Saturday, June 8, 2019

Interviews with Dorinne Dorfman and Christine Gall, and Farewell by Sonny Sammut

So Much Fun and Learning Together!
Three fifth graders, Jack Foster, Annie Harte, and Scarlett Contreras-Montesano interviewed Dr. Dorinne Dorfman during her last weeks at Champlain Elementary School. Always professional, Annie and Jack took turns asking questions while Scarlett shot the video recording.

AH & JT: What do you like to do outside of school?
DD: I like going hiking and swimming and running, spending time with my family, and traveling. I like to visit other schools and learn from other teachers. When I have time, I really like to read the New York Times.
AH & JT: Who do you look up to in the world as a leader and why?
DD: Mahatma Gandhi, who led the independence of India from Great Britain through non-violent disobedience, is my hero. India was a British colony for hundreds of years. Previously India was a very wealthy and incredibly culturally diverse society. His leadership overthrew the largest power in the world at the time.
AH & JT: What inspired you to become principal?
DD: I had just started my first big teaching job and I asked the principal if I could write grant applications to bring multicultural performances to the school, which had an almost entirely white student body and staff. After we were awarded the grant money, he took me aside and said, “You need to become a principal and a superintendent and make a bigger difference in the world.” He became my mentor.
AH & JT: What made you want to start programs like peer mediation?
DD: I have always been interested in peace education and fighting racism through education. I truly believe that adults can shape new minds in positive ways. People need conflict resolution skills to succeed in school and adulthood. It’s essential for everyone to learn to see someone else’s point of view.
AH & JT: If you could choose another career what would it be and why?
DD: Before college, I had always planned on being an artist. But you can only earn money by designing advertisements. Unless you’re independently wealthy, you can’t just paint and have art shows every once in awhile and get by. Another job that interested me was becoming a lawyer. My dad’s a lawyer, my brother’s a lawyer, and my daughter’s a lawyer. I considered going to law school after I became a teacher, so I could work directly for social justice. That plan changed when a great superintendent, Alice Angney, told me that education needed me. Alice said, “The problem is not that we don’t have enough lawyers in the world. The problem is that the people who have solutions are not in power.”
AH & JT: If you could go out into the world and make one big change what would it be and why?
DD: Save the environment! We have such a beautiful planet. Of course I want world hunger and homelessness to disappear, but if we can fix the environment, we can also fix the other problems.
AH & JT: What have you enjoyed the most at Champlain?
DD: That’s easy! The students, of course!!

Champlain Gardens are Growing!
Christine Gall is the Burlington School Food Project (BSFP) garden education coordinator. In addition to maintaining the production gardens at Burlington High School and Hunt Middle School, Christine teaches cooking and gardening classes at the elementary schools throughout the district. Dr. Dorinne Dorfman interviewed Christine to share news about our wonderful garden with everyone. Be sure to come to the southeast corner of Champlain’s campus to check it out!

DD: What are Burlington School Food Project’s educational goals involving school gardens and classroom cooking activities?
CG: We want to cultivate a culture where students frequently engage in food-based learning opportunities – whether those be excursions to the garden or cooking activities in the classroom or cafeteria. While I currently facilitate many of these experiences, BSFP hopes that over time teachers will feel inspired to integrate these activities into their everyday classroom teaching.
DD: What percentage of schools and students participate in this program?
CG: Every single class at Champlain has participated in multiple garden or cooking classes this year – in fact many have participated almost every month of the school year. Champlain is one of three (soon to be four) elementary schools where I lead weekly gardening and cooking activities.
DD: What is special about Champlain’s gardening and cooking program?

