In boys hockey: Rebels end Falcons’ five-game win streak

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North Country Falcon Ben Pecue (left) upends South Burlington Rebel Eric Craig as Falcons' goalie Chris Bronson looks on during boys varsity hockey action at the Ice Haus in Jay on Saturday night.  Photo by Richard Creaser

North Country Falcon Ben Pecue (left) upends South Burlington Rebel Eric Craig as Falcons’ goalie Chris Bronson looks on during boys varsity hockey action at the Ice Haus in Jay on Saturday night. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 1-6-2013

JAY — The visiting South Burlington High Rebels ended North Country’s five-game winning streak on Saturday night 5-2.  The Falcons entered the contest sitting atop the Metro Division standings with a sterling 5-0 record.

“We knew coming into this game that it was going to be a real test for us,” North Country Coach Andrew Roy said after the game.  “We made some mistakes early and it caught up to us.”

The Falcons roster features two goalies and only 14 position players — less than three full lines.  A small roster denies the Falcons the ability to keep players rested, especially if they fall afoul of penalty trouble.

“We’ve got the talent to make a comeback, no doubt about it,” junior and goalie Chase LaCourse said after a brutal first period.  “We came back against Colchester and we could do it again if we can keep out of the penalty box.”

Fatigue was definitely a factor in the game’s outcome, Coach Roy conceded.  Excessive penalties contributed as much as the small roster to tired legs.

“Nobody came off the ice in the third with extra energy,” Coach Roy said.  “They gave it everything they had.  We just didn’t get the result we’d hoped for.”

Penalties would play a key factor throughout the game but never more so than in the first period.  North Country would hit the scoreboard first as Adam Viens drilled home the puck with one second remaining in the Falcons’ first powerplay opportunity of the game 3:15 into the first period.  Less than two minutes later South Burlington would return the favor as Rebel Matt Baechle buried one by Falcons’ goaltender Chris Bronson.

A minute and a half later the Rebels would strike again.  This time Eric Craig flipped a puck past a sprawling Bronson to give visiting South Burlington a 2-1 lead.  The final goal of the game would again come on the man advantage as Craig beat Bronson again for South Burlington’s second powerplay goal of the game and a 3-1 lead after the first period of play.

Though the penalty parade continued in the second period, North Country contained the South Burlington offense.  The Falcons accomplished the feat despite drawing five more penalties, two of which gave the Rebels a five-on-three advantage.  The Falcons would edge back into the game with less than seven seconds remaining in the period as Ryan Paul beat Rebel goalie Noah Beatty to bring the Falcons within one at the second intermission.

“We still got into trouble with penalties in the second but we held our own,” Coach Roy said after the game.  “Our penalty killing did what they needed to do.  We also got back a goal so that’s a positive.”

Penalties dogged both teams into the third period.  The game featured 21 penalties in total by the end of the game.  Despite giving and receiving the powerplay both teams remained tight with the Rebels carrying their 3-2 lead over from the first period.

The next goal of the game would come with only 1:10 left in the period.  The Falcons pulled Bronson to add a sixth skater only to see South Burlington pad its lead as Gabe Simpatico grabbed the puck in the neutral zone and rifled it into the empty net.  Down 4-2 at this point, Bronson returned between the pipes as the game wound to a close.

The final goal of the game could have been missed by the casual observer.  Amidst the clamor of the fans and the final buzzer of the game Conner O’Toole slipped the puck through Bronson’s five-hole to record the Rebels fifth goal at the 15-minute mark.

“He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win,” Coach Roy said of Bronson’s 25-save effort in goal.  “He did everything for us we could have expected.”

With the loss, the Falcons drop to 5-1 on the season while South Burlington improves to 4-1.  Essex climbed atop the Metro Division standings with a victory against Champlain Valley Union.

Opposing snipers duel for control of the puck as North Country's Ryan Paul (right) swings wide around South Burlington Rebel Eric Craig.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Opposing snipers duel for control of the puck as North Country’s Ryan Paul (right) swings wide around South Burlington Rebel Eric Craig. Photo by Richard Creaser

The Falcons return to action on Wednesday, January 9, with an away game against Mount Mansfield at the Essex Skating Facility.  The game has a 6:45 p.m. start.

Contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com For more free sports stories, look in our sports category on this site or subscribe to our print or online editions.  Click on this link for a full winter sports schedule.

