Saturday, January 12, 2019

Happy New Year, Champlain! Make it a Great New Start!

Resolutions, predictions, and transitions arise with the new year! This is a great opportunity to start new healthy habits as a whole family. Sit together and ask, What do we want to make better? Consider some possibilities and come up with your own:
Be more thoughtful of others.
Ask each other, “How can I help you?”
Read a story together every day.
Start getting ready for bed 30 minutes earlier.
Eat a “vegetable of the day” and try new ones.
Turn off technology at least one hour before bedtime.
Write notes to each other and place them in lunchboxes, on kitchen counters, on top of pillows, and other places with phrases like:  “You mean the world to me!” “You make me happy!” “I love you!” “You’re the best!”

There are endless ways to show gratitude, but like everything, children learn by example. Every day at Champlain they learn and practice getting along with a diverse group of people, by personality, age, ethnic background, gender, and religion. They learn the power of flexibility, problem solving, resilience, and community, all of which can be practiced at home, too.

The week before winter break, renowned educator Jennifer Stanchfield facilitated innovative activities in one-third of Champlain classrooms. Integrating brain-based educational research, Ms. Stanchfield fostered the development of class community and student voice over three days of workshops. On January 10, she returned to Champlain and taught a daylong teacher workshop based on her book, Inspired Educator Inspired Learner (Wood N Barnes Publishing, 2014). She draws much of her inspiration from Burlington-born philosopher John Dewey, who wrote in 1910, “To be playful and serious at the same time is possible, and it defines the ideal mental condition.”

The first step in building community starts with a “hook” to get students’ attention. Students selected objects from a treasure box and shared with a partner a personal goal. They also invented new handshakes unique to their classroom. To get to know each other, they shared the origins of their name, or perhaps created a new nickname. In one activity, students sat back-to-back and described each other with positive (nonphysical) attributes. With a full bucket of compliments, each student chose a picture postcard, and classmates had to guess the reason for this choice. Ms. Stanchfield explained that, “Often people find it easier to share when they can attach their thoughts to an object or image and will share more deeply when they have a visual symbol to represent their ideas and feelings.” On their postcards, they wrote a note to their “future selves,” restating their positive traits described by their peers.
For more information on Jennifer Stanchfield’s programs, including ideas to try at home (such as the handshake and postcard), visit

Champlain Pride! Thank you, baby and grown-up dragons, who made Champlain’s dragon on New Year’s Eve a great success! Very special thanks to parent Doug DePolo, who made this special event possible!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Champlain Performs Annie the Musical

Last Friday, over forty Champlain fourth and fifth graders performed the musical Annie. Lisa Goetz directed the production alongside assistant director/parent Kathleen Laramee, musical director/parent Jessica Blackman, and scenery & props directors/parents Kelly and Mark Foster and Robert and Alison Harte. Last year students wowed our school community with their performances of The Wizard of Oz and a Talent Show, both directed by Ms. Goetz. This winter’s theater program delighted our student audiences during the school day and a full house of families that evening.

First to appear on stage was Annie, played by Annie Harte, singing a bedtime prayer for a better life, “Maybe.” She was far from alone. Rising from the floor were her fellow orphans, scared and teasing and arguing until Annie scolded and comforted them. In marches Miss Hannigan, convincingly portrayed by Marina Twohig, who ridiculed them mercilessly and delighted with sarcasm in their misfortune. Her leopard-print bathrobe and hair curlers shed a dubious light on her real objectives, to be revealed at very end.

The actors gave their full selves in their roles. Full of spirit and hope, our students in the orphanage moved and sang beautifully, well-practiced and confident. As Mr. Bundles, Keats Overman-Smith pitched a friendly southern drawl, happily conspiring to free Annie, in contrast with the policeman Elliot Palm, firm in his commands for rounding up the runaway and her new pet. Emanuel Jorgensen never broke from acting all dog, a tough challenge since, once onstage, he never left.

Annie quickly undid the stiff exterior of Warbucks’s staff. After a remarkably choreographed display of eating popcorn, they begged their boss to keep her. They struck a different cord when Drake (Holden Mulvey) and Charlie (Kezia Bibens) asked, “Are you sure you only love money, power, and capitalism? They will never love you back.” Warbucks rejected his namesake and embraced the power of love.