CG: Champlain’s mobile kitchen (the Charlie Cart), which I’ve been using with classes since spring of 2016, has served as the inspiration for elementary school cooking programs across the district. Additionally, Chef Kaye Douglas invites classes into her kitchen for monthly cooking activities, something no one else in the district is doing.
DD: Why is education about gardening and cooking important?
CG: Students who may struggle in a traditional classroom tend to flourish when out in the garden or during a cooking class. Planting seeds, watching them grow, weeding, watering, and eventually harvesting all instill a wonderful sense of responsibility, ownership, compassion, and achievement. The same can be said about cooking activities. When students have the opportunity to create something with their own hands or as part of a team, there’s additional investment and interest. Gardening and cooking not only give students the opportunity to practice stepping outside their comfort zone, but they also allow for the development of lifelong skills.
DD: What happens to the produce grown?
CG: Produce from the garden is either used in cooking classes I lead, or goes directly to Chef Kaye’s kitchen for healthy lunches.
DD: How do teachers and volunteers help student learning and maintain the garden?
CG: Champlain’s cooking and gardening program has great parent support. Parents volunteer to manage cafeteria taste tests, pick up groceries for cooking classes, and maintain the garden throughout the summer. Some parents even serve on the Outdoor Committee, attending monthly meetings where we discuss plans for the garden and overall program.

Farewell Dr. D!
By Sonny Sammut, Art Teacher
As the year closes we will be saying goodbye to Dr. Dorfman. She is moving on to a new position and she will be missed by many of us. I wanted to thank her for her commitment to our students and to Champlain Elementary School. She has worked tirelessly to keep us informed and up to date with all the complex issues an elementary school faces today. She has always greeted our students, staff, and families with a smile and an upbeat attitude and has attended almost every event our students take part in. She has recognized the importance of being a trauma-informed school and the necessity of increasing supports for an ever-growing population of students with diverse needs, and has provided staff with training in LGBTQIA issues, Trauma Sensitivity, PBIS, Response to Intervention, Restorative Practices, and Peer Mediation. Her focused attention to instructional practices that meet the needs of all students and their social/emotional growth has upheld the district goal to decrease the rate of suspensions.
Dr. D…Thank-you for caring so much about Champlain Elementary and we wish you only the best going forward.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Fifth Graders Paint Murals and Stay Safe This Summer

Fifth Graders Paint Murals for Champlain Entranceway

Burlington-based artist Tara Goreau taught design and painting to Champlain’s fifth graders over a five-day residency this month. Vision and funding for the mural was provided by our Parent-Teacher Organization, lead by president Kerrie Mathes. Tara is a “large-scale artist whose vivid murals have inspired and reflected communities locally and abroad,” including on three continents. Dr. Dorinne Dorfman interviewed Tara during the residency.

DD: How was the theme for the mural developed?

TG: I feel like around fifth grade is a time when people start to really think about their identity, and what makes them who they are. While this changes throughout life, I wanted the fifth-grade classes to celebrate this new sense of a stronger self-awareness that continues to develop over time. I thought that self-portraits could not only help them share with the outside world who they were as individuals, but also encourage other kids to own their differences and unique characteristics. I wanted them to truly leave their mark on the school!

DD: How have the students taken to the mural project?

TG: It was very rewarding to see those who were less experienced dive in and gain skills by getting outside of their comfort zone and painting. Some of my favorite panels came from less experienced painters, who were taking risks and getting messy. There were many students who were very practiced and it was equally amazing to see them bring life to their mural panels. All in all, these are cumulative portraits of a variety of skills, and the differences and contrasts in their styles make for an intriguing mix of flavors in their final pieces.

DD: What was the technical process?

TG: The students painted on non-woven fabric, pellon, and this will all be glued onto 1/4” exterior grade plywood panels. They used a mix of non-toxic craft paint, and exterior latex, so that the paint will stand up to the elements. I intend to install the panels by drilling into the metal, and using screws and washers to secure them up there.

DD: Who else was involved in creating the mural?

TG: First of all, Kerrie Mathes asked me to start discussing a mural project with the school about a year ago. I had done an art event with Junior Iron Chef, where she works, and from there we started discussing possibilities with the fifth-grade teachers, the art teacher Ms. Sammut, and you. After a bit of discussion about placement, we decided on the entryway to brighten up the area and welcome all those who enter. The entryway had room for six panels, so this helped me design the project based on the space we had.

DD: What else would you like to add?