 

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In boys basketball: Falcons top Thunderbirds in high scoring affair

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North Country’s Kendrick Gray (center behind number 22) jumps to block a shot by Missisquoi Valley’s R.J. Machia as Falcon Jason Hatin (right) and Thunderbird Alex Deuso look on. In mid-flight Machia would execute a maneuver that enabled him to bounce pass to Deuso for the basket. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 12-15-2012

NEWPORT — It was a wild and wooly affair as the host North Country Falcons staved off a late run by the visiting Missisquoi Valley Union Thunderbirds to snag the 94-90 win.  Late foul trouble allowed the Thunderbirds to claw back into contention in a fourth quarter that saw the two teams score a combined 64 points.

“My boys delivered what I promised at the beginning of the year — an entertaining team,” North Country Coach Brian Bonvechio said after the game.  “We kept trying to attack, attack, attack.  We don’t play the slow game very well so we need to keep up the tempo.”

The tempo was clearly something the Falcons needed to build toward.  Through the first half of the game the Falcons rarely had the lead, often finding themselves chasing down MVU on the score sheet.  What kept the Falcons in the contest throughout the game was a barrage of three-point field goals and solid shooting from the foul line.

Sophomore Matt Duncan was among North Country’s most proficient shooters on the day.  Though held to a single three-pointer in the first quarter, Duncan came alive in the second notching nine of the Falcons’ 27 points heading into the half.  He finished the night with six of the team’s 13 three-pointers as well as going eight for 11 from the free throw line and adding in a couple of two-point baskets for good measure.

“You gotta run and gun and hit the shots,” Duncan said after the game.  “I really gotta give credit to the team for giving me those shots.  I just went out there and did what I had to do to get the win.”

North Country’s Matthew Duncan (center, number 21) springs in for the lay-up through a defensive screen on Missisquoi Valley Union defenders Alex Deuso (left), Matthieu St. Amour (right) and Alex Larose (obscured right) as Falcon Colton White (background left) moves in for the rebound. Duncan would finish the game with 30 points including six three-point field goals and shooting 8 for 10 from the free throw line. Photo by Richard Creaser

The Thunderbirds battled intensely under the net limiting North Country’s opportunities for rebounds.  MVU’s tight control around the net enabled them to establish a first quarter lead of 18-14.  As the Falcons settled into their outside shooting routine, however, control of the net became less of an issue for North Country.

With Rejean Roberge, Tyler Paxman and Matt Duncan landing three-pointers in the quarter, North Country managed to remain in contention. Paxman’s buzzer beating three-pointer to end the second trimmed MVU’s six point lead and finished the half with North Country down 44-41.

Though the third quarter wasn’t as productive as the second in terms of total points scored, 24 points in the third compared to 27 in the second, MVU’s own offense faltered to a game-low 11 points.  For the second straight quarter the home team outscored the visitors.  Duncan poured in three more three-pointers with Paxman and Tyler Sanville also contributing to the cause.

Foul trouble caught up to both sides in the final quarter of play.  It also contributed to an offensive explosion on the part of both teams.  Matthieu St. Amour, the Thunderbirds leading offensive contributor, would foul out in the final quarter.  After recording 45 of his team’s points, his loss to the MVU cause could not be underestimated.  St. Amour finished the game with ten two-pointers, five three-pointers and shot 10 for 17 from the free throw line.

“We drew way too many fouls at the end,” Coach Bonvechio conceded.  “They went to the line a lot and that really cut down our lead.”

As the Thunderbirds likewise ran into foul trouble the Falcons managed to maintain their lead.  Duncan shot 3 of 4 in his final two trips to the free throw line and Jason Hatin shot a perfect 5 for 5 on foul shots in the game, including 4 for 4 in the final quarter alone.

Duncan lead all North Country players with 30 points in the win while three other players contributed with double digit figures — Hatin with 15, Colton White with 11 and Paxman with 10.  St. Amour was the clear top offensive player for the Thunderbirds with his 45 points accounting for half of his team’s output on the evening.  Tyler Cooper scored 17 points for MVU while Nathan Lumsden contributed 13 in the losing effort.

Contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

For more sports stories, please see our website sports section or subscribe to our print or online edition.

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UCA vs CA boys basketball game decided in final quarter

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by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 12-9-2012

Craftsbury Academy Charger Austin Masi (left) bolts down the sideline as UCA Crusader Ji Hwan Kim tries to cut off his avenue of attack. Photos by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — The balance of the game hung on every basket as the well-matched United Christian Academy Crusaders hosted the visiting Craftsbury Academy Chargers on Saturday afternoon.  An unbroken run of 11 points in the final quarter of play helped propel the Crusaders to a 46-41 win over Craftsbury.

Throughout the game fans from both schools watched as their team battled back to take or retake the lead.  The Crusaders came out strong in the first quarter after allowing Craftsbury to open the scoring.  UCA responded with 14 straight points before the Chargers clawed back onto the scoreboard.  At the end of the first, UCA took the lead 19-13.