Katie Sumner seemed to appear out of nowhere when she sang, “You’re Never Fully Dressed,” herself glittering in a yellow vest and top hat. The nine flapper dancers joined the set in full Broadway style, followed by a perfectly-timed parody to sell toothpaste by Morgan Davis, Teagan Berquist, and Siena DeMink as Ronnie, Bonnie, and Connie Boylan.

If this wasn’t enough, suddenly Annie was thrust onstage with none other that President Roosevelt (played in a stately manner by Jack Foster), who asked the billionaire Warbucks (a triumphant Ben Koh) to help pull America out of the Great Depression. Together the full cast sang “Tomorrow,” complete with American flag, reminding us that history indeed repeats itself. Annie was not just the hero of the orphanage, but promised to help the whole country, saying, “Let’s go home and work on the New Deal!”

Space limits describing every participant, but one last note must be made for Cora Lea and Jane Laramee as the imposters Rooster and Lily, revelling as bandits making off with Annie’s reward. The mustache kept Cora a debonair mystery man, but Jane’s deviant dress and speech unveiled their malicious intent.

Our Champlain actors sang and danced loud and proud; even the stage crew joined in! Perhaps they even surprised themselves when realizing what they could create together. So much dedication and brilliance can only be achieved by a vision of what is possible, for which we have Ms. Goetz to thank! She understood the need for excellent sound for the audience to hear every child’s word, and a classy set to contrast worlds of the desolate orphanage and the splendor of the Warbucks home. Thank you, everyone, for helping make Annie at Champlain a great success!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Why and How of Whole-school Expectations

By the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Team of Champlain

At Champlain, we have begun using school-wide weekly goals as a tool to teach positive behavior. Our faculty and PBIS Team determine learning targets based on our school values of safety, responsibility, and respect, and identify the skills needed to meet those targets. We choose words that are easy to say and remember for all ages. In the classroom, we teach into the missing skills. Being proactively taught behavior skills, given opportunities to practice those skills, and praised for success lead to growth. We cannot expect all students to learn a new skill at the same rate or in the same way. Just like in academics, selecting learning targets that are both rigorous and practical is essential.

A great example is “Follow directions the first time.” It is a learning target that supports our school value of responsibility. It sets a high bar, but is attainable for most kids most of the time. In the classroom, when students follow directions, they spend more time engaged in academic instruction, instead of hearing expectations repeated. Children learning to follow directions the first time greatly improves safety, a priority for every school.

While most students follow directions, educators quickly notice a few children, especially in the younger grades, who do not. We take additional steps to identify and accommodate these students’ needs and work hard to help them understand the importance of classroom and school safety. Oftentimes we regularly connect with students to encourage fulfilling school-wide expectations. For that time, the student has 100% of our attention, and can feel empowered to share thoughts and feelings, and work towards a successful day.

Last Monday, we started a new school-wide expectation: Showing gratitude. This expectation supports our value of respect. In class, students will share their appreciation for each other, our community, and beyond. We encourage parents to practice showing appreciation with your children at home, too!

Champlain parents who would like to learn more about school-wide expectations or about PBIS are welcome to contact any member of our team: Lilly Morena, Kaitlyn Morrissey, Barb Juenker, Gavin Wallace, Tammy Charbonneau, and Dorinne Dorfman. The Vermont Agency of Education endorses PBIS and has invested substantial funding over the years for teacher training and team development. Here is the link to their resource webpage:

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Champlain Student Art Show at Phoenix Books, PTO Awards Grants & BED Student Art Contest

Champlain Student Art Show at Phoenix Books
The artwork of thirty Champlain students was displayed during the weeklong book fair at Phoenix Books. Art teacher Sonny Sammut selected some of the finest student works on hand from nearly every class. All grades will be represented at the annual Burlington Student Art Show this spring.

Each of these beautiful works of art combines creativity and skill based on thoughtful art lessons that allow students to learn the great traditions and yet also to explore on their own. Too numerous to describe each one, here are a few delightful highlights.

