ABS ~Notes, thoughts, and inspirations By Angela Filion

As we begin to settle in a little more into our school year, we are starting to prioritize and discuss what some of the needs are for students and families. One thing I've been really trying to emphasize with teachers and families is to give ourselves permission to take things slow and be sure that health and well being comes first! In a world that seems to lack any type of normalcy it is important to remind ourselves that children(and adults) thrive off of consistent routines and expectations. Although there are many things we can't control during this pandemic, one thing we can do is provide our students with consistent expectations, follow through with our actions, and to create routines that help our students feel safe and successful.

Here are some things to consider as we move through the many emotions of this pandemic. Reassure your children. Recognize your child's feelings. Model how to manage feelings. Keep healthy routines. Structure the day. Use positive discipline.Direct your attention. Special Time. Take care of yourself. Take a breath. Click here for more details and examples of the above tips if you feel it would benefit your family to have some strategies for your day to day lives. Remember, we are here for one another and we are stronger together!

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As I sit here to write my first submission of the year, I am taking a moment to reflect on what I can possibly say or do to help ease the minds of our educators, our families, our students, and administrators during these difficult and unknown times. I am a believer of full transparency as I feel it helps us to process and deal with our current reality. Let me just name it...THIS IS HARD! This is hard for our educators as they come to work each day not knowing who may have to quarantine, if they or their students will get sick, and anxious about what they may read on social media with regard to how schools are handling things. This is hard for our families who are being asked to make sacrifices with their work, finances, and home life to stay home with their children for sometimes lengthy periods of time. This is hard for our students who just want to be able to play and frolic with their friends without guidelines, masks, and expectations that make it challenging to just be a kid. This is hard for administrators who are working day and night contact tracing to ensure that everyone stays healthy and safe. It's just hard!  So what do we do? How can we beat this thing that seems to continually control our lives? What can we do to support one another through these hardships we face? One strategy that I have been asking our educators to use when feeling overwhelmed and to also model with their students is to Stop, Breath, and Notice(SBN)! I find that when I consciously make an effort to do this, it changes my lens and focus to the things we may not be noticing due to the day to day stress we are living. We have proven time and time again that we can do this! I know we are all tired and frustrated that this pandemic is not behind us. However, we can't let it define usI Williston is a strong community and we must work together knowing that this is hard for all of us! I will leave you with some images of what I have noticed when I have taken the time to stop, breathe and see all the good around us! There are great things happening in this world too! We just need to take time to stop and notice. Remember....we've got this Williston!!

Spending time with my two nephews at the park. My sister also gave birth this week and we welcomed my newest nephew Asher into the world.
Parents gather at ABS to learn more about FAP and ways to support our Williston Schools.
Learning and growing in the outdoors!
Just hanging around!
Kinder families gather at the Dorothy Alling Library for a kick off event!
CVU students in a public speaking class recite poetry to our students.

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As we begin to count down the final days of school I can't help but feel a mix of emotions! This has been by far one of the most challenging years for all of us as we start to get our lives back into some sense of normalcy. Although we were faced with many challenges I feel we have learned and grown so much as a community! I feel so honored to be working with some of the most talented, persistent, and hard working teachers and support staff! They have shown excellence in care and compassion as they have navigated new and dynamic ways to teach and care during this pandemic! To them I say thank you! I also want to acknowledge our parents and extended families who also worked diligently with us during this year of unknowns. Over night you became educators along side us. You learned how to log your children into remote school, helped them with any digital assignments, exuded patience and understanding while we navigated guidelines, schedules, and technology, and trusted us to keep your kiddos safe and healthy! To parents and families I say thank you! There are so many people to recognize and thank during these trying times and I could go on and on with examples and stories of heroic people who have done extraordinary things along the way! I do want to finally take a moment to thank one person who has been a significant part of Allen Brook School for many many years! Cindy Pavlik, our Admin Assistant, will be retiring at the end of this school year and has been an amazing asset to our Williston Schools and community, She has dedicated so much of her time and energy to our community that I felt it was important to acknowledge her service to CVSD. Cindy and her husband recently bought a camper and will spend some of their time traveling and exploring new places. A HUGE thank you to Cindy and all her years of hard work and dedication to this community...you will be greatly missed by so many and we hope you enjoy the next chapter of your life!

Please join me in thanking Cindy Pavlik for her hard work and dedication to the Williston Schools and Community!


The above photo is my daughter Mira Filion teaching some dance lessons to some little girls at ABS who have great rhythm and love to dance! She is who I will be highlighting through out this piece on children of divorced families. Recently we had a parent reach out to us in hopes that we may write one of our notes acknowledging that some of our kids in school share life between two households. It is interesting that this is something many people don't talk about. Divorce is real for many people and yet it still remains to be a subject that many people tend to avoid. I felt writing about this topic seemed relevant to me, as I have shared my daughter respectfully with her dad for about 16 of her 17 years of life. Mira has only ever really known her life as being in two homes, with two sets of expectations, celebrating occasions in twos, and with two parents who truly love and support her(just in different homes and in different ways). There is a lot of emotion that is involved when a family decides to part ways. The most important lesson I have learned in co-parenting our daughter is that respectful communication and established routines are key ingredients for success. Over the years we had some difficult times trying to navigate how to raise Mira together, yet apart. From my experience, when you separate the emotion of the two adults having ended their partnership and truly focus on your child/children, things tend to go much better! As one parent writes, "There are so many issues that surface such as accidentally leaving homework at the other parent's house or clothing that you need for your after-school sporting activity." These are all things that take coordination and communication so that your child feels a sense of cohesion from one environment to the next. Many families also merge and blend with other families. This can create a shift in beliefs, structures, dynamics, and bring up many emotions for everyone involved in that transition. It is important to take things slow and acknowledge any feelings your children may be experiencing among these types of transitions. At the end of the day, children who function under two homes are very resilient and well rounded humans. They are loved in many different ways, by so many people. They will adapt to transitions in life easier as this has been a familiar part of their journey. My daughter Mira has been volunteering as a mentor this spring at Allen Brook. She has truly enjoyed spending time in small groups with children who may need a little extra TLC. She will be a senior this next year and hopes to go into Special Education and School Counseling as her next step into adulthood. Her dad, her stepmother Dana, and I could not be more proud of the young woman she has become! Please enjoy some photos of Mira and her life as a child living in two homes with lots of love! Remember that there are many families who function this way. If you happen to be one of them, just know you are not alone! Here are a few resources that I have found helpful should you like to read more about this topic: https://www.parents.com/parenting/divorce/coping/making-a-child-comfortable-in-two-homes/https://www.greatlakesdfs.com/blog/age-appropriate-childrens-books-about-divorce

Mira's Pirate family for her birthday(Daddy, step-mom Dana, and I with our little pirate). My daughter Mira and I.
Mira and I getting caught in the rain during a bike ride together. Mira with her dad and Dana golfing.
Mira and I at a color run with our dance team for a fundraiser event. Daddy and Mira snuggles.
Dancing with mommy(Great grandma was her biggest fan)! Soccer with daddy.