The second quarter belonged solidly to the Chargers despite UCA recording eight of the first nine points in that quarter. Craftsbury would record the last 14 points to take a 28-27 point lead into the half.

Coming back from the break the third quarter boasted the least amount of scoring of the entire game.  Both sides managed only nine total points between them with Craftsbury padding their lead to 34-30 entering the final frame of play.

Craftsbury Charger Austin Masi (center) leaps for the basket as UVCA defender Marquel Webster (right) and Chris Delabruere (left) try to stop the drive.

That’s when the Crusaders came to life and racked up their 11-point run including going 5 for 6 from the foul line.  The Chargers battled back to within four points only to send the Crusaders back to the foul line time and again.  Though the Crusaders would not enjoy quite the same degree of success as they had earlier, shooting only 3 for 9, those extra points helped round out the 46-41 victory.

Chris Delabruere paced the Crusaders with 18 points and closely followed by teammate Paul Saaman who recorded 17 points on the day.  Ctaftsbury’s Kyle Adams recorded 17 points followed by Alex Vetere who scored 11 points in the losing effort.

Contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

The members of the United Christian Academy Crusaders boys varsity basketball team for the 2012-2013 season are, back row from left to right: Dale Martel, Jon Delabruere, Marquel Webster, Marc Quirion and Coach Tony Delabruere. front row from left: Chris Delabruere, Ji Hwan Kim and Paul Saaman.
Photo by Richard Creaser

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NC girls hockey team fueled by youth

The Lady Falcons enter the season with several key additions to the team. Though the team is young, rostering only three seniors, the addition of veteran goaltender Mikaella Doran (center) and LI standout Emily Doty (right) will help their fellow Falcons like Savannah Alberghini (left). Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 12-5-2012

JAY — The 2012-2013 edition of the North Country Lady Falcons hockey team should prove an exciting one to watch this season.  Asked to describe the greatest strength of this year’s squad, Assistant Coach Tom Bernier replied with a single word — “youth.”

“We only have three seniors and a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Mr. Bernier said at Monday night’s practice.  “We’re a young team and we’re still growing.”

The team features several players from neighboring school districts, including juniors Corrina Cota and Taylor Morley from Lake Region Union High, and Emily Doty from Lyndon.  That blending of players has proven both helpful and frustrating at times.

The bigger issue for head Coach Claude Paul and his staff is reconciling the varying skill levels of the players.  While some have grown up with Border Hockey or came up through the Lyndon Area Youth Hockey Association, other players are hitting the ice for their first season of varsity hockey.

“What we don’t want to do is hold back the girls who have been on the ice eight to ten years, because they’ve already got the basics,” Mr. Bernier said.  “At the same time, we have some girls new to the sport who need to learn the fundamentals.  Some of them are even fairly new to skating.”

Entering her third year on the varsity roster, Ms. Cota has endured some difficult seasons as a Falcon.  Throughout the team’s struggles, however, she has noticed that certain spark that suggests brighter days lie ahead.

“It’s been really exciting to see the team grow and develop over the years,” Ms. Cota said.  “We keep getting better and our skills are growing stronger.”

Incorporating players from the far-flung corners of the Kingdom can be a difficult task.  Just as in professional hockey, a team laden in talented players won’t automatically result in success if the team chemistry is absent.  That hasn’t proven the case with the Falcons, Ms. Cota said.

“You have to get used to each other and the way we play,” she said.  “But after a couple of weeks working together you get a feel for what they can do and what we can do as a team.”

A solid addition to the team comes in the form of Emily Doty from Lyndon Institute.  Because Lyndon lacks the numbers to field a varsity team, Ms. Doty is playing her first season for the Falcons.

“If I wasn’t playing here I would probably be playing with the boys again this year,” Ms. Doty said, referring to last season’s play on LI’s boys’ varsity squad.  “Playing with girls and against girls is going to take some getting used to.”

The biggest adjustment for Ms. Doty comes from the rules on contact in women’s hockey.  Having played with boys, she reveled in the more physical aspects of the game.

“I’ve been trained to check, line guys up for a hit,” Ms. Doty said.  “The first thing Coach Paul did was give me a page from the rule book telling me how to hit.”

Making that adjustment might run counter to the experience she gained last season, but will hardly influence how she approaches her first season with the Falcons.  Her solid, two-way play should assist the Falcons on both sides of the ice.

Another key addition to the squad comes in the form of the team’s newest goalie — Mikaella Doran.  Though new to the Falcons uniform, Ms. Doran comes with a lifetime of experience between the pipes.

