Makers in the making at BFUHS this year

High school is one of six in the state to launch creative workshops with federal funding

BELLOWS FALLS — Bellows Falls Union High School has been selected to be part of the VT MakerSchools, a three-year initiative to support selected schools across the state to develop, implement, and sustain makerspace programs.

As defined by, a makerspace is a "collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high-tech to no-tech tools. These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, [computer numerical control] machines, soldering irons, and even sewing machines."

Generator, Burlington's premier makerspace, launched the program with a $365,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education that came as part of former U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy's congressionally directed spending request in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2022. This funding will support the build-out of makerspaces at BFUHS and five other rural Vermont secondary schools.

According to VT MakerSchools, the program's goals include "increasing access to emerging technologies and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education, providing professional development training for Vermont educators on makerspace tech, building pathways to post-secondary opportunities for high school graduates, and providing greater access for rural communities to high-paying jobs in technical fields."

"The partnership with Generator means that BFUHS will have support developing a new makerspace curriculum, we will get advice for adding and maintaining tools and equipment, and will have professional development for implementation," says Kate O'Connor, marketing and community relations specialist for the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union.

"The focus on post-secondary opportunities is especially interesting and is a focus at the high school level, for sure," she says. "We also offered a cross-district - we reached over to neighboring districts to market this opportunity that was available in our district - with a professional development opportunity this summer through the Create Make Learn Institute."

New leadership at BFUHS, BFMS

Administrative teams at Bellows Falls Middle School and Bellows Falls Union High School are ready for the new school year.

"I can already tell that we are a great team and this administrative structure will be a positive and supportive experience for staff and students," wrote BFMS Principal Henry Bailly on the school website.

Joining Bailly at the helm at BFMS this year are Cat Seltzer, dean of students, and Megan McFarland, assistant principal.

Having received her degrees from Keene State College and Antioch University, Seltzer has been in area schools for a number of years, including at Kurn Hattin Homes for Children as a classroom teacher and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) coordinator, and as an academic case manager and special education teacher in Keene, New Hampshire.

McFarland received her master's degree in educational leadership from Keene State College and joins the team from Lebanon (New Hampshire) Middle School, where she was a sixth-grade language arts teacher.

At Bellows Falls Union High School, Kelly O'Ryan has assumed the principalship and is joined by Mark Gebo, dean of students, and Alyssa Hamilton, assistant principal.

As they prepared for the opening of school on Aug. 30, O'Ryan said she looked forward to gathering in community with the high school students and staff members and "amplifying student leadership opportunities" in the coming year.

Gebo served as school counselor at BFUHS for six years before assuming this new role. Hamilton joins the team after receiving her master's degree in educational leadership and serving in schools, in part, as a literacy coach and language arts teacher.

Hamilton has been assisting with daily operations of the high school, and Gebo has spent time this summer developing a behavioral matrix, a tool it is hoped will provide "clarity about behavior management and support for students regarding safety, engagement, and access to education" for all high school students.

This News item by Virginia Ray was written for The Commons.

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