TG: There may be room for a large exterior mural installation on the wall facing Pine Street. I want to say thank you to the PTO board for funding this, to Kerrie who is superwoman, to you for making this happen, and to the fifth-grade teachers who have been so wonderful to work with and really supported their students and me throughout this adventure. I also want to thank all of the students – they did their best to leave a lasting art gift for this school!

Hooray for Summer! Stay Safe! 
By Brian Kelley, School Nurse

Whether the weeks of our break find you on the beach, poolside, traveling or just enjoying the great outdoors locally there are a number of things you can do to keep yourselves and your children healthy and safe.

1. Be sun smart! Seeking shade, wearing protective clothing (broad-brimmed hats, sunglasses, lightweight protective clothing), avoiding peak sun exposure hours and last but not least using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 everyday - including overcast days - is imperative in protecting your skin! Remember that sunscreen needs to be applied with a heavy hand. You should be able to SEE it initially then rub it in. All exposed skin should be given a coat, including the easily-forgotten ears and the back of the neck.

2. Stay hydrated! Just being outdoors in hot, humid weather can result in dehydration because we tend to sweat more, but when children are running, climbing and actively playing this possibility increases. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water before, during and after outdoor play. Monitor the color of their urine to help determine their level of hydration. The lighter the color, the more hydrated they are. It should be at least a light straw-color.

3. Enjoy all the summer produce! Farmers’ markets or even your favorite grocery store will be loaded with healthy seasonal fruits and vegetables. Berries, melons and other fruits are a delicious alternative to ice cream and other fat and/or sugar-filled desserts!

4. Make sure your child wears a bike helmet when biking or rollerblading, mouth guards when playing baseball or basketball, and personal flotation vest every time they are on the water!

5. Watch the bugs and their bites! As previously covered in another newsletter, ticks are everywhere! Even though your child may have been playing on a playground or on cut grass they may still have picked up a tick. Develop the habit of checking the skin from head-to-toe whenever your child has been playing outside. At the end of the day they should remove their clothes, bathe, and have a thorough inspection for these ticks. Inspecting all the “nooks and crannies” is important because ticks can easily find skin folds and other less-obvious places. Should there be any evidence of rash or flu-like symptoms after being bitten, you should seek medical care right away.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

It Takes a Country to Raise a Child

Holding hands, children and parents walk together in the early morning to their local school. From 6AM to 6PM, the gates stay open, providing before- and after-school care. Once instruction starts at 8:10, 20-30 children learn at their desks, while their teacher circulates the room and asks individuals to demonstrate on the board. Today concentration is a challenge because a dozen smiling Vermonters line the walls.

During April break, the Cuban American Friendship Society, a non-profit based in Burlington, led an education trip of some fourteen Burlington teachers, staff, and administrators. The most representation came from Champlain with first-grade teacher Alice Patalano, school counselor Kaitlyn Morrissey, and me. Each day we visited one or more schools, elementary (gr. 1-6), middle (gr. 6-9), pre-college or technical (gr. 10-12). Wearing school uniforms, every student appeared focused on their learning and pleased to share their work. Teachers tolerated our distraction, but did not interrupt their lessons. Indeed, we discovered much about Cuban education and the country that supports student learning.

“We give what we have. Not what we have left,” explained Anna Sanchez Corrado of the José Martí Institute, which had arranged our visits. Often hearing this mantra, we learned the extent to which the Cuban government has invested in education. Ten percent of the nation’s GNP is spent on education, among the highest in the world. Before the 1959 revolution, only about two-thirds of the population could read or write. Today illiteracy in Cuba for children is close to zero. “Education is a political weapon,” the vice president explained. “Only the educated are free. Students need to learn why and learn for themselves. If you understand your reality and your rights, you can build tools to change the system.”

Daily students enjoy a hot lunch for the equivalent of 35 cents per month. School psychologists and community social workers support children facing hardship. Students unable to keep up academically are provide additional instruction to close the achievement gap. We saw evidence of this when visiting a large campus for children and adults with special needs. When specialists detected delayed development in her child, a mother had brought her baby for therapy several times each week. His progress was clear to all, and the mother beamed with pride.

