Last Friday, I had the privilege of attending the annual Teacher of the Year banquet, hosted at Unum’s Portland campus.
It was exciting to see the education and business communities come together to celebrate these champions for children. As Acting Education Commissioner, I hope to facilitate us working together more to ensure we are best serving our students and our great State.
One of our common causes is ensuring there is an effective educator in every single Maine classroom so our students get the education they deserve and their futures demand. Only by doing so are we assured that our students will leave our schools truly prepared for success in college, career and civic life.
While we must all remain committed to continuously improving the teaching profession, it is also important that we regularly pause and praise Maine’s many effective and engaging educators. Our state is fortunate to have many great teachers, and on behalf of the Maine DOE, I want to thank them, especially outgoing 2013 Teacher of the Year Shannon Shanning (Bruce M. Whittier Middle School, Poland) and 2014 semi-finalists Susan Carpenter O’Brien (George B. Weatherbee School, Hampden), Cynthia Raymond (Hall-Dale Middle School, Farmingdale) and Christiane Cullens (Mount Desert Island High School), state finalists Mary Graziano (Hartland Consolidated School) and Suzen Polk-Hoffses (Milbridge Elementary School), and the 2014 Maine Teacher of the Year Karen MacDonald (King Middle School, Portland).
While their individual stories are different, what these incredible women share is that they care about and believe in every single child they teach. They do not concede that demographics define destiny but instill their students with the skills and confidence to overcome any challenge. Their classrooms are centered not on themselves, but on their students. And even though what they are doing already is working, they are constantly evolving their teaching practices to meet the changing needs of kids in innovative, imaginative ways.
Perhaps most important, while all this great teaching and learning is happening, their students are having fun. Children in Karen MacDonald’s King Middle School classroom describe the opportunity to be in her classroom as a “gift” and say they are not just better students because of their time with her as their teacher, but actually better people.
Maine’s students are our future, and it is teachers who prepare them with the skills they’ll need to achieve success. The teachers honored Friday night are incredible ambassadors for their profession and invaluable to their students and our state. We owe them our thanks.
And, I want to extend an additional thank you to Hannaford, Geiger, Bangor Savings Bank, Smart Technologies, Unum, the State Board of Education and Educate Maine for their tireless support of the Maine Teacher of the Year Program. Stay tuned for the 2015 Teacher of the Year nomination process to open soon.
Please note: As the Department will be closed to observe the Thanksgiving holiday, there will not be a weekly Commissioner’s Update next Thursday. Please expect the next issue on Thursday, Dec. 5. On behalf of all of us, Happy Thanksgiving.