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Spring is in the air! The days are getting longer and the sun is shining more. In the photo above you can see two of our educators providing some harmonious music together during one of our sunny Friday dismissals. This morning I saw a few ladybugs emerge in my home as they do every spring. It is said that ladybugs are considered a symbol of good luck and happiness! As we look at the days ahead, let us find those little signs of spring that brings us joy and happiness to help guide us through this pandemic. This is the time of the year we start to plan and prepare for our placement for the next school year. Although there are still many unknowns about what our guidelines and procedures will look like down the road, we are excited to begin thinking about transitioning our students to the next chapter of their educational careers. "The purpose of the placement process is to create classroom communities that are balanced, diverse, and positive for all students.” In order to achieve this vision we see families as partners in this process. We have sent out input forms for you to complete and return to help inform our decisions for students transitioning to K, 2, and 5. We have asked that these come back by April 9th. Parents and Guardians should communicate a sense of their child’s well-being on the placement forms and also trust the school’s placement process. We believe that we approach the placement process with good intentions, using clear and collaborative processes & communication for all involved parties within the school. We encourage you to use the placement forms to provide input to the placement team. Click here for an overview of our placement process and timeline. As you can imagine creating balanced and diverse classrooms is a very time consuming and thoughtful process. We appreciate you trusting and respecting our vision and look forward to helping your child/children transition to the next step in their educational journey!

At Allen Brook School we are focused on increasing and empowering student voice. Students heard the story, "Say Something" by Peter H. Reynolds a book that is about finding your voice, and using it to make the world a better place.

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This month I would like to celebrate! I know that it may seem like we don't have much to celebrate these days given our current circumstances. We can very easily find ourselves feeling discouraged, worried, and overwhelmed with all that we have going on and trying to anticipate what our future will look like. In our focus on the future, we often forget to relish the present. We get bogged down, feel more stress and experience more fatigue. We lose enthusiasm for our goal and maybe even forget to enjoy life. That’s why it’s important to celebrate our successes, both large and small. Many people get hung up on the term ‘celebration.’ A celebration doesn’t necessarily mean a grand event. A celebration can be as simple as an acknowledgment you give yourself. Celebrating our success is more about taking time out to reflect on our journey. A number of studies have found that this approach to life brings significant benefits, including improved physical health and better coping strategies. People who take time to reflect on and celebrate their successes are generally more optimistic, take better care of themselves and tend to be less stressed. If you think you don’t have anything to celebrate, think some more. There is much in life to celebrate: firsts, transitions, milestones, and even the tiniest goals achieved. You can celebrate the first signs of spring, your kids’ transition back to school, or the times you spend together as a family. You can even celebrate moments when you cross tasks off your to-do list(this is one of my favorite celebrations). The ways we celebrate can be just as varied. You can soak in a hot bath, treat yourself to an extra 15 minutes with a good book or call a good friend who can connect with about your joy. Some people find it rewarding to jot these moments in a special notebook. Take time today to contemplate what you have to celebrate, then go and celebrate it. Over time, you’ll find your new approach to celebrating will also lead to a new way of thinking — a way that recharges your batteries, that boosts your morale and your confidence and that carries you through to your next celebration. I leave you with many celebrations I have been able to capture here at ABS. These photos shed some light on all the wonderful reasons to celebrate the success of our students, faculty/staff, and community! Remember to celebrate!!!

Fun hair day on the left, 100th day of school above!
ABS T-Shirt Logo Winners(Above), (Right) Ms. Filion spreading love bubbles for Valentine's Day!
Allen Brook School (and Williston Central School) Enrichment teacher, Julie Rogers, collaborated with ABS librarian Cara Clopton, this February on a Diversity project for Daily Affirmations. Each student made a "power pose" and thought about an affirmation that fits who they are to go with a self portrait. The hallways are filling up with these K-2. It's a JOY!

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So...what have we learned about the pandemic that can help carry us forward? To go along with my previous submission about finding light and joy during these difficult times, I wanted to highlight some of the opportunities we have found during this pandemic that might help us move forward when this is all said and done. As a district we have a group of leaders on a design team looking at these systems and procedures that we have put in place due to the pandemic and what things we may want to preserve as we move forward. “Pandemic teaching” has changed education in some positive ways. We have created conditions for in-person or remote and have prioritized social and emotional wellness, meaningful adult and peer connections, and celebrations of success within targeted content. Our approach to education now more then ever relies on: flexibility, empathy, and essential content/skills(high leverage concepts). We designed in-person learning that will likely create future changes—for example, learning in outdoor classrooms and the use of interdisciplinary units designed around essential topics and skills are things we will likely consider in our work ahead. Some other things we may consider are: virtual parent conferences, using other parts of our campus for outdoor recess/explore, continuing some virtual meetings that will save time and travel, arrival and dismissal procedures, and the way our master schedule is designed. We will continue to analyze these new ways of thinking and will find opportunities to continue with some of the ideas we generated during these Covid times. In the meantime, please enjoy some photos of students and teachers doing some amazing work. We are so fortunate to be in person with our students and stay committed to providing a safe, nurturing, and authentic experience for them!

Left: Life in the arctic. Above: Centers in the library.
Learning in the outdoors!

