Les Misérables comes to Orleans

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Katie Kelly, playing the young Cosette, sings “Castle on a Cloud” in the first act of Les Misérables.  The show was put together as part of the Vermont Family Theatre.  Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Katie Kelly, playing the young Cosette, sings “Castle on a Cloud” in the first act of Les Misérables. The show was put together as part of the Vermont Family Theatre. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle May 6, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

ORLEANS — The cast of Vermont Family Theatre’s Les Misérables nailed the opening night of their show on Friday, remembering every line and singing every note.

Friday was the first of a three-day run of the show, put together by Artistic Director Karen Perry.

It was obvious that all the actors loved the show and gave it their all. The choruses were excellent and very effective, moving the story forward and making hearts race.

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Actors share addiction experience with high school kids

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Left to right, Shahjehan Khan, Elizabeth Addison, and Dennis Staroselsky perform the first version of the designated driving skit at North Country Union High School to raise awareness.  Mr. Staroselsky plays the drunk driver who ends up crashing his car, killing himself and his two friends. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Left to right, Shahjehan Khan, Elizabeth Addison, and Dennis Staroselsky perform the first version of the designated driving skit at North Country Union High School to raise awareness. Mr. Staroselsky plays the drunk driver who ends up crashing his car, killing himself and his two friends. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle April 29, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

NEWPORT — “I couldn’t possibly have a problem because I don’t like cocaine, I just like how it smells,” is one of the edgy jokes the Improbable Players, a Boston theater troupe, used to raise awareness about drug and alcohol abuse at North Country Union High School (NCUHS) on Tuesday.

The teens attending oohed and aahed and laughed often as the troupe performed on stage in the auditorium.

The initial skits were followed by a play and a question and answer period when the students could ask the actors anything that came to mind.

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Homeopathy reflects a gentler model of parenting

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Local homeopathic practitioner Judy Jarvis spoke at the Greensboro Public Library on April 16 on the subject of using homeopathic remedies and essential oils for children's health. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

Local homeopathic practitioner Judy Jarvis spoke at the Greensboro Public Library on April 16 on the subject of using homeopathic remedies and essential oils for children’s health. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle April 22, 2015

by Elizabeth Trail

GREENSBORO — Most of the five women who came to the Greensboro library on Thursday evening knew one another well, giving the gathering an intimate feeling. The occasion was a talk by Judy Jarvis, a homeopathic practitioner, about using homeopathic remedies and essential oils on children. Each of the mothers arrived with questions, mostly about specific issues they were experiencing in their families — a baby with a cold, a growing child with leg cramps, a preteen having trouble falling asleep, a teenager under stress.

However, the first question, asked by Virginia LaPierre, a mother of five children ranging in age from four to 13, was more basic.

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Raising Thoreau’s cabin to life

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North Country Career Center student Evan Daigle fits a tenon into a mortise on the roof of the Thoreau cabin replica.  All the logs made by the forestry students fit into the planned design, except for one.  Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

North Country Career Center student Evan Daigle fits a tenon into a mortise on the roof of the Thoreau cabin replica. All the logs made by the forestry students fit into the planned design, except for one. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle April 15, 2015 

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

DERBY — The smell of fresh wood and the noise of tools at work greeted anyone walking into North Country Career Center’s (NCCC) woodshop class on Thursday. Students were hard at work at the Harold J. Haynes Memorial Land Lab, assembling a timber frame cabin — designed by someone who’s been dead for over 150 years.

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Lussiers leave the Craftsbury Vibrations after 40 years

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Bernie and Linda Lussier of the Craftsbury Vibrations in front of their music library. They will perform in Hyde Park on April 11 at 1:30 p.m. for the last time — probably.  Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Bernie and Linda Lussier of the Craftsbury Vibrations in front of their music library. They will perform in Hyde Park on April 12 at 1:30 p.m. for the last time — probably. Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle April 8, 2015 

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

CRAFTSBURY — Bernie Lussier and his wife, Linda, have been playing and singing together as members of the Craftsbury Vibrations for over 40 years, but after their gig on Sunday, April 12, at 1:30 p.m. in Hyde Park, they will call a halt to their professional careers. The name of the band will depart with them.

In a recent interview, Mr. Lussier explained that a single show could take eight hours with four hours spent setting up and packing, and another four hours standing up singing and playing.

