Frank Kelley, a Chester-Andover School educator, was clearly doing what he does best when we arrived on a sunny, spring morning. Surrounded by a cadre of eager, rambunctious 5th and 6th graders and Chester community preschoolers on a trail behind the Green Mountain Union High School, the students were abuzz with conversation as they looked for signs of spring. “Three times during the school year, we come together in the outdoors to form connections with the preschoolers and to appreciate and learn more from each other,” Kelley said.
According to colleague, Laurie Birmingham, Kelley is a wellness rock star in the local community, at home and in the school. He is an active member of Chester, helping to create and maintain many hiking trails. He volunteers his time to lead hikes and while doing so brings history to life. “While hiking the Lost Mine trail, we learned how and why the people of Chester used Chesterite, a unique mineral that was named after our town,” she said. This year, he is also fully involved in planning Chester’s 250th birthday celebration. Kelley is a driving force with Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, an organization focused on empowering individuals with disabilities to participate in year round sports and recreation activities. As a parent of a daughter, Marina, who has disabilities, he is avidly committed to promoting this program. He learned how to ski backward to assist visually impaired skiers. He tandem cycles with visually impaired cyclists. He regularly competes in the program’s biggest yearly fundraiser, the Vermont 50, a mountain bike or ultra-run event which began in 1993. “I have found this so rewarding and exciting,” Kelley said.
Kelley’s passion for involving students in the natural world is visible throughout the school day. His students have access to 14 wooded acres behind the school to draw, journal, observe and photograph rocks, wildflowers and animal tracks, and to listen for a variety of outdoor sounds, be this a bird call or the rushing brook. With assistance from students, Kelley maintains the community’s Grateful Garden, providing guidance as they learn how to weed, water and harvest the vegetables then used in the Chester-Andover school kitchen. Kelley’s generosity and his appreciation of the environment is a gift he shares with his students, his colleagues, his family members and with Chester; to live and be well.