Among the most striking displays was the fall pumpkin motif, such as the piece created by kindergartener Ella Chernyshov. She painted vibrant colors of orange and yellow, contrasting with a green paper border and green-sparkle vines. With watercolor and ink, fourth-grader Emma-Rose Holas painted an exquisitely-detailed sunflower, from the seeds to the petals, it shone like a soft brown eye from a vase of still blue water. Fourth-grader Joe LaMonde captured a cityscape using the same materials, though combined realistic with futuristic architecture under a very starry twilight. Pasting together collage materials inspired by French post-impressionist Henri Matisse, second graders created works all their own. Cowan Bibens carefully constructed a tank of happy fish, resting on a proportionate stool and surrounded by bright colorful shapes. The magic of elephants could be seen in every portrait of these majestic creatures drawn by fifth graders. Meticulously-sketched, red, turquoise and indigo colored pencil filled the unmistakable shapes drawn by Brian Sopchak, with features accentuated in puff-paint dots.

Other students featured in the Phoenix Books Art Show include: Kindergarteners Parker Hagan, Owen Morris, and Leon Summers; second graders Aria Leff and Sophie Stadecker; third graders Yega Cummings, Mae Dery, Keldon Fanslow, Ben Rumsey, Alex Rusch, and Ryder Whiteman; fourth graders Evan Boljevac-Dall’Olmo, Aiden DePolo, Iris Hathway, Kaung Kyaw, Joe LaMonde, and Nora Vota; and fifth graders Samara Berman, Evan Bretton, Claire Chutter-Cressy, Cameron Gurry, Ben Koh, Jane Laramee, Ava Rolland, Marina Twohig, and Sebastian Yaranga-Pintado.

Champlain parents can be seen regularly in the school halls hanging student artwork. Not only do their efforts light up our school with gorgeous color and creativity, they recognize our students’ individuality and achievement in the visual arts. Thank you, Ms. Sammut and all the parent art volunteers who make such a positive impact on our school!

Champlain’s Parent-Teacher Organization Awards Grants

Throughout the school year, Champlain’s PTO leads fundraisers to support special projects, field trips, and learning materials beyond the local school budget. Most recently Phoenix Books has donated 20% of sales to Champlain when patrons mention our school at checkout. These efforts allow Champlain educators and community members to apply for funding three times a year. This fall our PTO donated a total of $4,568 for the following activities:
Online subscription for Starfall, a K-2 reading tool
Noise-cancelling headphones for each classroom
Crafts and games for fifth-grade indoor recess and projects
Special seats to better accommodate students
Sled for recess and the after-school program
Storage shed for playground supplies used during Morning Champions, recess, and after-school program
Weaving instructor
Teacher appreciation materials for the Staff Wellness Committee
Classroom supplies
Books for teaching spelling

In addition, our PTO has voted to fund $800 annually for supplies used in classroom cooking with the Charlie Cart, which was also funded in part by our PTO. This expenditure will be added to the other annual award of $1,500 to help cover the cost of field trips and transportation.

Champlain’s students directly benefit from our PTO’s fundraising and grant awards. Every dollar donated goes to academic and wellness activities, with no red tape, middleman, or any other obstacle in the way. We are so grateful for all our PTO’s efforts to support our school, and this year has been especially extraordinary for two more reasons. One, our PTO researched and fundraised for the purchase and installation a state-of-the-art audio system, which has greatly improved the quality of our assemblies and even our school lunches. Ms. D sits with students and speaks into her wireless headset, while others wonder from which direction her voice comes! Two, the PTO is fully supporting our school production of the musical Annie, which is just two short weeks away! Thank you so much, Champlain parents, for everything you do for our students and school!

Champlain Student Art Selected for Burlington Electric Department Calendar
Champlain fourth graders have been recognized for their artwork representing their impressions of energy efficiency. According to the Burlington Electric Department, their work “was selected by a panel of judges from more than 125 beautiful works of art created by the Burlington School District’s amazingly thoughtful and talented fourth graders and will fill the pages of the 2019 Energy Efficiency Calendar!”

The Champlain winners include two students from Ashley Christiaanse’s class: Emma Maley (front cover) and Nora Vota (June page). The Artwork of fourteen students from BSD elementary schools were selected and honored at a ceremony on November 27. Winners will receive certificates and special gifts, presented by Mayor Miro Weinberger and BED Manager Darren Springer Lunderville.

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.