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New Village Pizza brings back old menu

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Ryan Lewis and Marcia Brown are the new Village Pizza owners. The restaurant is now called Lewis Village Pizza and brings back the old substation menu with a few additions.  Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Ryan Lewis and Marcia Brown are the new Village Pizza owners. The restaurant is now called Lewis Village Pizza and brings back the old substation menu with a few additions. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle April 1, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

DERBY — Companions Ryan Lewis and Marcia Brown bought Derby’s Village Pizza two months ago. After a month of renovations, the restaurant, now called Lewis Village Pizza, is open again.

“I always told people that one of these days this is what I was going to do,” Mr. Lewis said Tuesday.

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At Lake Region: Madame Rivard to leave the classroom

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Sally Rivard, or Madame, as her students call her, is leaving the classroom after 30 years of teaching French at Lake Region Union High School.  She will coach other teachers and help them self-reflect on their own teaching practices.  Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Sally Rivard, or Madame, as her students call her, is leaving the classroom after 30 years of teaching French at Lake Region Union High School. She will coach other teachers and help them self-reflect on their own teaching practices. Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle March 25, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

When you enter classroom 213 at Lake Region Union High School, you’ll find it filled with French-related paraphernalia. Canadian, French, and Haitian flags are suspended from the ceiling, and a bilingual “unload at top only” plaque hangs on the back wall above travel posters.

“I got that one from Jay Peak,” said Sally Rivard, who has been Lake Region’s French teacher for the past 30-odd years.

This is her last year of teaching French at Lake Region. Her blue eyes sparkle and her blond, jaw-length hair swishes as she talks about her students’ curriculum, which she is obviously passionate about.

Her infectious grin makes it easy to see how she made a lasting impression on the people she worked with over the years and the students she taught.

Principal Andre Messier was a senior when Ms. Rivard, or “Madame,” as her students call her, first taught at Lake Region.

“He was only sent to the office once,” she said of her former pupil. She also said he was a good student.

“She was always dynamic and full of energy,” Mr. Messier said. “Both of my kids had the benefit of it.”

That energy explains the huge variety of activities and subjects Madame included in her curriculums.

For every quarter, students study a song, a book, a movie and have both a listening project and a cooking project.

“Oh, there’s the escargot,” Mr. Messier said when describing the types of sounds and smells that might waft down from the second floor where Madame teaches.

Her own French teacher, who died last year, inspired her.

“She approached the classroom with a sense of play,” Madame said. “That’s cool. I sort of try to honor her by doing that.”

When Ms. Rivard first moved to Barton 30 years ago, the area resembled her own hometown of Deerfield, Massachusetts, she said.

“There wasn’t any diversity,” she said.

She decided to give kids an idea of other cultures. Together they explored stereotypes and backed away from them to ask “why” and “what does that say about people?”

“I think my role is to cause other people to think about stuff,” she said. “Humanity is the common denominator.”

Mr. Messier said she has children speak, hear, and read the language through culture.

There are two types of culture, Ms. Rivard said, little “c” which includes day-to-day life and habits, and big “C,” which encompasses history, art, dance, and music.

“There’s always food,” she said, referring to techniques that get students involved. “That usually does it.”

In the French culture unit this year, students tried escargot, or snails, for the first time. Half the class loved it, some hated it and the rest felt indifferent, Ms. Rivard said.

“They’re willing to try something new and different.”

Level four students worked on the Renaissance period in France, cooking raspberry and nutella-flavored macaroons, which were created in the renaissance.

Next up, chocolate, which was imported during the Enlightenment period and was all the rage at the French court.

By picking topics that are likely to interest the kids but still have historical or cultural importance, Ms. Rivard gets the students to think backwards and make connections.

One student was interested in hunting and decided to compare practices in the United States to practices in France, discovering that people don’t hunt as much there.

Ms. Rivard said that according to the student’s research, one possible reason for that was connected to history.

“Hunting was traditionally for nobles and kings,” she said.

With restrictions on hunting land, peasants simply couldn’t hunt and the practice didn’t develop the way it did here, she said.

Some of her cultural teachings hit even closer to home, going into the students’ own cultural roots by learning how to pronounce Canadian French or Québécois using a book called Québécois for Dummies and online tutorials.

The students’ own grandparents’ accent and Québec’s media outlets made the teachings more relevant.

The people at Lake Region taught her some things about French too, Quebecois French.