The internal school organization resembles much of the European system, with the exception that all schools and universities are public. Elementary children remain with the same cohort of children and teacher and form a strong class community. Middle-school and pre-college students benefit from remaining with a cohort of 20-30 peers who attend every class together. One teacher follows the class every year, teaching his/her subject area one period a day, continuing the sense of community and social-emotional support. In Cuba, teachers hold a monthly meeting to update parents on learning activities and student progress.

Cuba’s commitment to family and community wellness can be measured in economic terms. Every new mother can enjoy a full year maternity leave at her full salary. Medical care and childcare are free of charge.Teachers honed in on teaching and learning. They did not worry about students facing food insecurity, homelessness, trauma, or other impacts of poverty. We Burlington educators envied this environment, especially seeing the open classroom windows to the street and the pervading sense of calm. During the Q&A with us, a Cuban teacher observed, “I don’t know how American students can learn when they’re scared of getting shot.”

Restrictions in Cuban life are not readily visible to foreigners, but we felt the presence of a government representative, who accompanied our tour group on every visit. Similar to China, Cubans must apply to move from their hometown to a more desirable location. A job is guaranteed to every college graduate, though salaries are so low that adults must find a second income. While United States sanctions prevent many goods from entering Cuba, such as much-needed construction materials, remittances from relatives abroad ensure stability for thousands.

Investment in social services does not require government oppression. As Canada and many western European democracies show, great gains can be made in educational and health outcomes when the country guarantees every family a minimum living standard and high-quality, accessible preK-12, technical college, and university. However, Cuba’s beautiful beaches would be hard to beat!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Celebrating Champlain’s Talent!

At long last, this special edition of the Blue Note is devoted to Celebrating Champlain’s Talent, which took place just before April break, on the evening of Wednesday, April 17. Over eighty children in grades 1-5 performed in one hour and forty minutes. With great enthusiasm, director and emcee Lisa Goetz introduced each one with a brief biography, such as the number of months practiced or personal interests. Quietly yet literally in front of the scene was co-director and parent Jessica Blackman, managing music selections and subtly directing the performers. The excitement was not confined to the stage; the audience danced and sang, too, delighting in the accomplishments of Champlain’s talented, diverse students! Naturally every child deserves the spotlight in print to preserve this precious memory, which will just be the start of many performances throughout the years ahead!

Adorned in animal ears, second-graders Julia Blackman, Esther Mickenberg, and Eve Brown mixed decades of dance moves while the audience clapped to the rhythm of Shakira’s “Try Everything.” With only ten months of lessons, second-grader John Wallace played “Meerkat Capers,” ending with a final slam on the keyboard. Third-grader Mae Dery dressed in bright yellow to play, “Flop-Eared Mule” on the violin. Geneva Walker and Miranda Brown, both in fourth grade, graced the stage in synchronized choreography to the tune of “It’s a Jolly Holiday.” Magic comedy was performed by fifth-graders Gwen Eringis and Alexis LeClair arguing over the time, the feats, the mistakes, though undisputed was their adorability! Dressed in beloved 1960s attire were third-graders Stella Esckilsen and Grace van der Merwe, singing Selena Gomez’s “Wolves.” First grader Will Buntain sang, “Two of Us,” in a strong, beautiful voice, accompanied by his father on the guitar. Three skilled students, Hunter and Jake Stratton and Ryder Whiteman, dribbled basketballs to Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam.” In a snazzy outfit with a yellow tie and accompanied by his father Lance on guitar, Keats Overman Smith sang “A Million Dreams” dramatically in a vibrating voice.

