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Brewster Pierce School

Brewster Pierce School

VEHI PATH is honored to name the Brewster Pierce School in Huntington as our 2019-2020 Rock Star School. Together, the Brewster Pierce employees promote and embody wellness – physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Each individual contributes their skills, talents and personal touch to create a magical environment for students and families alike. One only needs to spend a short amount of time observing the employees in action – be it the bus drivers, the principal, the teachers, the facility director, the food services director or the school nurse, to recognize how special a place Brewster Pierce truly is.(Full confession – over the past four years, we have featured some of the Brewster Pierce employees as VEHI Thriving Rock Stars).    

We congratulate Brewster Pierce employees for their outstanding contributions, leadership, dedication and determination to come together as a cohesive team to inspire everyone to value their own  well-being. Regardless of the weather outside, the school employees exude an atmosphere illustrative of a warm and sunny day.   In the subsequent paragraphs, we have described some of our encounters with staff over the time we spent with them during the last school year.  

Under the leadership of principal, Sally Hayes (she was featured as a previous rock star), and the dedication of the Brewster Pierce staff, parents and community members, the school has blossomed. Every year staff participate in team building activities and “Celebration Circles,” which promote restorative practices for all.

Alison Forrest, the food service director, (a 2019-20 rock star) has fed the school community for over 30 years with locally grown foods and was the first in the state to start this trend. Jean Bressor, a pre-school teacher, (also previously featured as a rock star) is a wellness mentor for staff and students alike and walks no less than 20,000 steps a day. According to Jean, the level of commitment of the people within the school is outstanding and the longer you are with the same people the deeper the bonds.  Heather Fergerson, the school nurse and building wellness leader (previous featured as a rock star) has embraced all that the VEHI PATH program has to offer, taking it all in with a flourish. “I invited all the staff to consider doing part of the Vermont City Marathon with me and we now have multiple teams and cheering sections,” she said. (Unfortunately, the event was canceled due to the pandemic.)

Sandy Heyman, the director of maintenance and safety, not only oversees school improvement projects including: the installation of a geothermal heating system with 12 wells that are 100 feet deep, a new gymnasium floor, lead testing and additional security measures, she also provides a monthly soup program to community members. “I do this in honor of my son, Edward, who passed away as a young man, “ she said. “Edward would take the extra from the farm to the Salvation Army so that it didn’t go to waste. Now, in his memory, I prepare and share soup. Between 60-80 community members take advantage of the program. “ Every day is a new adventure,“ she said with plenty of exuberance. “I am constantly looking out for the safety of our school’s children.”  

Dennis Delay, the guidance counselor, was working with a counselor-in-training when we popped in to chat with him. “I have found my inner puppet here, ” he said. “I grew up with six younger siblings and I easily connect with young children. I love doing art projects in the classrooms and I promote social emotional learning. And after the school day ends, I jump into my vehicle and head for the mountains either for some backcountry skiing or rock climbing.”  

Sue VanDerViliet, the school’s administrative assistant and the jack of all trades was at the front desk when we caught up with her. “This school embraces wellness,” she said. She has found her own special way to celebrate her health. “I am a cancer survivor and once every month to celebrate life and show my resolve, I hike up a mountain with my family members regardless of the time of year. I chair the Sunshine Committee and do my best to keep an eye out for people in need, organizing school-wide philanthropic events.”  

Barb Aiken, a 3rd and 4th grade teacher. is a cheerleader for wellness programs and for her students. “I am very involved in the Garden Committee, which is responsible for determining what we will grow each year and I am always excited about participating in wellness leader events,” she said beaming. Another teacher, named Grace, was the first PATH Coordinator in the school. “I introduced the PATH program to the Brewster Pierce staff with the inaugural Adventure,” she said. “I try to do as much wellness as possible.”  

“Ninety five percent of our employees participate in the VEHI PATH program,” said Fergerson. “ When new-people are hired they are oriented to the program and we continue to provide guidance so they may better understand the benefits. You might say we get a little competitive about our wellness. We have a PATH Community and Keeping Fit Team called “We Carry Our Own Backpacks,” with 30 people on the team and we are ranked #2 in the state. Several staff get out and walk after school at least three times a week taking on some of the steepest hills in the area.  Not only is it a wonderful way to stay healthy it also provides staff with the chance to get to learn more about each other and form friendships over time.”

Outdoor education is front and center at the school, thanks to the commitment from the community and the Brewster Pierce staff. Since the beautiful outdoor classroom shelter was completed, each class spends an entire day learning outside every week. After spending three days gaining more knowledge  about how to integrate outdoor education, the staff embraced this philosophy with open arms. “The town recently purchased the land contiguous to the school, for a town forest and we are thrilled to be able to make use of this expanded property,” said Hayes. “Over time several trails will be constructed.” Hike day is also a well-loved tradition that has taken place every year for two decades. All students and staff spend an entire day at Windekin Farm hiking, playing outdoor games and feasting on one of Alison Forrest’s prepared lunches.

A year ago, Kasie Enman, an elite athlete who was named the World Mountain Running Champion in 2011 and won the Vermont City Marathon three times, was hired as the school’s physical education instructor. Every other Tuesday all the PE classes go on a hike to explore surrounding woods and the students track and graph their time and mileage on a Vermont map.  

Emily Donovan, a special educator at the school, is also a certified Jazzercise instructor and leads classes for staff as requested. Dina Leher, another staff member, is an active member of the Exercise Club and the kindergarten teachers,  Brianna Parker and Chrissy Driver, spread sunshine to everyone.

Aimee Motta, another teacher, is devoted to helping everyone learn more about how to take care of the environment. “I am committed to repurposing and recycling whenever possible,” Motta said. “I do my best to demonstrate how to recycle because wellness for our planet is more wellness for all of us.” Motta has also become quite passionate about practicing mindfulness regularly and as a result shares and leads some practices with colleagues.  

Rose Castor, the school’s SLP, is also known as the head of the Mischief Brigade. “Rose is known for hiding things to bring sparkle to one’s day,” said Fergerson. “She believes that playing together makes everything worthwhile. Examples of her mischief thus far have included putting small photos of cat heads on people’s photographs in the building, distributing secret valentines and putting pawprints on people’s cars.

Lastly, we met with Carrie Wyatt, a parent of four children in the school who is a dedicated volunteer and the head of the Parent Teacher Association. “Before moving to Vermont some years ago, I toured every private school in Chittenden County and Brewster Pierce. “For our family’s needs, this school was our top choice,” she said. Wyatt is full of the energy it takes to raise monies for the outdoor program, organize online auctions, help students with algebra and serve as a Cub Scout and Girl Scout leader.

 “Staff all have unique contributions that they bring to this community,” Fergerson said. “Our constellation of people promote and strive to perpetuate a culture of wellness that is contagious. “Together  our group of individuals create a special synergy.”  And we, at VEHI PATH, wholeheartedly agree!

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