“We joked about creating a dictionary of Québécois words versus Parisian words,” Mr. Messier said.

Despite her French name, Madame’s background is English.

“I can’t be a French teacher with the name Filkins,” she said, joking that she married her husband for his French name.

The French curriculum is both local and global, covering cultures from around the world that speak French.

In a unit about Haiti, students read a book about a day in the life of a Haitian child. The book was written in Creole, French and English side by side, which allowed students to see the differences and similarities between the languages, Ms. Rivard said.

They discussed political turmoil, resilience, what people value and why they go to extremes. They went into a civics discussion asking how to help raise the standard of living and whether or not it’s their place to do so.

“She has kids experience the language,” said Mr. Messier. “It’s not just textbooks.”

In fact Ms. Rivard has made sure her teachings reached further than the classroom and affected more people than just her own students.

The higher French levels did a research and community project of their choice, but the project had to have a long-lasting impact for the community, she said.

One student who loved ballet and recognized the French names of ballet positions decided to make a YouTube video explaining the positions and their names as a teaching tool for an after school class.

“That’s longevity,” Ms. Rivard said.

Lake Region welcomed kids from France on Wednesday, March 25, for a two-week visit. Ms. Rivard had to find homes for 19 kids and two chaperones.

It’s the first time Lake Region has welcomed a class from abroad during the school year, she said. The 16- and 17-year-olds will spend a day and a half in school with her students.

“It’s going to be a challenge because English is not their focus,” Ms. Rivard said about the visiting teenagers.

The students are from an agricultural and equestrian school and want to see the flora and fauna of Vermont.

While the upper French classes at Lake Region speak almost entirely in French in class, Ms. Rivard expects some communication difficulty. The goal of speaking mostly French in class is to help students not feel scared to try and speak, and to feel comfortable expressing themselves.

According to Mr. Messier, Ms. Rivard’s influence is also felt in other departments, like the Spanish department.

Ms. Rivard said she’s been working closely with the Spanish teacher to ensure students are being evaluated similarly in both programs.

Next year she will work even more with other teachers in the school since she is not actually leaving, only moving out of the classroom, she said.

“My role for next year is to be a coach,” she said.

She will observe other teachers’ courses and help them self reflect about their practices in a program tentatively called Mutually Exploring Teaching And Learning (METAL).

“I’m glad that I’ll be able to work here part-time because it would be like tearing out a part of my soul if I leave here cold turkey,” she said. “It’s been great fun. I would never have swapped this job for anything.”

contact Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph at natgagjo@bartonchronicle.com

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Albany students meet a musher and his dogs

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Pictured, from left to right, are Austin Smith, 12, Allison Powell, 13, and their science teacher Cheryl Ecklund.   Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Pictured, from left to right, are Austin Smith, 12, Allison Powell, 13, and their science teacher Cheryl Ecklund. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle March 18, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

ALBANY — Albany Community School teachers had a stroke of genius when they decided on a dog-based teaching unit this winter.

“It really energizes the students, even my students that are the most difficult to get to want to read and write are focused and are interested and have questions and have stories,” said teacher Jennifer Schoen.

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Xavier gets his wish to be a wrestler

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Xavier Gilbert, 6, grins as he practices a wrestling hold called the half nelson on his partner, Lake Region Union High School wrestler John Stafford.  Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Xavier Gilbert, 6, grins as he practices a wrestling hold called the half nelson on his partner, Lake Region Union High School wrestler John Stafford. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle March 11, 2015 

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Xavier Gilbert, six, was all smiles Monday evening when the NEK Python and Lake Region Union High School wrestlers invited him to join their practice in the Lake Region cafeteria.

He was diagnosed with leukemia March 13, 2014. Shortly thereafter his doctor recommended Xavier for the Make a Wish program.

He met his wish-granters, or fairy godparents, Christine Joyce and Jeannie Chase, during the summer.

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Ruminations: On the historic rise of the birthday cake

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Photo by Lara Starr

Photo by Lara Starr

copyright the Chronicle March 4, 2015

by Tena Starr

My family isn’t overly fond of cake, which got me to wondering about the history of the ritual. How is it that cake and candles are such an entrenched tradition that people who don’t even really like cake still have it at a birthday celebration?

(To be honest here, Chris at Parker Pie made this year’s birthday cake, and most of us confessed that we did, indeed, like it. So maybe it’s just the cakes we make ourselves that we’re not so fond of.)

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