Last week I had the honor of announcing Jennifer Dorman as the 2015 Maine Teacher of the Year.
Mrs. Dorman, who dreamed of being a teacher since her very first day of Kindergarten, has been a special educator in Somerset County schools for two decades, most recently at Skowhegan Area Middle School (SAMS) where she is a seventh-and eighth-grade special education and reading intervention teacher.
Those who have had the privilege to learn from Mrs. Dorman – whether as a student or a colleague – were not surprised she received this recognition. And because she noticed the school floors being polished and the lawn being mowed the day before, even Mrs. Dorman had a hunch she wasn’t coming into the auditorium at SAMS for a student fundraising assembly last Thursday.
In her tenure, Mrs. Dorman, who lives in Farmington and graduated from UMF, has established herself as the epitome of what teaching is all about. In supporting her nomination, fellow teachers, parents and SAMS Principal Zachary Longyear all cited Mrs. Dorman’s constant compassion and commitment to the betterment of her students, colleagues and school. “She is the type of teacher that anyone would want to teach their children, and she is a colleague, leader and mentor in the finest sense of the words,” wrote Principal Longyear. “She has an aura of willingness, tirelessness and effortlessness with working with students and staff. Working on the same team as Jennifer Dorman is an honor and a privilege.”
As is the case with so many educators, Mrs. Dorman became a teacher because of the impact her own teachers had on her. As an elementary school student, she recalls having teachers who truly cared about her and helped her develop the skills and confidence she needed to overcome the challenges she faced.
Today, Mrs. Dorman strives to do the same for her own students, encouraging them to become problems-solvers, to treat one another and themselves with respect, and to love life and learning, just as she does. As I know so many Maine teachers do, Mrs. Dorman takes time to really get to know her students, not just as scholars but as young people who face challenges both in and out of school. Because she understands and values the uniqueness of every individual child, she can tailor her instruction and intervention approaches to them, and has been very effective in closing achievement gaps as a result. In one year alone, her students made nearly four grades of reading gains.
“For many past and present students, my classroom is their safe place, and I am the one that encourages them, just as my own teachers once empowered me,” she wrote to the Teacher of the Year selection committee, which was led by our partners at Educate Maine. “I feel fortunate to be a teacher. I am using what teachers once taught me to improve the lives of my own students.”
Mrs. Dorman is also a mentor to her colleagues – a teacher’s teacher. Just as she encourages her students to be their best, she is always helping her fellow teachers become better too, fostering and facilitating professional development opportunities and sharing best practices that have improved education and the environment at SAMS. As Assistant Principal McEwen said in his nomination, “She demonstrates to all of us how to give our best for our students, to wear a smile, to have faith in success and to remember that we can make a difference.”
While Mrs. Dorman will be the 2015 Teacher of the Year, the award is ultimately recognition of everyone at Skowhegan Area Middle School for fostering the type of learning community that supports great students and great teacher-leaders like Mrs. Dorman.
Though there is only one official Maine Teacher of the Year, there are thousands of excellent educators deserving of our recognition and gratitude. On behalf of Governor LePage and the entire Maine DOE, I want to again congratulate Mrs. Dorman and thank her and so many other incredible Maine teachers for the positive role they play in improving our children’s lives and our state’s future.