“Having Mikaella is definitely going to help us both ways,” Mr. Bernier said.  “Having that confidence in net is going to let us play a more offensive game.  Her experience is going to help keep us in the game.”

The Lady Falcons start the season in earnest with a home game on Thursday, December 6, facing Woodstock at 5 p.m. at the Ice Haus in Jay.

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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Broe – Lantagne family is built on reindeer games

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At present Prancer is the only reindeer in the entire state of Vermont. He makes his residence with Pauline Broe at the Vermont Reindeer Farm in West Charleston. Prancer, a female, is currently awaiting a reunion with Comet II, though to the untrained eye he will bear a stunning resemblance to the original Comet.

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 10-24-12

WEST CHARLESTON —  Even before Pauline Broe picked up her bullhorn to address the crowd on Sunday it was apparent that this wasn’t your typical family gathering.  With sun and rain appearing in equal measure, members of Ms. Broe’s extended family enjoyed brunch under the tent, stood around the fire pit or roamed the grounds of the Vermont Reindeer Farm.

The gathering is an annual event for Ms. Broe’s family and, in particular, her branch of the Westmore Lantagnes.  All seven Lantagne siblings still reside within an hour’s drive of the town where they grew up.

But it is far more than a gathering of the clan.  To Ms. Broe it is an opportunity to remember who she is, where she came from, and exactly what kind of legacy she wants to leave behind for the next generation.

“We were probably the poorest family in Westmore when we were kids,” Ms. Broe said.  “Someone else was always giving us clothes and Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.  There wasn’t any expectation that we were going to go to college.  Our parents expected that we would finish high school.”

Being on the receiving end of charity left a deep impression on the Lantagne children.  It instilled in them a recognition of the power of one person to make a tremendous difference in the life of another.  It fostered in them a strong sense of family and a willingness to pool their resources for the benefit of all.

The annual family gathering turned into a fund-raising effort to help support members of the family, Ms. Broe said.  Whether by explicit donation or through silent auctions and walkathons, the family gathered money to form a Lantagne family scholarship fund.

Remembering the generosity of the community they received as children growing up in Westmore, the Lantagne siblings have turned their annual gathering into an opportunity to raise money for a family scholarship fund, to support relatives dealing with illness as well as providing money for the American Cancer Society. They are, back row from left to right: Richard Lantagne, John Lantagne and Bernard Lantagne. In the front row from left to right are Avis Brosseau, Joyce Ofsuryk, Pauline Broe and Joan Peters. “We’re just looking for a way to give back to a community that gave so much to us,” Ms. Broe said.

“Our expectation is that if a child in this family wants to go to college, they will go to college,” Ms. Broe said.  “Those of us in a position to help will help.  That’s just the way we are.”

The gathering has also helped provide funds for ailing family members including, most recently, a sister-in-law and a nephew who battled cancer.  Their struggle highlighted the prevalence of cancer in the community and inspired the family to also donate a portion of their fund raising money to support cancer charities.

All this focus on good deeds would seem to suggest that a Lantagne family gathering is a dry, joyless affair.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Adjacent to the food tent an inflatable bounce house keeps the younger ones dry and entertained.  As Ms. Broe speaks with the Chronicle she is constantly jostled by a kaleidoscope of animals that includes three goats, a donkey and a pig who thinks he’s a dog.

A more varied menagerie of animals probably hasn’t existed outside a zoo or a pretty famous ark.  And that brings us back around to the name of Ms. Broe’s farm — Vermont Reindeer Farm.  To the average American, reindeer are something you see in nature shows, on Christmas cards or in claymation television specials.  Visitors to Ms. Broe’s farm, however, get to lay their eyes — and sometimes hands — on the real McCoy.

Comet and Prancer are the star attractions at the Broe farm, though Comet is, at present, off in New York State awaiting permission to enter Vermont.  In truth, he would be Comet II, but in order to avoid giving children nightmares about the mortality of Santa’s faithful sled team Ms. Broe is content to present the illusion that the original Comet is simply away on business.

“This is the only reindeer farm in all of Vermont,” Ms. Broe said.  “So how did it all get started?  It’s not like we sat around dreaming of reindeer.”

Like most of the stories Ms. Broe told on Sunday afternoon, this one found its origins somewhere else.  The land on which we stood has been in John Broe Senior’s family stretching back five generations.

On a different day and at a different hour a pile of bones might prove intimidating to a group of youngsters. Not so this collection of “dinosaur” bones located along the walking trail behind Pauline Broe’s West Charleston home. The intrepid scouts who led the Chronicle to the find at the Vermont Reindeer Farm are, from left to right, Madison McRae, Connor Broe, Gwen Lantagne and Tyler Choquette. Photos by Richard Creaser

Before that parcel became a farm it had played host to a modest but lovingly crafted camp.  The Broe’s decided to build a more permanent dwelling using wood harvested from the land.  Naturally, it seemed a shame to tear down a perfectly good cabin to make room for the house, so they just conjoined the two in a style that is both rustic and more than a little bit storybook.