While each act flew by, fourth-grader Lydia Allen’s violin performance of “We Shall Overcome” rooted us to the present moment. Dressed alike, Lila Mickenberg, Iris Hathaway, and Mara Schulman, all in fourth grade, sang beautifully and danced to “Popular.” All so talented! Second-graders Aria Leff played the piano while Phoebe Barron sang a joyful rendition of the Sound of Music classic “Do-Re-Mi” (Doe, a deer…) Star Wars characters played by fifth-graders Cora Lea and Jesse Fitzgerald played “Cantina Band” on the piano and violin, respectively. (What would they sound like in outer space?) Fifth-grader Felix Roesch dazzled the school with diabolo tricks. Thea Mickett, Tegan Bushey, and Ella MacCormack, all in third grade, told jokes and held signs reminding the audience when to laugh (not that we needed help!). Fifth-graders Sam Wick and Evan Bretton juggled clementines in ever more complicated moves. In a long A-line dress, fourth-grader Kaiya Corbett-Anderson danced and spun dramatically to “Sunflower.” To the song “Back to You,” dancing fifth-graders Tess Ewoldsen and Marina Twohig jumped into each other’s arms and synchronized cartwheels. New to the piano, first-grader Emery Nichols played, “Copy Cat” in sure strokes. Fifth-grader Alex Gordon played the ancient instrument ocarina, sounding like the whistle of wings flitting over water. As a surprise, Champlain teachers brought the audience to their feet when they enthusiastically performed a choreographed dance to “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” by Galantis!

In a glittering pink dress, second-grader Jessica Gordon sang and dramatically gestured to “Cups - When I’m Gone.” Third-grader Prabita Gurung followed by dancing and play-acting the song, “Birds of a Feather.” Accompanied by a pianist Emma Xia, fifth-grader Lisa Zhou-Hackett played “Despacito” on the violin, as if an action-packed film score. Fifth-graders Kezia Bibens and Siena DeMink danced in stylish, spinning skirts to Grace Vanderwaal’s “So Much More Than This.” With Devon Bolton on the synthesizer, Beau Wallace sang a Harry Potter tune, adding abstract mouth music and creating a unique sound all their own. Second-graders in rainbow-colored vests, Cora Smith, Sylvie Mobley, Lulu Colman, Saeida Kowa, and Annabelle Rumsey combined gymnastics into their dance to “Cotton Eye Joe.” Along with his big brother Thomas, first-grader Jack Dion, both dressed in their finest, played a suspenseful piece on the piano. Merin Blake and Lucy Esckilsen, both in third grade, wore wide-brimmed hats while dancing together to “The Middle.” A huge surprise for David Bowie fans was first-grader Francisco Frietze falsetto solo of “Life on Mars.”

“Fight Song” was powerfully delivered by third-grader Edie Newhouse-Rigling. Damien Lilly, in fourth grade, performed a challenging piece of classical music from “All Seasons.” Together third-graders Lienna Monte and Aven Jorgenson matched their attire and sound when playing “Long, Long Ago” on the violin. Fifth-graders Holden Mulvey and Ema Jorgensen sang “Stand By Me” with passion and perfection. Sweet-sounding Teagan Berquist sang Vanderwall’s “Clay.” Fourth-grader Aiden DePolo moved his hands rapidly but gracefully, playing his own composition “Next Generation” on the piano. “No Excuses” rapidly sang third-grader Sabrina Borrow, stressing the emotional tone of the lyrics. When Mollie Bullis, Margaret Deforge, Amara Huh-Bond, and Angie Lash started dancing the Macarena, their fellow second graders were not alone in joining; people of all ages followed the familiar moves with exuberance. Caroline Burns followed by dancing solo with grace and confidence to “Boomerang.” In fifth grade, Ella Stadecker wore an iridescent blue dress, leaping and spinning like a ballerina across the entire performance space to “Light Me Up.” Andre Redmond, who amazed many as a kindergartener last year, once again wowed the crowd when he sang Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.”