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People often ask me lately, "How are you doing all of this and running a school during a pandemic?" The answer often is something along the lines of, "it's what's best for our students and families!" Not only do I truly believe this, but I see examples each and every day of faculty and staff dedicating and devoting their hearts to ensuring that our students are safe in school, learning, and growing! For example, take a look at the photo above of our Kindergarteners seeing a rainbow from the library window and rushing outside to enjoy this magical moment. It is these little moments that remind us of why we are making sacrifices to stay home and be safe. It is so that our children can go to school and have these rich experiences together. As we move into the next holiday season I am reminded of the sacrifices we all face to not see our loved ones and come together as families in our more traditional ways. Some people are getting creative and scheduling zoom holiday parties and staying connected through social media. Others are creating new family traditions in their immediate households and finding new things to do together as a family. As we move through the coming days I encourage you to look for light and joy around you. We can very easily find ourselves focusing on the things we can't do which can lead to discouraging thoughts and feelings. Should you find yourself feeling this way, refocus your lens and look for those positive things that remind you of the sacrifices we are making for the greater good. We are all essential, we are all humbled and impacted by this pandemic, and we are all in this together! I leave you with some photos of light and joy I have been finding around our school and in my community to keep the focus on my purpose-schools staying open and safe so children can learn and grow together. Thanks for your partnership and continued support as we move through the year together one day at a time. Be well and have a lovely holiday break with your immediate loved ones!

It's cool to be kind! On the left students took the bit of snow we had last week to get creative!
My community has done an amazing job expressing joy through lights and messages around the town!
Our bus driver Tammy is spreading joy by adding decorations to her bus! On the right our therapy dog Bea(short for Beatrice) listens to a student read to her.

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"Gratitude-the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." I have been thinking about this word A LOT lately! Last year around this time I wrote a short segment on gratitude and what I have realized is, what I am grateful for has significantly changed in a years time. I am grateful to be serving the Williston community and the Allen Brook School in person. I am grateful that we are in one of the safest places in the world right now. I am thankful to see and hear kids learning and playing together each day. I am grateful that myself and my family is healthy and thriving. I am thankful for everyone's patience and flexibility as we navigate circumstances we have never had to work through before. I am grateful for this amazing weather we have been having so we can be outside breathing fresh air. I did a little research to find out the benefits of having gratitude and came across a study done by two psychologists/professors from Indiana University. Joshua Brown and Joel Wong found indications of how gratitude might work on our minds and bodies. In this study they had some participants focus on writing gratitude letters(Click the link to learn more). Here are some insights from their research suggesting the psychological benefits of expressing gratitude. They found that writing gratitude letters produces better mental health by shifting a person's attention away from toxic emotions. When you write about how grateful you are it might becomes harder for you to ruminate on your negative experiences. if you decide to write a letter of gratitude to someone, but you’re unsure whether you want that person to read the letter, write it anyway. You can decide later whether to send it. The act of writing the letter can help you appreciate the people in your life and shift your focus away from negative feelings and thoughts. If you participate in a gratitude writing activity, you may not feel the benefits from it right away. Be patient and remember that the benefits of gratitude might take time. Gratitude letter writers showed greater activity in the medial prefrontal cortex when they experienced gratitude. This bit of research was interesting to me as it was found three months after the letter writing began in the study. This indicates that expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain. This suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time. Want to learn more? Take this gratitude quiz and try these gratitude practices! It may be fun to spend some time over the Thanksgiving break to write gratitude letters with your children and send them to loved ones if you aren't able to see them over the holidays. Happy Writing!

Ahhhhh the great outdoors! The quote above really spoke to me as we have been spending a great deal of time making connections with each other and with nature! The outdoor environment encourages skills such as problem solving and negotiating risks which are important for child development. We are fortunate to have a beautiful campus at ABS of which we have been taking advantage of since our return to school. Teachers have been adapting their lessons and being very creative and resourceful by expanding the learning beyond the classroom walls. The weather has been very cooperative with us so far but we recognize that the colder days are on the horizon. We do plan to continue to expand beyond the classroom and get out as much as possible as we change seasons! P.E. will remain outside when possible as well. It will be very important for families to send proper attire for all kinds of weather as we move into the colder days. Research shows that healthier and happier children do better in school, and that education is an important determinant of future health. We are very committed to getting all of our students back in school for 4 days as swiftly and safely as we can.. Since we have entered into life during the pandemic, technology has increased children’s sedentary time. We are striving to find the balance between providing students with outdoor and play exploration, social emotional well being, gathering baseline data to see how students are doing academically, and monitoring the amount of technology use needed in order to access learning. At the helm of all of this is the overall safety and well being of our students, faculty, and staff. In the coming days we will be adjusting to having our students at full capacity. We will be asking in advance for your patience as we navigate this transition. We will be monitoring our systems and procedures and may need to make some shifts along the way. For example, we anticipate having to shift our temperature checks to indoors as the days grow colder. We may also need to make some adjustments to our arrival and dismissal procedures. We recognize that there is a lot of communication and correspondence that needs to take place in order for us to remain aligned as the guidelines and procedures change and evolve. We appreciate your partnership as we move forward and as always the admin team encourages you to reach out to us directly with any questions you may have. We are very excited to have ALL of our students back together next week! We've got this!

Ms. Filion sharing the read aloud "I Promise" by Lebron James to the Kindergartners at Tree Island. She made it to all of the classrooms(both in and outside) to talk about the promises we can make at ABS to have a great year together!
Exploring our natural resources outdoors!

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As I look at the photo above I am reminded of how much has changed since last year. In this photo we are gathered together in the gym for one of our monthly assemblies, holding hands, singing, and spreading joy! Although we aren't able to do many of our traditions and routines this year, the one thing we are ALL feeling here at Allen Brook is the joy of seeing students back in school with us! I often try to remind myself and our faculty/staff of the why we do this work. The why is that we know kids belong IN school learning and growing. The why is seeing a moment when a child figures something out for the first time or helps a friend who is struggling. The why is sharing our ideas and wonderings. I am overwhelmed with pride at how hard everyone has worked together to get us to the reopening of school. Thank you to the parents who have been patient with us while we navigate new systems, procedures and technology glitches. You have trusted in us that we will take good care of your children during these new and unusual times. Some of you have even released your child to us without ever stepping into our school building and that says a lot about your faith in us as educators. Thank you to the teachers and support staff who walked back into this building in August after being out for many months to prepare for the arrival of our students. You have shown us your innovative thinking, your persistent mindset, and your dedication to serving our young children and families. Thank you to our community members who have stepped up to volunteer your time to do temperature checks, make us children/adult masks, being present during arrival with our police dog Duke, and for working together to bring our community back to some sense of normalcy. I know I say this often but it truly does take a village! Please enjoy some photos of some creative/innovative ways we have prepared for our 2020-2021 year...covid style!