“Some people have a back lawn,” Ms. Broe said, looking out the north window.  “We have a back forest.”

She neglected to mention that the forest was a strange, magical place inhabited by brightly colored ceramic frogs, fairies and bridges complete with shaggy-headed trolls.  Did we neglect to mention the dinosaur bones?

“I really like coming out here and walking on the trail,” niece Gwen Lantagne said.  “I like seeing the frogs, the little bridges and the dinosaur bones.”

“I think they’re just cow bones,” Tyler Choquette said with almost convincing certainty.

The fact that the younger generations take happily to field and forest, eagerly sharing the magic of that place with a complete stranger, proves that what the Broe’s have built lives up to their ideal.  This is a place where memories are made.

“When they grow up I want them to be able to remember Aunt Pauline’s and all the wonderful animals and the things to see and do,” Ms. Broe said.  “I want them to remember where they came from and how that made them who they are.”

Which somehow brings us back around to the reindeer.  The farm grew as a place where rescued animals could find respite and a loving home.  It started with a pony and soon expanded to the various furry and feathered critters that snorted, brayed, bleated and squawked around the pastures and pens.

“One day I was looking at Country Woman magazine and saw a picture of a blond woman in a red outfit with a reindeer,” Ms. Broe recalls.  “I thought, ‘That could be me!’”

Transforming that vision from idea to reality proved to be complicated.  The threat of chronic wasting disease (CWD) among captive herds of deer severely limits the transport of animals like reindeer.  To import the animals to Vermont, the Broe’s first had to find a clean herd from a state certified to ship animals to this state.

Tedious though the process may have been, Ms. Broe expressed no qualms about following that reindeer dream.  The reindeer have proven popular with folks booking Christmas celebrations, as well as with the dozens of schoolchildren that have visited her farm.

Sharing her animals and her property with family and friends and schoolchildren is something that Ms. Broe treasures immensely.

“I love the opportunity to make kids happy,” Ms. Broe said.  “When you see a child that has had problems bonding with other people and you see them hugging an animal, that’s amazing.  People can connect to animals in a way they might never connect to other people, so giving them that opportunity means a lot to me.”

If one were to ask what precisely a farm with two reindeer, a bunch of goats, a confused pig, a donkey and a collection of chickens and ponies produces the simple answer is probably the right one — fond memories of a special place from their childhood.

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

 For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Featuring pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital  editions.

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Dollar General builds new retail store in North Troy

Construction is underway on this site in North Troy, which will be the home of Vermont’s thirteenth Dollar General store. The 9,100-square foot store will provide jobs for between six and ten employees. The tentative completion date is October 24 with the store anticipated to open by the end of the month.
Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 9-12-2012

NORTH TROY — Dollar General confirmed this week that it will build a 9,100-square-foot store in North Troy.  The store is expected to open by the end of October.

“Seventy percent of our stores are located in smaller, rural communities with fewer than 20,000 people,” said Dollar General Communications Director Rebecca Sanders on Monday.  “While we do have stores in larger, urban and suburban areas, our focus has always been on meeting the needs of rural communities.  This store was just a great fit for us.”

Dollar General operates a dozen stores in Vermont, including one in Richford and another in Lyndonville.  When they open, the North Troy store will employ between six and ten people, Ms. Sanders said.  The exact number of employees will be determined by customer traffic.

The North Troy project is unique on several levels, Ms. Sanders said.  Most Dollar General stores are in leased buildings, but in North Troy the store will be custom built on Main Street.  The average Dollar General store is also a modest 7,200 square feet, but the North Troy store will measure 9,100 square feet.

The size of a store is typically related to the variety of merchandise it carries coupled with the store’s proximity to its competitors, Ms. Sanders said.  The geographic and demographic profile of the North Troy location indicated that a bigger store would be better able to serve its customer base.

Dollar General labels itself a “small-box retailer,” combining the buying power of 10,000 locations in 40 states while tailoring product lines to meet the needs of its customer base, Ms. Sanders said.  Shoppers can expect to see a wide variety of brand name goods at affordable prices, she said.

“Easy to navigate stores, low prices and convenient locations are what we strive for at Dollar General,” Ms. Sanders said.

Alan Bellis is the senior project manager at the Ohio-based Zaremba Group, the company responsible for construction on the project.  Mr. Bellis said construction is slated for completion on October 24, with the store opening the following weekend.

