (802) 999-3650 Reunification site: CrossFit parking lot

Our secondary site is: St. Anthony Church gym or chapel, 305 Flynn Ave (802) 862-5784 Reunification site: Church parking lot

This fall the BSD switched from the Incident Command model to the I Love U Guys Foundation. Despite its colloquial name, their materials are clearer and more consistent with other Chittenden County schools. Some of the commands differ from the Incident Command model, but are more specific when announced. 

I Love U Guys Foundation
Incident Command
“Clear the Halls”
“Clear the Halls”
“Evacuate to ____________ (announce locations)”
“Evacuate the Building”
“Lockdown: Locks, Lights, Out of Sight”
“Lockdown - Secure the School”
“Shelter: Hazard and Safety Strategy”
“Secure and Hold - Shelter in Place” and “Protect the Perimeter”

“Shelter: Hazard and Safety Strategy,” is not practiced monthly and is rarely needed. This command is used when a danger emerges outside the school building but does not directly affect the school. No one is permitted to leave the building. Any staff, student, or visitor outdoors on campus must enter and remain inside. They may move from room to room as usual. 

In addition, when an emergency happens that affects Champlain families, such as a community tragedy or other complex crisis affecting multiple families, an ad-hoc Emergency Response Team will convene right away to support Champlain families and coordinate efforts with other schools and the district. Immediately after the crisis becomes known, this team meets once or twice a week until the crisis has passed. Members of this team include:
Dorinne Dorfman, Principal - Lead
Janet Breen, Administrative Assistant
Kaitlyn Morrissey, School Counselor
1-3 teachers with students affected
1-2 parents representing the PTO (when appropriate - some crises are confidential)

For more information on the I Love U Guys Foundation, visit:

For more information on Vermont school crisis response, visit:

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Champlain’s Designated Employees to Address Harassment, Hazing, and Bullying

In adherence to Burlington School District policy, every year our school designates employees who receive training as investigators of accusations of harassment, hazing, and bullying (HHB). Anytime faculty, staff, parents/guardians, or students believe that student interactions may be considered HHB, they should report their concerns to a Designated Employee (DE) right away. 

By addressing potential or actual HHB quickly, we: 

• Stop the problem from worsening 

• Support students who have been harmed

• Educate students and parents/guardians about HHB policy and prevention

• Provide opportunities for healing the harm and rebuilding relationships

• Prevent those who engaged in HHB from repeating their mistakes and causing further harm
Please read more about Burlington’s HHB policy and Champlain’s prevention methods in our 2018-19 Family Handbook, available at: Printed copies can also be found at school.
Champlain’s Designated Employees (DEs): Principal Dorinne Dorfman, school counselor Kaitlyn Morrissey, and planning room paraeducator Emmie Headrick