What does it take to produce such as show? According to the visionary Lisa Goetz, “I am so proud of all the children who participated in this magical evening! I hope it is a happy memory you will have forever! Thank you for letting me be a part of this incredible community. We couldn’t have done this without the help of all the parents of these amazing children! Thank you everyone!” Jessica Blackman added, “I'm so proud of these courageous and enthusiastic kids and grateful for the loving community who supports them!” We are so grateful for her incredible ability to bring out the best in our students, instilling confidence and cheering their strides. One quarter of Champlain students performed in this year’s talent show! As always, the stage crew connected every act and ensured instant yet smooth transitions. They included Julianna Bridges, Samara Berman, Annie Harte, Katie Sumner, and Niko Chernyshov. Extra appreciation to Doug dePolo and Kelly and Mark Foster, parents who helped stage the show and manage production! A huge “Thank You!!” goes to Champlain’s Parent-Teacher Organization, which has supported the expansion of the arts. Our PTO is responsible for our gym’s excellent sound system, drumming classes, two theatrical productions, and the upcoming fifth-grade mural residency.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Champlain’s New Universal Design Playground Committee

In March parent Annie Bourdon, special educator Barb Juenker, physical therapist Lindsay Foote, and I launched the Universal Design Playground Committee to improve the accessibility of our school’s playground and fields. Champlain’s PTO financed the purchase of an adaptive swing for students who need extra support, which was installed by carpenter Ronnie Dusablon one week later. In conjunction with Ms. Tracey Bellavance’s kindergarten, we hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate accomplishing our committee’s first goal.

The committee’s second goal is to work with a consultant who understands Universal Design in a natural setting and take steps towards implementing our vision of universal accessibility. To help explain all that this entails, Annie Bourdon provides this Q & A:

DD: What is a “Universal Design Playground”? What is the playground equipment like?

AB: I believe the term is actually Universally Accessible (UA) playground. A universally accessible playground is designed intentionally to offer people full access to all features and areas, regardless of ability. Such a playground provides a range of features, experiences, and equipment to meet the diverse needs and interests of its users. By being inclusive, it ensures everyone can play.
DD: Doesn’t Champlain have an accessible playground now? What’s wrong with what we have?

AB: No, Champlain’s playground is not currently accessible. First, it offers few, if any, play opportunities for children with physical or other disabilities. Second, the wood chips surrounding the play structures pose a significant barrier for anyone using a wheelchair or needing assistance walking (including staff and teachers). Assuming you can get to it, the play structure itself might be fun for able bodied children who can climb, swing, hang, and jump independently, but it leaves little to no opportunities for play for children with various physical or other disabilities.
DD: Where can we find a universally accessible playground in Vermont?

AB: We can’t just yet, but there is one currently underway at Oakledge Park here in Burlington through a collaborative effort between a volunteer group called Oakledge for All and Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront. Oakledge for All is slated to open in 2020, assuming it can raise the funds needed to complete the project. The first installment of the playground was completed last fall—a new swing area! Learn more at
DD: What are the benefits of a universally accessible playground for Champlain and the South End of the city?

AB: A universally accessible playground will make Champlain even more inclusive by ensuring all of its members can play and have fun together. Everyone deserves to play! And play fosters shared learning, friendship, and understanding—regardless of age or ability. All members of the community would be able to enjoy an improved playground at Champlain.
DD: Why is this an issue of equity and justice? Haven’t all playgrounds been like what we have at Champlain?

AB: Play is critical to the development of all children. The US Department of Justice established guidelines for school playgrounds to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is the law the protects people with disabilities against discrimination, including at school. These playground guidelines address things like surfacing, routes, ramps, and play features. For example, a playground like the one at Champlain should already have a minimum of 2-3 different ground level play components that are accessible to children of varying abilities. The current Champlain playground does not seem to meet ADA standards. That said, meeting ADA standards is not the same as being universally accessible. Universally accessible playgrounds strive to make ALL aspects of the playground inclusive by creating more opportunities for play and engagement. It is an ambitious goal, but an important one to have when thinking about the design of a public space and its many diverse users.
DD: How can we make this happen at Champlain?

AB: A newly formed committee is exploring how to improve the accessibility of Champlain’s playground. Building a brand new playground from the ground up is likely cost prohibitive and would take a long time, but in the near term, the committee hopes to identify ways to incorporate more inclusive play equipment and features, as well as improved surfacing throughout the playground. Examples of universally accessible play features include things like supportive swings and seesaws (think seats with back support instead of the simple belt strap we're accustomed to), wheelchair accessible sway gliders, activity panels at ground level, elevated sand and water tables, sensory play elements that incorporate touch and music, and inclusive group equipment (like a spinner) that allows friends of varying abilities to play together.
DD: What else might you like to add?