“It’s a pretty aggressive timeline but it can be done,” Mr. Bellis said.  “I wasn’t personally involved in the permitting process, but I would guess that this project has been in the works for the better part of a year.”

Ms. Sanders was unable to verify the construction schedule.

“I do know that we will make an effort to let people know about our grand opening when that time comes,” she said.  “We’re thrilled to be able to open this store and become a part of your community.  We hope that people will be as pumped up and excited about this new store as we are.”

Dollar General sells clothing, accessories, food, health and beauty products, household and outdoor products, baby items, school supplies, toys, and more.

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Editor’s Pick pages.  For all the Chronicle‘s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital editions.

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Derby Line Day – a festival with knights, owls and balloons

dld alpaca

Alpacas appeared at Derby Line Day in August 2012 courtesy of Log Cabin Farms. Derby Line Community Day is an annual event, started in 2001. Photo by Richard Creaser

dld drum

Two junior members of the Nulhegan Abenaki Negonsibo Drum Troupe, Jade Petell (left) and Madigan McGregor, played a few songs with their tribal elders, including Billie Largy (right). Photo by Richard Creaser

DLD stilts

These stilts aren't just made for walking they are also fine for dancing as Steve Myott proves. Mr. Myott, making his annual appearance as giant Uncle Sam, dances to the music of Andre Geoffrey

DLDay12 trebuchet

Emelin Scherbatskoy, one of the younger members of the Society for Creative Anachronism's Shire of Panther Vale, displays the power of a model trebuchet. The trebuchet differs from a catapult in that force is generated by the release of a counterweight. A traditional catapult harnesses the power of a twisted rope and makes use of a bar to halt forward motion on the throwing arm. Photo by Richard Creaser

dlddino

Travis Driver, age six, of Derby shows off the latest in balloon dinosaur headwear. The dinosaur sculpted hat was made by Buddy D. Clown. Photo by Richard Creaser

dldfireman

One of the more unusual events at Saturday's eleventh annual Derby Line Community Day was the knights vs. firemen challenge. Perhaps as a response to the day's punishing heat, James E. Tazelaar (left) of the Society for Creative Anachronism's Shire of Panther Vale, decked out in full Medieval battle garb took on the 120-pound pressure of the Derby Line Volunteer Fire Department's hose. Representing the noble fire department, were firefighters (from left to right) Brian Dubois, Dan Daggett, Dave Patneaude, and Tanner Jacobs. Photo by Richard Creaser

dldkick

Deslandes Blue Wave Tae Kwon Do Academy students got their kicks, sometimes literally, demonstrating their talents at Derby Line Community Day. James Miller (left) holds the paddles while Matt Lyon lands a powerful kick. Photo by Richard Creaser

dldowl

Vermont Institute of Natural Science Environmental Educator Emma Brinley-Buckley imitates one of the two calls that native Vermont hooting owls make under the not so watchful eye of a great horned owl.

dldstarwars

Andrew Liptak of Burlington (left) took on the role of an imperial stormtrooper out of Star Wars while Ernst Peters (foreground right) of Montreal dressed as an imperial fleet trooper. In the background are Marie-Claude Dion as Princess Leia and Chantal Brodeur as an imperial gunner. Both are from Montreal. Mr. Liptak is a member of the 501st Legion New England Garrison while Mr. Peters, Ms. Dion and Ms. Brodeur are from the Escadron Forteresse Impériale. The 501st Legion is a worldwide organization whose members portray Star Wars characters at public and charity events in order to share their love of the Star Wars universe with fellow enthusiasts. Photo by Richard Creaser

