LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Michelle LaFrancis

Position: Work Based Learning Coordinator
School: Spaulding High School
School District: Barre Unified Union School District
City, State: Barre, VT

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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!"

Comments (10)

marilyn gray Posted 2 months ago

I have known Michelle for 30 plus years. As an athlete on my field hockey teams, Michelle was exciting to watch as she demonstrated her extraordinary ability and influenced the flow of the game. She was aggressive and determined to always give her best. She was a team player and also confident as an individual. As a young woman, Michelle has been a leader and a roll model for the students at Spaulding high school. Her ambition, tirelessness, and ever growing knowledge, has been recognized throughout the school. I admire Michelle and am very blessed to have her in my life.

Diane Norwood Posted 2 months ago

Michelle LaFrancis is one of the most hardworking, caring and wonderful teachers from Spaulding High. She loves her students, she is present for them each and every day - A truly remarkable educator. She kick-started the work based learning program at Spaulding and it has benefited so many students and local businesses. My daughter participated last year and gained a wealth of experience from the program and this amazing woman. Michelle is continually working for the betterment of the program and it’s participants. She cares deeply for her work and students and works tirelessly to create wonderful opportunities for them in potential career paths! Thank you Michelle!

Reuben Stone Posted 2 months ago

As a fellow Spaulding High School Alumni, the WBL program has been an amazing and rewarding experience. With Colleges becoming more and more expensive, it is great that these kids get the opportunity to become involved with companies related to career paths they might want to pursue. Had I had this opportunity in college, I would have thought much differently about my future career goals, and life goals

Michael Metz Posted 2 months ago

As one of the Founding Board Members of the MakerSpace Generator I have had the wonderful experience of working with Michelle (and her students at Spaulding High) for over two years in a collaboration with Generator in Burlington. Michelle worked closely with Generator staff and members in the creation, execution, expansion, and continuous improvement of an Advanced Manufacturing boot camp held at Generator and Spaulding HIgh. This program is designed to offer high school students exposure to advanced manufacturing tools, techniques, a local community of makers, and introductions to local advanced manufacturers who are struggling to staff their operations with good jobs leading to careers. Our experience and success with Michelle and her students at Spaulding HIgh School has motivated us to expand this program in its third year to other high schools in Central Vermont. Michelles' enthusiasm, energy, knowledge, connections, intelligence, and deep concern for her students is obvious and serves as an inspiration for all of us at Generator. Thank you Michelle from all of us at Generator for allowing the Generator community the opportunity to work with you and your students. It has been a wonderful and impactful experience for all. Michael Metz - Generator Founding Board Member

Cellan Posted 2 months ago

She is a a productive, kind, and amazing educator. She inspires children every day to achieve dreams.

Katherine Norwood Posted 2 months ago

As one of Michelle LaFrancis' former students, I have no trouble saying she goes above and beyond in everything she does. Having her as my Modern World History teacher, yearbook committee adviser, and Work Based Learning coordinator has allowed me the fantastic opportunity to work with Michelle closely. During the time I had her as my mentor, I became well aware to all she does behind the scenes. Michelle goes out of her way to make sure her students are on the track to success, and helps them in any way she can. With her recent accomplishments in expanding the WBL program, many students will be able to experience what it is like to work within their field of interest. Not only does the program allow students to gain job experience, but it also allows them to obtain an idea of how they want to pursue their career goals post-graduation. None of this would have been possible without Michelle. She is a driven and hardworking individual who cares deeply for her students. The community is fortunate to have her. Thank you for all you do, LaFran!

Zoe Macdonald Posted 2 months ago

Zoe Macdonald August 8, 2019 During my time as a student at Spaulding High School I had the great opportunity to have Ms. LaFrancis as both my Honors Modern World History teacher and WBL coordinator. It was through her history course my Freshman year that I was first challenged to think beyond what I already knew and to start to view the world through a new lens. This was inspired by her teaching style throughout the semester which incorporated a hands-on approach that has allowed me to this day to remember exactly how cramped the slave ships were during the Columbian Exchange. However, it was during my senior year that Ms. LaFrancis became an invaluable presence in my life. From enabling me the opportunity to intern at Central Vermont Council on Aging to guiding me through numerous college and scholarship essays, I would not have been able to complete the process of college and the discovery of my passions as seamlessly without her. She truly puts aside everything to be there and to help her students achieve their goals. She also understands, as the Work-Based Learning Coordinator, the importance of teaching her students about being a professional and successful person in light of the technologically advancing world. I found this especially helpful as I faced multiple interviews and competitions that required putting these lessons directly into play. The Work-Based Learning program as a whole was incredibly beneficial for me because I gained real world experience and connections in the non-profit sector of business. Ms. LaFrancis was a large part of this amazing experience because she was the one who found a business that was the right fit for my personality and interests. Due to this commitment to my interests and aspirations I can now confidently set foot in the real world knowing I have what it takes to be successful. I don’t think I would be able to say the same if it weren’t for Ms. LaFrancis’s guidance or the Work-Based learning program.

Parker Nolan Posted 2 months ago

In my time as a student at Spaulding High School, I worked closely with Michelle LaFrancis. From my first class of the day in my first semester, to my last class of the day in my final semester, Michelle was there for me as an educator, supporter, mentor, and friend. I had the privilege of learning from her in her freshman Modern World History class, worked alongside her on special projects for the school and community throughout my time at SHS, and was a member of the yearbook committee during my senior year. Most memorable of all, I was one of her first students in the Work Based Learning program, which allowed for me to go and work with educators Lauren Singer and Michael Pope at Barre Town Middle & Elementary School. I participated in the program throughout my senior year, taking advantage of the unique opportunities that the program provides. Hearing recent news of the expansions and successes the program has undergone since I graduated (thanks to Michelle), I am thrilled that other students are able to have experiences similar to mine in the WBL program. Michelle LaFrancis does an unbelievable amount of work for the SHS and Barre community, and all out of the goodness of her heart. Thank you for remaining one of the most influential and inspiring people I have encountered, LaFran.

Tracy LaPan Posted 2 months ago

I can't say enough good things about Michelle and the program she has developed. I wish it had been available to me when I was in high school. The generosity of our Community has been overwhelming in supporting and mentoring the kids in different fields. I think every kids should have this opportunity.

Landon Mariano Posted 2 months ago

I participated as a WBL Site Supervisor and had the absolute pleasure of working closely with Michelle and her star students. It was a humbling experience to see someone so wholly committed to these students. She worked with me to develop and implement a WBL program for a gifted student and throughout the endeavor was his strongest advocate. In speaking with the students it is obvious that they hold her in high esteem, and understand that she has committed herself to promoting their well being, both in class and out. Time and time again my student spoke highly of her and mentioned how involved she is and how much she cares for her students. She is a stellar individual, and a world-class advocate for her students. Our community is stronger as a result of her commitment and our students more prepared for their life ahead. Thank you Ms. LaFrancis for all your hard work!