AB: Thank you Champlain community for valuing inclusion and being willing to take this project on. It will make our community stronger by fostering inclusion through play.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Champlain Drums and Dances at Beyond Black History Month, New Recognition Bulletin Board, and Books for Reading Instruction and Cultural Competency

Champlain Drums and Dances at Beyond Black History Month
On the snowy evening of March 22, the Burlington School District hosted the second annual Beyond Black History Month at the high school. Elementary and high school students presented, sang, danced, and debated to celebrate school learning and life in our extraordinary community. Dozens jumped on stage to join exuberant dancing with the city’s own Jeh Kulu Dance and Drum Theater and A2VT.

During the multicultural dinner in the cafeteria, Champlain’s drumming teacher, Mr. George Sliter, led African call and response while his students drummed with passion! With generous support from our school Parent-Teacher Organization, twenty-one students attend his classes this year, nearly double than last year. Students include Amara Huh-Bond, Arthur Lea, Brantley Elliott, Charlotte Rolland, Dashiell Fleury-Bachman, Dominic Emmons, Heath and Ian Bermingham, Kezia Bibens, Lola Cruz, Marley White, Max Robson, Mollie Bullis, Niko Chernyshov, Patrick Hudson, Prabita Gurung, Saeida Kowa, Tomas Gaviria Cullins, Uson Karki, and William Buntain.

Mr. George explained the joys of African drumming, saying, “People of all abilities can benefit by being part of the team effort. I have had students who have taken my class in the past teaching the students who are now drumming. We also work together to learn rhythms that will build up students’ knowledge of patterns in music and math, too. It is the exercise and mindfulness as well as the excitement of drumming and dancing African rhythms that keep us coming back for more!”

School counselor Ms. Kaitlyn Morrissey helped arrange Champlain’s table and wall displays, featuring the learning of students in classes with Ms. Gina Bongiovanni, Mr. Gavin Wallace, Ms. Erin Webster, and Ms. Betsy Patrick. Students wrote informational essays reflecting America’s complex, troubled history with racism and created artwork to depict their dreams of a better future. Photos captured the power of last month’s Reading to End Racism, bringing the lives of so many community members into the classroom through read alouds and personal stories.

Champlain’s New Recognition Bulletin Board

Last fall Champlain’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Committee planned strategies for teaching behavior expectations school-wide. Key to this instruction is rewards, and we hoped to create a permanent location for recognizing students with descriptions of their good deeds. Fortunately parent Amanda Maley volunteered to design and decorate the board, which is adorned with bright colors and an increasing number of student recognitions. The recognition board is located outside the health office, in the hallway next to the library. Four students, third-graders Yar Magok and Chace Klemchuk and fifth-graders Siena DeMink and Alexis LeClair helped by announcing the board to the staff and adding to the decorations. Parents/Guardians and school volunteers can join the fun, too! In the main office are the yellow recognition forms ready to be filled out and posted.

Books for Reading Instruction and Cultural Competency

By Dorinne Dorfman and Christine Harvey, Academic Interventionist

Our Champlain teachers are very excited to have more books to use during their small group reading instruction blocks. Burlington teachers use the Fountas and Pinnell Class Guided Reading Sets for reading instruction. The books, both fiction and non-fiction, are highly engaging for students, each with a set of six per title, allowing small-group instruction from the same text. The lower levels rely on picture support and repeated words in order for students to acquire more sight words. The higher levels are geared for higher-level thinking and comprehension. Generally, teachers rotate student groups during reading instruction to target specific learning goals based on Fountas and Pinnell and other reading assessments. Parents/Guardians may ask their children about their reading groups, such as, “What are the new words you’re learning to read?” or “What are your reading targets?” A goal for every elementary student is to move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Like all developmental growth, such as learning to walk, talk, or ride a bike, “reading to learn” starts at different times for every student.