A way to store our masks during outside breaks & socially distant seating arrangements.
A quiet place to go on team for a break.
Using our bulletin boards to promote our new procedures and protocols.

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As we wind down the school year I am mixed with many emotions of our time together. We have wonderful memories that we have shared as well as some difficult challenges we have faced. There were lots of gatherings and celebrations that we enjoyed as well as some that we had to postpone or cancel. I chose to share this photograph of one of our school wide assemblies hosted by our Kindergarten team. This photo reminds us of what our lives "looked" like prior to Covid-19. We were holding hands, united, all together in the gym celebrating light and joy! And yet this photo also symbolizes how we have gotten through this pandemic. We have stuck together and embraced the challenges as one community. Our collective efforts made us stronger, it allowed us to open our doors and hearts to our neighbors in ways we have never imagined. I have been so honored and humbled to serve this wonderful community of educators, students, parents, and community members. While there still remains much uncertainty of what our future may look like I am confident that we will get through it together.! As we close out the year let us not forget to celebrate the remarkable job everyone has done to keep our children/families safe, healthy, engaged, and supported! We wish you a sunny and restful summer and look forward to seeing you upon our return!

I stumbled upon this quote at the most perfect time..."Together may we give our children roots to grow and wings to fly." Why is this the most perfect time you may ask? Now more than ever we are having to find unique ways to work together as families and educators to provide our young ones with roots for their stability/growth as well as wings to fly on to the next school year. Many of you are probably wondering how can we possibly do this during a pandemic? How will we provide closure for this school year? What will next year look like? How will we help students transition to the next grade? These are all questions that we will need to answer together one day at a time. We will need to give ourselves permission to adjust and adapt, revise and repair, share and communicate-all for the best interest of our children! We are in this together and I want to take the time to not only appreciate our teachers this week but to the parents/families who are at home teaching their children right along with us! Another reason the timing seemed perfect for this quote is because recently a teacher shared with me a message to his 2nd grade families with these very same themes. When I read his message it brought me to tears. I immediately felt that his words deserved an even wider audience and needed to be heard by ALL of our Williston families! He has graciously allowed me to share...enjoy! David Bolger writes, "Dear Parents, I know you have just been asked to turn in your "Placement Cards" so that our folks can consider your thoughts. As we place your child with a new teacher, In a new classroom, with new classmates, in a new grade, in a new school.....what could possibly go wrong? But remember all those little second graders who left us for WCS last June? And the June before? And the June before that? They've all grown, that's what they've done! In ways they didn't even expect. With new best-friends -- met in the first week of school, and a new teacher. So new, that no one had ever seen her before. But it turned out she liked origami, and hedgehogs, and ice fishing. Along with you, we teachers describe to our transition team who your child is, what motivates them, what's hard for them, what lights them up, what do adults and classmates admire in them, how do they help, and what kinds of kids make a difference for them. Your children are beautiful. We feel so lucky that this is our work! But I've been thinking: making sure the world really gets our child isn't enough. Teaching our child to leap...that's the business! Leap on a bed, leap down a step, leap into your lap, leap out of your arms, leap into the pool, leap across the rocks, leap onto school buses. It's time to leap.! To a bigger school, with bigger desks, and more teachers, with bigger kids. Take your child by the hand, turn them towards the road. Tell them how life is about moving and stepping forward from where you were to where you've never been. Look both ways, my dear, but go! Step lightly. The world will get to know you by and by, as you get to know the world. Go!"

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"It's ok!" It's ok if you aren't on a regimented schedule every single day- this promotes flexibility and a sense of adventure. It's ok if you want to stay in your pajamas and play board games as a family-this helps children learn how to take turns and win/lose a game gracefully. It's ok if you aren't watching the latest headlines on the pandemic-this shields our young ones from having worries that they don't need. It's ok if you don't feel like you can "teach" your children-this allows teachers to support and engage with you in ways that help us stay connected. It's ok if you can't log onto the device your child uses for school-this allows children to watch you be a learner too. It's ok if you decide on a sunny day to go play outside-this allows children to experience science through nature and discovery. It's ok if you feel overwhelmed and need additional support-this allows our community to come together which will only make us stronger in the end! It's all going to be ok as long as we give ourselves permission to do the best we can during these unprecedented times. Be well! Ms. Filion

Allen Brook Teachers are staying connected by learning how to use new digital tools together. It's ALL about staying connected!

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In my opening letter of this school year I wrote about the power and importance of play. Recently I was fortunate to bring a group of educators from Allen Brook to a day long workshop on play and restorative practices. Through out the day we played various games together as adults. The laughter and joy was both refreshing and infectious. One of the presenters, Howard Moody, reminded us through his mission that "the workplace should be an environment that encourages people to be themselves and function at the highest level of insight, creativity, and teamwork as possible". He has been facilitating workshops for over 25 years and he designs presentations that are engaging and fun and focus on play, mindfulness, social emotional learning, communication, and cooperation. When the school year concludes I have arranged for Howard to come to Allen Brook to do a training with all faculty and staff. He will teach and play games from his book, The Heart of Play. My hope is that we will deepen connections amongst each other and then bring these ideas to our children to broaden their connections. The goal is for us to be fully inspired, creative, and playful! Stay tuned for updates about this upcoming training. Through the spirit of play Allen Brook participated in the 3rd annual Global Play Day on February 5th. What is Global Play day and why would we participate? Play builds creativity, imagination, problem solving skills, communication skills, positive peer relationships, empathy and more... all things our world desperately needs. Global School Play Day is more than just a day of play. It's a day of acknowledgment that play matters, that kids need play, and that our society needs to find the balance with the use of technology/academics/assessments and the value and importance of the child's right and need to play! I leave you with some photos of kids at play across ABS.

Chess anyone?
Games Galore!