Alpacas appeared at Derby Line Day in August 2012 courtesy of Log Cabin Farms.  Derby Line Community Day is an annual event, started in 2001.  Photo by Richard CreaserTwo junior members of the Nulhegan Abenaki Negonsibo Drum Troupe, Jade Petell (left) and Madigan McGregor, played a few songs with their tribal elders, including Billie Largy (right).  Photo by Richard CreaserThese stilts aren't just made for walking they are also fine for dancing as Steve Myott proves.  Mr. Myott, making his annual appearance as giant Uncle Sam, dances to the music of Andre GeoffreyEmelin Scherbatskoy, one of the younger members of the Society for Creative Anachronism's Shire of Panther Vale, displays the power of a model trebuchet.  The trebuchet differs from a catapult in that force is generated by the release of a counterweight.  A traditional catapult harnesses the power of a twisted rope and makes use of a bar to halt forward motion on the throwing arm.  Photo by Richard CreaserTravis Driver, age six, of Derby shows off the latest in balloon dinosaur headwear.  The dinosaur sculpted hat was made by Buddy D. Clown.  Photo by Richard CreaserOne of the more unusual events at Saturday's eleventh annual Derby Line Community Day was the knights vs. firemen challenge.  Perhaps as a response to the day's punishing heat, James E. Tazelaar (left) of the Society for Creative Anachronism's Shire of Panther Vale, decked out in full Medieval battle garb took on the 120-pound pressure of the Derby Line Volunteer Fire Department's hose.  Representing the noble fire department, were firefighters (from left to right) Brian Dubois, Dan Daggett, Dave Patneaude, and Tanner Jacobs.  Photo by Richard CreaserDeslandes Blue Wave Tae Kwon Do Academy students got their kicks, sometimes literally, demonstrating their talents at Derby Line Community Day.  James Miller (left) holds the paddles while Matt Lyon lands a powerful kick.  Photo by Richard CreaserVermont Institute of Natural Science Environmental Educator Emma Brinley-Buckley imitates one of the two calls that native Vermont hooting owls make under the not so watchful eye of a great horned owl.Andrew Liptak of Burlington (left) took on the role of an imperial stormtrooper out of Star Wars while Ernst Peters (foreground right) of Montreal dressed as an imperial fleet trooper.  In the background are Marie-Claude Dion as Princess Leia and Chantal Brodeur as an imperial gunner.  Both are from Montreal.  Mr. Liptak is a member of the 501st Legion New England Garrison while Mr. Peters, Ms. Dion and Ms. Brodeur are from the Escadron Forteresse Impériale.  The 501st Legion is a worldwide organization whose members portray Star Wars characters at public and charity events in order to share their love of the Star Wars universe with fellow enthusiasts.  Photo by Richard Creaser
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Canaan teacher looks at Chinese education firsthand

Canaan Memorial High School English teacher Jason Di Giulio enjoys the panoramic view from atop the iconic Great Wall during a June trip to China. As a 2011 winner of an award for teaching excellence from the National Education Association, Mr. Di Giulio was one of 35 American Global Learning Fellows chosen to visit and explore the Chinese culture and educational system. Photos courtesy of Jason De Giulio

copyright the Chronicle July 18, 2012

by Richard Creaser

LYNDONVILLE — Sitting in a booth at the Ms. Lyndonville Diner, Canaan Memorial High School English teacher Jason Di Giulio of Sheffield sipped at his coffee, his mind racing to organize ten days worth of recent experiences in China.  Mr. Di Giulio, a 2011 winner of a National Education Association (NEA) excellence in teaching award, traveled to China to explore the country and its educational system.  He and 34 other NEA Foundation winners spent ten days there between June 19 and 29.

Winning a trip to the Orient may seem like a just reward for some of the nation’s hardest working educators.  But this was no pleasure junket.  Sponsored by the NEA Foundation, the Pearson Foundation and Education First, the purpose of the trip was to expose the teachers, also known as Global Learning Fellows, to a country and culture that few Western students have occasion to see firsthand.

“The purpose of this trip was to raise global awareness,” Mr. Di Giulio said.  “Students need to understand that we are living in a flat world.  The competition for jobs isn’t coming from Massachusetts or Connecticut or Maine, it’s coming from China.”

While in China the Global Learning Fellows met with representatives of FASTCO, the Chinese based manufacturer for Fastenal, as well as representatives from Intel Corporation.  They learned that what international corporations want and need are independent thinkers who are capable of responding quickly to changing circumstances.

“It’s not something that the Chinese educational model really encourages,” Mr. Di Giulio said.  “I think of the Chinese educational model as a factory model — everyone comes out of it knowing what they need to know to do the job they have prepared for.  It’s a model based on rote memorization and testing, with testing being proof of success.”
But a system based on knowing and retaining specific information does not encourage free thinking.  That’s the one area where the Western educational system may hold a distinct advantage over China, Mr. Di Giulio said.

Gradually, the U.S. appears to be moving toward that same model with standardized tests that create an objective measure of success.  But at what cost?

“What we learned is that the factory model doesn’t take into account what employers are looking for,” Mr. Di Giulio said.  “We need to develop and refine our curriculum to include more problem solving and critical thinking.  We need to be able and willing to teach several methods and allow students to adapt to the model that best fits their learning style.”

The Chinese focus on excellence is bred from necessity and was exemplified not only in the classrooms but also in the everyday world, Mr. Di Giulio said.

Thirty-five American Global Learning Fellows representing the best and brightest American teachers visited China in June. Here the group poses with students at the Langxia Middle School outside of Shanghai. Prior to the trip, Canaan Memorial High School English teacher Jason Di Giulio embarked on an ambitious project to learn basic Mandarin Chinese. “Even knowing just a little bit of their language opened doors that might otherwise have been inaccessible to me,” Mr. Di Giulio said of the experience. “It made me realize how language affects and sculpts a culture.”

