Thank you for putting our students first

This week, I had the honor of presenting the 2014 Maine Teacher of the Year to Karen MacDonald of King Middle School in Portland.

The sixth-and seventh-grade English language arts teacher is described by students as a “gift,” by colleagues as a teacher leader who is “the most consistently innovative,” and by her principal as “relentlessly committed to the success of all of her students.”

Anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing Karen in her classroom knows she is one of a kind. But across Maine, there are thousands of excellent, effective educators like Karen, committed to their craft and to children.

Karen quickly turned her award into a teachable moment, addressing her class privately after the assembly was dismissed to tell students she never dreamed she’d actually win Maine Teacher of the Year and that it was a lesson in the value of taking risks.

Becoming your Commissioner and working with the LePage Administration, the team here at DOE and all of you to advance our common goal of meeting the needs of all learners was also a risk. Like Karen putting her name into contention to be Maine’s top teacher, it is one that I am very glad I took.

Yes, there have been frustrations over the past 30 months, but we have also been able to work together to do great things for the learners we are here to serve.

For that, I thank all of you who get up every morning and go into schools to do the important work of preparing students for the rapidly-changing world that awaits them.

I also thank the 100 or so staff here at the Department, who like so many of you, work tirelessly each day because they want the students who graduate from Maine schools to be ready to rise to the endless opportunities the future undoubtedly holds for them.

Working alongside the team here has been the greatest professional privilege of my life. Their compassion and their skill is unmatched and in the public battle over bills and budgets, it too often goes unnoticed. I am more appreciative of them than I ever imagined I would be, not just as their colleague for the past two and a half years, but as a father of two school-aged girls, a Maine taxpayer and a lifelong educator. You should be too. They want more than anything to see schools succeed, and want to work alongside you to realize that.

In the coming weeks, expect to hear from Maine DOE how it plans to shift its system of support to better serve you and Maine students. I encourage you to take the Department up on their offer to help – you’ll be in the most capable of hands – I can’t wait to see what you accomplish working together.

In my new role at CCSSO, my focus will be innovation, and because I know so many of you, just like Karen MacDonald, are embracing innovative practices, I plan to remain engaged in the transformative work going on here in Maine.

Keep up the great work you do every day for Maine’s kids, including mine.

Steve

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