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Do you ever notice how much people say, "I'm sorry?" If you really take the time to listen you will be surprised at how many times in a day you will hear people say it. My next question is...do we actually mean it? Often times it becomes a habit for us to say these words without really even thinking about it. When we are working with students to repair harm that tends to be the first thing we say to them is, "did you say I'm sorry?" However, what if they are not sorry? If we encourage kids to apologize and they don't mean it are we doing more harm then good? I talked to a few kiddos around this topic and when I asked them what they think about this practice of apologizing kids responded with, "it makes me more mad if I don't want to apologize and someone makes me," "sometimes they don't even mean it and are only saying it because someone told them to." So what can we do instead to repair harm? Here are some ideas to explore: Help kids focus on communication rather than the ritual of apologizing. Helping children express their wants and needs, listen to each other, and restate what they heard others say may help them process on a deeper level. Empowering the child to repair things on their own and encouraging them to choose what they might do to make things better. You can give them ideas — writing a nice card, fixing what is broken, and saying "I know you'll figure out the perfect thing to do." Recently our school counselor has done some lessons on using a healing basket with a variety of items in it for kids to choose from to make repairs(see below). We can all lead by example and model as children learn from us how to repair relationship problems. This means we need to make sure our apologies are sincere and that we aren't meaninglessly saying those two important words ourselves.

This healing basket contains bandaids, tissues, stickers, worry stones, and things students have made in advance. The idea is the student who needs to make repairs chooses something from the healing basket to give to the person that the harm was done to.

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As we wind down from 2019 it is important for us to reflect on what brings us light and joy! The Starlings team sponsored our December assembly and did a lovely job sharing what brings them light and joy during these long winter days when light is scarce(see above). As we head into the long holiday break I want to share some thoughts/resources about Simplicity Parenting. Simplicity Parenting author Kim John Payne shares with us that in today’s world we are busier, faster, have too many choices and too little time. Children may feel the impact of all of this hustle and bustle and become anxious. Can we create more of a simplified path to allow kids to flourish? Payne says, this approach "helps you to make small doable changes, worry less, and enjoy more!" Here is a summary of some things to consider and perhaps slowly try while the children have some time off from school. Avoid over scheduling by dialing back on the amount of family activities that are happening, embrace ordinary days, reduce toys and use baskets/bins to reduce visual clutter, require children to play outside often, give them the gift of boredom as this facilitates creativity and resourcefulness, eat together, talk less and step back to give your children space, filter out the adult world, sleep (about 10 hours a day for kids 6-11), and of course value family time! In Kim John Payne’s book, “Simplicity Parenting” he recommends to get rid of all screens for children under age 7. While that may seem radicle to many families, might we find a healthy balance? In our home we started at a place that felt natural to us. My 16 year old daughter knows that she is not allowed to have devices in her room or during times that we are eating together. She has an allotted amount of screen time and then the wifi shuts off. Recent studies are finding that too much screen time is linked to learning, attention, social problems, childhood obesity, and sleep disruption. Screen time before bed is known to mess with the release of melatonin and should be avoided for at least a few hours before bedtime for young kids. Here are some tips to help with reducing screen time: keep art supplies stocked, get comfortable hearing, "I'm bored" (they will find something imaginative to do), doing physical work around your children like washing dishes, sweeping, laundry etc. inspires our kids to do their work(play), bring back car games instead of turning on the DVD player, and create mealtime rituals. On the nights that we are home as a family we go around and share about our day-it is such sacred time for us! Create rituals that work for your family, and enjoy your moment of pause. If you would like to learn more here is the link to the Podcast on Simplicity Parenting.

I came to my office the other day to find this opinion piece on why people should consider coming to Allen Brook School. Mrs. Schwartz and her class have been studying opinion writing and this was one of the pieces they wrote together. I happen to strongly agree with these young authors that ABS is an awesome place to be!

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The dictionary defines Grat·i·tude "as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." The month of November is a great time to pause and think about all that we should be thankful for. When people express gratitude to others it becomes contagious! For our school wide morning meeting this Friday November 15th Harmony students will be hosting with the theme of gratitude. Families of Harmony are welcome to attend from 8:10-8:30. This year the PBIS Universal team and our Wellness team have been partnering to spread acts of kindness and gratitude to the adults at Allen Brook. We believe it is important to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that the faculty/staff bring each and every day to our young learners. So far this year we have shared a gorgeous afternoon together at a local corn maze, I went around with a coffee/donut cart(see picture below), we had a local tea company come to our school for a tea sampling, and adults are encouraged to write a note to a colleague to show appreciation for one another. We have many other things planned through out the year to pause and show gratitude to our amazing educators. If you would like to learn more about instilling gratitude feel free to click on the following links: 12 Tips For Teaching Gratitude, Gratitude Family Challenge, Gratitude Journal For Kids

Children's books on gratitude
Going around with the coffee/donut cart to show our gratitude!

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It is hard to believe that we have completed the first six weeks of school already! As the leaves have become vivid and the air crisp we have "fallen" into our routines here at Allen Brook school. We see the first six weeks of school as a time to introduce students to the people of the classroom and school community and to the expectations we hold about learning. We also introduce and establish expectations for behavior, the limits we will set, and the ways we will enforce those limits. We introduce the routines that help students learn while taking care of each other and the classroom/school environment. We carefully structure the first six weeks so that students will participate actively in all of these routines. They practice the expected skills and behaviors—at first with very close teacher guidance and structure, and then, as their familiarity and competence grow, with increasing amounts of independence. We connect all of the routines and expectations to our PBIS framework that Principal Jackie Parks spoke to in her last bell article. As you can see in the above picture, children are giving high fives to the office staff as part of one of our school wide PBIS celebrations. Children had to pop two balloons and discover a fun and quick way to celebrate filling our beehive with buzzies. We have also started a new tradition at ABS of having a monthly school wide morning meeting assembly. The entire school comes together and does a mindfulness activity, a greeting, we share updates and review the school wide expectations, then end with an activity that students are involved in. See below some of the highlights from our first gathering in September. Our next school wide morning meeting with be on Friday October 25th from 8:10-8:30. This month will be hosted with team Horizon. Families from Horizon are welcome to join us for this school wide event. Each month a different team will be a helping host and families from that team will be welcomed to attend. One of the goals of our Universal PBIS team is to connect our families to the things we are doing here at ABS....we look forward to building these connections with you through out the year!