Classroom libraries in all Burlington elementary school have grown from an investment made by the BSD Department of English Learners. Director Miriam Ehtesham distributed over a dozen new titles, “that reflect multicultural/multilingual people, places, and situations experienced by families whose children attend our schools.” Some kindergarten books include Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth, Mommy’s Khimar, and Be Kind. First graders will enjoy Joseph’s Big Ride, I Am Enough, and Write to Me. Second and third graders will learn from Butterflies for Kiri, Yaffa and Fatima Shalom, Salaam, and The Word Collector. Fourth and fifth graders can read Where will I live?, Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story, and Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship, among many others.

Ms. Cating states, “It is my hope that these books will inspire conversation among students, and lead to greater understanding and appreciation of the diversity of our community.” At a faculty meeting, the BSD’s new English Learner Academic Language Coach, Kristen Bingel, shared teaching ideas and will return to support Champlain teachers’ instruction of EL students.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Story Behind Champlain’s Yearbook

For several years, parent Vanessa Berman has designed and overseen the production of the annual Champlain yearbook. This huge undertaking is a labor of love for Vanessa, who was happy to share what the yearbook entails and how other Champlain parents can help.

DD: How and when did you get involved with designing Champlain's yearbook?

VB: I became involved in creating the yearbook four years ago, when my daughter Sammy was in first grade. I realized that Champlain did not have a yearbook for many years, and I thought it would be fun to create one. I remember how much I loved looking through my yearbooks as a child, and I wanted our school community to have a yearbook to enjoy as well.

DD: How do you give a yearbook free of charge to every student?

VB: The PTO has made it a priority that the yearbooks are accessible to all students. We want to ensure that all students have them to enjoy and look back on in the future. We approach local businesses for sponsorship and also ask families to pay what they are able. We have a very generous community and many local businesses have been sponsoring the yearbook since the very beginning. Sponsorship is a great way to highlight our community businesses and help out our school. All funds go towards the cost of printing the 52-page color yearbooks, and any extra funds raised will go back to the PTO.

DD: What does it take to design a yearbook? For example, when do you start? How do you get so many great photos?

VB: I start reaching out to families and teachers to provide photos for the yearbook at the beginning of the school year. We also have some great parent volunteers who are skilled photographers that spend a lot of time helping provide photos for the yearbook as well. We try to gather candid photos that represent all of the classrooms and a variety of activities and events. Mike Eringis, a Champlain parent, uses the professional school photos to create each class page, and he is also the one who creates the fun fifth-grade candid page each year. It takes a lot of work to get so many photos and we really rely on the help of the school community. If anyone has photos to include in the yearbook, they can email them to

DD: What is the process for fifth graders to design the yearbook cover?

VB: Each year we have a fifth-grade yearbook cover contest. Our art teacher Ms. Sammut works with the fifth graders in art class, and then the students finish them on their own time. This year we had 30 yearbook cover entries, which was the most in all of the years we have been holding this contest! We display all of the covers in the staff room, and all Champlain staff vote on their top three favorites. We then take the covers with the highest number of staff votes and present them to each classroom for the student vote. This year, our top four covers were created by Julianna Bridges, Jess White, Lisa Zhou- Hackett and Ava Rolland. Ava’s was chosen as the winner by the students and will be this year’s cover. All other entries will be on the back cover. I’m so proud of our creative and talented fifth graders!

DD: How can the Champlain community and beyond support our 2019 yearbook?

VB: Great question! There are a few ways our community can support the yearbook project:

1) Email any photos of students at school or on field trips to

2) Ask your business to sponsor the yearbook. Email me at with any sponsorship questions or to suggest a possible sponsorship business.

3) Keep an eye out for the family payment form that will be going home with students in May. Each book costs $10 to create, and we ask that all families pay what they are able. We also always appreciate families offering more than $10 per book to help cover the cost.

DD: When will the 2019 yearbook be available?

VB: The yearbooks will go home with students the last week of school!