Position: Work Based Learning Coordinator
School: Spaulding High School
School District: Barre Unified Union School District
City, State: Barre, VT
Michelle LaFrancis was nominated by Judy Emmons, the parent of a student.
Ms. LaFrancis is the work-based learning (WBL) coordinator at Spaulding High School in Barre, VT. She developed the program three years ago. She cultivated partnerships with several local employers ranging in fields from medical, financial, engineering, business, etc. to allow students to decide if their career path is a good fit. These experiences allow students to learn from real-world applications in a low risk environment.
One student had her life "all figured out." She was going to go to Norwich University, become a nurse, and make lots of money. She completed a WBL experience at the hospital and realized that she hated touching patients. This student was having a "mid-life crisis" and called Ms. LaFrancis while she was on vacation. Ms. LaFrancis calmed the student and worked with her to determine her other talents. The student decided to pursue marketing. To ensure that this was a good fit, the student completed another WBL experience at a local business. Today, she is confident that she has chosen the right major when attending Norwich University this fall as a Freshman.
During her class time, Ms. LaFrancis helps students plan for their futures, whether it's pursuing a career or going to a technical college or four-year college. She maps out due dates and deadlines for college applications, assists the students with their college admittance essays, and helps students apply for scholarships. In addition, Ms. LaFrancis teaches children what is appropriate to wear for their WBL experience, how to act, and the importance of networking and developing connections. Ms. LaFrancis also plans field trips for college visits, employee panels, workshops, and internships. The results from students who have completed the WBL class are astonishing! Some students have indicated that the program has taught them how to be responsible, professional, and hard-working. In addition, they learn how to think critically, solve problems, work in teams, and resolve issues. This allows students to invest in their future.
For several years, Ms. LaFrancis has also coordinated the Echo's yearbook at Spaulding High School. The yearbook is very impressive, and the number of hours put into its completion are countless. She highlights all the sports, clubs, activities, and special events throughout her school. Every student is highlighted, and the finished product is an excellent testament to what her school has participated in throughout the year.
Her passion, energy, and love of children at Spaulding High School may stem from her being a Spaulding alum from the class of 1988. She has worked at the school for over 20 years. During her career, she has been a history teacher, field hockey coach, website and newsletter administrator, and yearbook organizer until she developed the WBL coordinator position.
"My son, who hates history, had Michelle for modern world history when he was a freshman in high school," said Emmons. "Her abstract ideas helped children remember the time of events. During one unit, she divided the children into different social classes to allow students to realize how different social classes were treated...The next day, the class had a test on the subject matter, and my son received his highest grade in modern world history on that exam."
The opportunities that Ms. LaFrancis has created allow students to be more confident, possess high expectations, and become excellent communicators. She takes her job very seriously, and the way that she defines success is when students succeed. Her interest in students do not only pertain to current students, but also former ones.
"My son graduated from high school last year and was looking for an engineering internship. She had a connection at a worldwide manufacturing company which offered my son a job interview, and he was offered an internship this summer," said Emmons. "Michelle stands out from the crowd and has made a significant difference in the lives of students!"