Our first school wide morning meeting with a mindfulness movement exercise. We also unveiled our new beehive where our buzzies go!

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As I look at the picture above I am reminded of the importance of play....no matter what age we are! Seeing the joy and happiness that this brings to children(or adults) is both refreshing and infectious! Through play we pretend, discover, inquire, and learn!! One thing I value and appreciate is how well the teachers here at Allen Brook find that balance of learning through play! They are attuned to the developmental needs of our primary students and plan accordingly! If you would like to learn more about the significance of play click on this link. https://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/importance-of-play-for-school-age-children . We opened up our year in preservice with a fun little adventure for teachers. Their task was to go on a school-wide scavenger hunt and take pictures of all the things on their list. In this photo they had to play "dress up." The lesson? How to actively and cooperatively engage in the task in a timely and effective way, while having fun! At the end of this exercise the teachers shared what strategies they used that were successful and what challenges they faced while having a common goal that they had to achieve together. The sharing of each others strategies helped teams reflect and learn from one another. These are the types of lessons we want to instill in our walls at ABS! We have had a great start to the year welcoming our students and families and we look forward to a great year ahead!

Teachers had to go outside and take a picture on the highest peak they could find.
Incoming Kindergarten families join us for a Kick off at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library with our school librarian Cara Clopton reading one of her silly stories!
Enjoying some lunch with students during the first week of school.

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As we start to wind down the school year many of us are dreaming of warmer weather, echos of children playing outside until dark, barbecues, swimming, and all of the wonderful festivals that Vermont has to offer! As we all know, summer here is short and sweet and we must take advantage of the warmth and all it has to offer while we have the chance! Friday June 14th will be our last half day of school. As educators this is the most rewarding time of the year as we are able to see how much learning and growth your child has achieved in a years time! We have many field trips, celebrations, and fun to be had in our final few weeks together. For some students transitioning away from their teachers and friends can cause some angst. Parent advisor and author Eileen Kennedy Moore, Ph.D indicates, "Change—even good change—is hard on children. It's disorienting for them not to know what to expect." Here are a few short article reads on how you can ease into a summer transition with your kiddos! https://www.kumon.com/resources/6-practical-tips-for-summer-parenting-2/ . https://www.parents.com/kids/development/behavioral/transitioning-from-school-to-summer-vacation/. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year as the Principal for Allen Brook School. The faculty, staff, students, and families have welcomed me into this magical community of learning with open arms and for that I am grateful! I look forward to spending some time this summer on my own professional development, planning for our 2019-2020 school year, and perhaps catching a few sunny days spending time with my family! Until next year...

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As I look at this beautiful mural that is now hanging in our cafeteria I am reminded of how much time, effort, and collaboration it took to create this masterpiece! Thanks to our art teacher Sarah Beeken, our artist in residence Sally Duback, her son/parent Andy Duback, endless amounts of donations from the community, the FAP, our maintenance staff, and of course our students for making this possible! If you haven't had a chance to see it up close please stop by and check it out. Another masterpiece that comes together each spring is that of the placement process as we transition our students to the next step in their educational career. We have a building council that meets regularly with representatives from each team across our school to brainstorm, problem solve, and collaborate on a wide variety of topics. We decided to work on the vision of our placement process and the role that every stakeholder plays in this process. As a building council we felt it would be important to share this important work with you. Our purpose statement is: “The purpose of the placement process is to create classroom communities that are balanced, diverse, and positive for all students”. In order to achieve this vision teachers should have clarity about their role in the process, that they can follow, and which allows trust in our ability to keep the greater good for students in mind. Parents and Guardians should communicate a sense of their child’s well-being on the placement forms that we recently sent home and also trust the school’s placement process. Students should feel prepared for the upcoming transitions, be aware of new structures, practice their flexibility and social skills, and can express their feelings about the process. Administration should demonstrate consistency in their implementation of the placement process, be responsive to input and have awareness of the whole student body. We believe that we approach the placement process with good intentions, using clear and collaborative processes & communication for all involved parties within the school. We encourage you to use the placement forms to provide input to the placement team. As you can imagine creating this "masterpiece" of balanced and diverse classrooms is a very time consuming and thoughtful process. We appreciate you trusting and respecting our vision and look forward to helping your child/children transition to the next step in their educational journey!

UVM basketball star Anthony Lamb takes time out of his busy schedule during March Madness to shoot hoops with some ABS students!
Students unplug during National Day of unplugging.

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February was filled with many activities and opportunities for our students. From the 100th day of school, to Valentines day, to a school dance to raise money to help injured horses, to an activities hour on the last day before vacation-Allen Brook was "buzzing" with fun! By far one of my favorite traditions as an educator has been to dress up like a 100 year old lady on the 100th day of school. I have been doing this from the very start of my career and each year I do it I am reminded of how much joy it brings to the children to see adults "play dress up." It is a great reminder that we need to foster imagination in our youth. As I went around to each classroom in my "disguise" on the 100th day the children lit up with wonder, curiosity, and laughter! It has been shown that kids with very active imaginations are more likely to dream and strive for greater things as adults! Dr. Stephanie Carlson, Director of Research of the Institute of Child Development at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, studies pre-school-aged children to see if their immersion in non-reality is getting in the way of developing self-control. She concluded that practice in pretending helps you come up with alternative ways of being and results in more creativity and better problem-solving. The following excerpt from an Ideas to Go blog entitled “Why You Should Have a Child-like imagination (and the Research that Proves it)” explains the processes that make up self-control, also called executive function. "What we think of as "self-control" is actually a group of mental processes that, together, are called “executive function.” Executive function is the conscious control of yourself(as opposed to automatic or non-conscious control of things like breathing). So it’s self-regulatory, in that we have to think about it. Our executive function allows us to do things like not blurt out something inappropriate when it occurs to us, or to wait in line without getting overly frustrated, or to listen to instructions and wait until they’re done before acting, or to hold in mind the rules of a game—and to switch our actions when the rules change. Executive function involves a few mental processes: Working memory—the ability to hold things in mind, Inhibitory control—the ability to stop or suppress an action that might be the first choice, and Flexibility—the ability to shift your focus of attention to adapt to a new, or difficult situation. Executive-function is not well-developed in young children. The pre-frontal cortex (area of the brain responsible for much of executive function) is not fully developed until well into the teenage years." In conclusion of Dr. Carlson's work she found that creativity and executive function work in collaboration (to learn more about executive functioning click here. So there you have it...children benefit from using their imaginations as it promotes creativity, problem solving, and increases their executive functioning! As Walt Disney once said, "Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever."