“The only students we saw at the vocational school and the middle school were the students who conform to the idea of the norm,” he said.  “The students who were perceived as below the norm went to their own school.  This is quite the opposite of what we are trying to do here in the West.”

Mr. Di Giulio spoke of the morning he ordered an omelet from the hotel kitchen.  It took the cook three tries to produce an omelet worthy of his guest.  To Mr. Di Giulio’s eye, any of the three would have sufficed.
“That’s the kind of pressure they have in the job market there,” Mr. Di Giulio said.  “If you can’t do the job, there’s always someone else, a billion someone elses, waiting to step in.  That creates tremendous pressure to be the absolute best at whatever it is you do.”

Striving to be the best certainly isn’t a bad thing, Mr. Di Giulio stressed.  But the important part is the striving and not necessarily the success.

“Innovation is about taking risks, and taking risks means that sometimes you will fail,” he said.  “Entrepreneurship is about taking a risk, and if it doesn’t work, you try again.  When you are focused entirely on success as the end result you become unwilling to take any risks and innovation suffers.”

The Chinese model has plenty to offer to Western educators both for what it does right as well as where it falls short.  Educators who are focused on a specific subject and who have adequate time to prepare and deliver instruction can achieve better results.  And when the entire family promotes and supports a student’s education, chances of success are exponentially higher.

Chinese teachers deliver instruction in a single 80-minute class once per day.  They devote the remainder of their time to preparing for the next day’s class and reviewing test data.  This is in marked contrast to American teachers who spend most of their day with their students and who do some of their preparation during free time in the school day with the balance taking place at home.

“The temptation is there to say that their system is working,” Mr. Di Giulio said.  “With focused dedication, parental and political support, students can achieve great things.  But there is also a warning to be had.”
The suicide rate among high school seniors is troublingly high.  Many students feel smothered by the inescapable cultural pressure to excel.

“In China the mandatory retirement age for men is 60 years old and 55 years old for women,” Mr. Di Giulio said.  “It is also expected that the children will take care of their parents in their old age.  In the era of the one child policy, that means that a couple must earn enough to support not only themselves and their child but also up to four parents.”

In a country that boasts as many honor students as the U.S. has students, the competition to land positions in the best universities is fierce.  In China a university education spells the difference between a poor-paying job as a laborer or access to a coveted job in the middle class with room to advance.

“I don’t think we fully appreciate how important access to higher education is in this country,” Mr. Di Giulio said.  “The difference here is that, as long as you are willing to find the money or carry the debt, eventually you will be able to get into a university.  In China, if you can’t get into a Chinese university or can’t find the money to attend a school overseas, you don’t have many options left.”

The Chinese system puts tremendous pressure on students with its focus on testing and measurements of success, but in some ways the Western educational system is working toward an opposite extreme.

“There has to be some happy medium between rote memorization and measured achievement and creativity, hugs and self-esteem,” Mr. Di Giulio said.  ‘There is certainly a group that is willing to shout and say that our educational system is broken.  If I look at the results of my students and see what they have achieved, I know it’s not broken.”
Finding an objective standard to measure American students against was a laudable but ultimately doomed element of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Mr. Di Giulio said.  The idea that all students would be suitably proficient in all areas by 2014 was an admirable goal.  The trouble was that the goal faced barriers test data doesn’t measure.

“If I could ensure that every kid had three good meals a day, had their parents read to them since they were two years old, got enough sleep and received proper medical care, and their schools were fully funded, I would say achieving 100 percent proficiency was entirely possible,” Mr. Di Giulio said.  “But that’s not the world we live in.  The law alternately encourages or disciplines schools for failing to meet the challenge without addressing the underlying causes.”

The system is further flawed by allowing each state to set its own standards.  Although intended to measure and compare students around the country, the lack of common standards makes the comparisons ultimately futile, he said.
“Until we take into account the global standard that our students are being measured against, we really can’t accomplish anything truly meaningful,” Mr. Di Giulio said.  “We do need to adopt a universal standard that recognizes what every student needs to know in order to become successful Americans.”

He said he plans to incorporate less fiction and more analytical works in his own instruction.  Developing a stronger ability to problem solve and enhance analytical skills is critical if American students are to compete in the global marketplace.

“Creative thinking and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances is, and should continue to be, the focus of the American educational system,” he said.  “In order to do that, we need a better understanding of the world.  It’s no longer about competing for jobs with students in Michigan or California.  It’s about competing with students from China and India and other parts of the developing world.”

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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