Team Synergy "using their imaginations" with me on the 100th day!
Making worry stones with Mrs. Carr who worked so hard to organize our activity hour. Thanks Mrs. Carr!
Learning hip hop(left) and making smoothies(right)
Stopping everything to use our imaginations and create!

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If you take a look at the above picture you see the beauties of winter. What you may also see is perseverance. These kindergarteners remind us that being persistent gets you to where you want to go. As they are trenching through the high drifts of snow they are using all of their energy to stay the course. They are faced with the elements of wind, heavy snow, and fatigue. However they never gave up! In the end they reached their destination and felt proud of their achievements! Did everyone get there at the same time? Did some students have more stamina then others? Was it easier for some students to stay the course? These are the questions we face in education when we are working with students to find their success. As we answer these questions we realize that every student has their own unique path. How they get to where they need to go varies from student to student, however this idea of perseverance is what we foster in all kids to stay the course and not give up! Often times we do this by setting goals/targets with the student and monitor the progress of this goal. The more a child can be connected to the goal they are trying to achieve the more likely they will persevere. Here are some great articles for parents on this idea of teaching perseverance, grit, and goal setting.https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/style/how-to-teach-kids-perseverance-goal-setting/. https://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/encouraging-grit-and-teaching-perseverance-to-children As parents we often want to do whatever we can when we see our children struggle through something. One of the best things we can do for them is to not do it for them, rather with them! Setting small and measurable goals and guiding them through the struggle will make them feel that they can do it and can achieve it-which is such a powerful journey for them to experience.! When you hear them say the words "I did it" you know the pride they are feeling inside. It's also likely that they will tackle other struggles along their journey!

This is what it looked like once they achieved their goal! "We did it!"
Here is another example of students using perseverance to lift the hula hoops with ropes and put them on the cones.
Click on the link below for suggested book reads on this topic!

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As we move into the winter months, all schools face the challenge of an increase in absenteeism and tardies. Part of our job is to monitor and address student attendance. We do take into consideration that student absences and tardies happen for a variety of reasons. We understand when families are challenged by medical needs and we want to be supportive of those needs. With that said, it is important for us to remind families of the importance of regular attendance as it is our legal requirement to ensure it. We know the impact it can have on student learning when they miss too much school. Let's say for example a student misses 14 days of school per year throughout a K-12 career. They will have missed 182 school days, or an entire year of instruction, by graduation. Recently the school has sent attendance letters home, which come out ever so often. These letters are used to notify families when a student has reached 5, 10, or 15 days of (combined excused and unexcused) absence and chronic tardies during the school year. While we know that these letters can create some angst from families (even though they have notified us of their child's absences/tardies), they are a part of an effort to reduce truancy in our schools. This regular communication is our way of supporting our students and families the best we can! We will often reach out and see if there is anything we can do to support the families as we see this as a partnership! Recently a community member reached out to me and ask that I also remind people about not leaving their car engines idle. With winter here, it's way more common and it's not healthy for our kids and the environment. They shared this statistic: idling for just 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting the engine and for every 10 minutes the car engine is off, you avoid one pound of carbon dioxide from being released into the air. They also shared this article on the topic if you are interested in more information. As we approach the holiday break we hope that you get some much needed time with family and loved ones. This is a great time for our students, faculty, and staff to rest up and recharge. We look forward to seeing everyone in the New Year!

Ali Schwartz writes, "I just wanted to say thanks for supporting our trip to the hospital. It was such a great experience for the kids! They were so proud of their work and getting to bring the donations themselves was amazing. They met several Child Life Specialists, a few doctors, some nurses, and various other people throughout the hospital. It really was a special experience." This is just one of many examples of our students learning how to spread joy to others.
Integrating technology as we learn.
Join me in congratulating ABS Harmony teacher Erin Crowley! She has recently received her National Board Certification. This is a very rigorous process and her dedication paid off! Congrats Erin!
Students from WCS walked over to ABS and spent time with our Kindergarten classes. Smiles and fun had by all!
Horizon hosted a craft sale to benefit COTS and raised a total of $513.00 -a perfect way to learn economics and spread kindness to others during this holiday season!


We are approaching the brisk days of fall that will soon emerge into the cold days of winter. This transition to more darkness and less hours of light remind us all to appreciate the sunny days we have and how our bodies tend to slow down it's pace. I imagine more nights at home cuddling with loved ones-and when doing so why not curl up and read a book together as a family? My family and I have been trying to complete the Harry Potter series together for quite some time now-maybe this winter we will achieve that goal! Cally Ruess our Howard clinician shared some great resources around how the dark and colder months have an impact on our health. Click here for a great article on ways to ensure that your kiddos are healthy for learning. We have had many great traditions and celebrations this fall season! Mr. Andrew our gardener helped organize our annual Stone Soup event. Families contributed by bringing in items from home to add to the items from our school garden. We had community and parent volunteers come to help serve the delicious meal. The moral of the story of Stone Soup is: by working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved! We definitely felt that energy during this collective event. Thanks to all who participated to make this happen! The children filled the beehive two more times and earned a pumpkin decorating contest. Each class brainstormed and created their own masterpieces (see pictures below)! Our second school wide celebration was a conga line-please enjoy some shots of this fun event! Our school safety team welcomed visitors in to share updates, ask questions, and share concerns about safety. One thing we are noticing at ABS is the drop off/pick up time becoming unsafe. We will be repainting and putting up signage to reinforce safety. Please refrain from dropping off the students or parking at all along the yellow area, crosswalk, or handicap spots. Please also refrain from stopping in the driving lane to drop off. Drop off should occur only along the sidewalks where the kids can get out safely and not be in any travel lanes or areas where they can be hit. Thanks for your help with this matter of safety! As you know we are on break next week from November 19th-23rd. We hope you enjoy some much needed time with family and friends!

Look at the behind the scenes of our Stone Soup celebration. So much goes into this and we are SOO thankful for our food service department!
Community and parent volunteers help during our annual Stone Soup harvest event. The garden club will resume in the spring with Andrew the gardener!
Mrs. LaBerge invited her Kindergarten teachers she had when she was little in to sing harvest songs.

Students from Mrs. McCormack's class use Chatterpix with our winning pumpkin design to make the pumpkin come to life! Cara Clopton had this idea after attending our professional development technology session!

Conga Line Time!
Look at how much we read in October!!


October 16th, 2018

As we are in our second month of school, teachers and students are getting to know each other better! They spent the first 6 weeks really establishing a community with routines and expectations. There have been many field trips and experiences that they have already had and enjoyed. Now teachers are starting to dive deeper into the academic work. Teachers are excited to connect with parents during conferences to share and reflect on how things are going so far this year. This can be an adjustment for some students as the academic rigor increases. Many of you came to our curriculum/expo night where you learned what you can expect to see your child working on this school year. I walked parents through what it is like for their child to have a morning meeting. They read a daily message with me, greeted each other, did an activity where they reflected on what their hopes and dreams were for their children here at school, and then had to share this with the group. One parent approached me after the event and shared that she really appreciated this hands on approach and feeling what it was like for their child while at school. Teachers did a gallery walk of parent's hopes and dreams and reflected on what take aways or "ahas" they noticed. Many teachers spoke to the idea that parents want their kids to be good citizens, to be kind, to love learning, and have fun! We look forward to working together to provide your child with the best experience in their learning and truly see this as a partnership! Here are some highlights of things we have been doing as we ease into fall. Best, Angela Filion

Meet Sydney Hopkins! She is working as a para educator in Kindergarten.
This is Holly Cunningham...she is a para educator that works in both our preschool program as well as on team Synergy!
This is Shauna Rooney. She is a para educator for Synergy.

Students learning some new technology skills to show this beautiful fall season!

Justine Benoit's class had a Q & A with a research scientist from Yale.
Here are some updates from the library about the month of September.
Speaking of the library...here is our animated Mrs. Clopton in full affect!!
Parents sharing their hopes and dreams with each other.
Parents and students learn what great things they can experience here at Allen Brook School!
Students participated in a school wide fun run for filling our PBIS beehive for being safe, kind, and responsible!!
Allen Brook received a blue ribbon as an exemplar school for the 6th year in a row! As part of our monthly meeting we invited some 2nd graders to share their ideas of how we can improve with PBIS. Student voice is a powerful thing! Thanks to all members of the PBIS team for your hard work and dedication!!!
Lyn Porter and Dustin King (our P.E. teachers) have begun talking to the kids about a new outside activity. They are going to be hiding some rocks around the school and play areas. Each rock has a task written on them. The kids have been told they can bring the rock to an adult if they cannot read the task. Once they know the task they can either do it right away and then replace the rock in its original hiding place or they can replace the rock and do the task later. Some take some more time than the immediate. An example of one that might take more time is: Say hi to three adults. Periodically throughout the year they will relocate the rocks. There are about 2 dozen of them. Some of the rocks have social skills and some have physical activity on them. This is just another example of the creative ways teachers go above and beyond to provide great experiences for our students!

As I have begun my journey as part of the Champlain Valley School District I can't help but feel an overwhelming appreciation for how welcoming and supportive everyone in this community has been! One of my goals as the new Principal for Allen Brook school is to create positive relationships and be accessible to teachers, staff, school board members, parents, businesses, and the community that help support student learning! I will use this platform to share with you the things that are going on here at Allen Brook and look forward to our year ahead together!

Meet Cindy Pavlik and Laura Gigliotti who you will find in our main office. They have been very supportive and patient with me as I learn systems and procedures in Williston Schools! You will find them in the office keeping everything running smoothly for everyone's day-a huge thanks for all they do!

Meet Cara Clopton our new school librarian! She welcomed our Kindergarten students this summer at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library where students signed up for library cards and mingled with their new classmates. She brings such animation, energy, and character to our library!! Welcome Cara!
Cara Clopton and Jodi Blaine having a little library fun~what a great team!
Meet Emily Fisher our new multi-age teacher on Harmony house. Emily comes to us from teaching 5th grade in Hinesburg last year. She grew up in Charlotte and is a graduate of CVU. She has taught in India and Kenya and we look forward to her bringing her experiences working internationally into her classroom.
Meet Heather Scandale our new School Counselor here at ABS. You will often find her greeting the students at the door every morning, going into classrooms to teach creative guidance lessons, or in this case helping students with toppings and spoons for their ice cream! She will be providing lunch bunches and guidance groups throughout the year too!
This is Jessica Wilson our Digital Learning Leader. She has brought her knowledge and talent BACK to Williston Schools as she worked here in previous years in a different role.
This is Anne Pius our new technology integrationist. Anne comes to us with a wealth of experience from her time working in the Essex schools. She will be working with students, teachers, and staff to promote the use of technology as well as educate key concepts such as digital citizenship.
This is one of our new reading recovery teachers Laura Davenport. She works here part time as well as at Shelburne Community School.
This is Jess Eaton. You may recognize her! She worked at Williston Central School as a classroom teacher on Mosaic and has changed roles this year. She will serve both schools as our new K-4 Literacy Coordinator/Interventionist. We are excited to have her!
This is Betsy Johnson our new TA for Horizon. She has two children in our Williston schools and has joined us after being a stay at home mom for 10 years. Welcome Betsy!
This is Esther Maguire who is a new para educator here at ABS. She seems to be enjoying a delicious meal here!
Welcome to Molly Trevithick who is also new to us this year as a para educator. She also has children in our school!
Meet our kitchen staff members Jennifer and Kirt. They make and serve our delicious food each day~with a smile!
We earned our first buzzy celebration with a dance party in the courtyard!
We also had a family social where we served ice cream! It was so great to see kiddos introduce their parents to faculty/staff and earning buzzies!
Mrs. Dyer, Ms. Read, and Mr. Deyo share their learning and interest in exploring outdoor education with their colleagues. They will be taking their Kindergarteners outside every Wednesday for their learning!

How lucky to have Mr. Bolger sing us into school every Friday!! As you can see we have many new people who have joined our school community and we are off to a fabulous start! Looking forward to sharing our news and updates next month! Best, Angela Filion

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Angela Filion