Submitted by Heidi McGinley, Executive Director, Maine Curriculum Leaders’ Association.
Julie Meltzer, Director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction for the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (AOS #91) is Maine’s 2019 Curriculum Leader of the Year. “I’m truly honored to join the group of curriculum leaders recognized in Maine. I’m honored to have them as my colleagues. I don’t know another group of people so focused on teaching and learning practices,” Julie said.
Julie is a passionate advocate for the learning and development of all students, leading the development of common standards the staff will “go to the mat” for across the district. She has developed community partnerships, found necessary resources, and introduced evidence-based instructional practices. But she credits widespread staff engagement in decision making for what superintendent Marc Gousse calls “marked improvement in learning and achievement and increased student success” across the district.
When she joined the district six years ago, Julie wanted all staff to have a voice in decision making and be engaged in professional learning opportunities so they would have the tools they needed to “do the best job they can for kids”. She wanted to maintain the strengths and uniqueness of each school and honor the professional autonomy of teachers while increasing student learning. The innovative professional learning and decision making structures she created made a difference.
“I’m proud of how everyone is starting to play a similar rhythm,” Julie says, “although the melodies are different, as they should be.” This year, 110 teachers and education technicians voluntarily served on a “collaboratory” – a temporary task force formed around a problem of practice, working to identify solutions, make decisions, and develop all the learning, strategies and tools needed to implement those solutions. In the process, staff and administrators became partners in professional development both in and outside the district. 100 teachers, education technicians and administrators led internal professional development sessions and 30 presented their work at state or national conferences. “Good things are happening for kids,” she said. “We’re getting to the ground of student learning and walking the talk in more ways.”
Julie’s journey to Mt. Desert began when her work at the Regional Laboratory led to a three-year content literacy consulting project in Washington County. She fell in love with Maine and with Acadia, eventually buying an old farmhouse in the area, which she and her husband started renovating on weekends. Her consulting work took her all over the country, so she ended up with two homes — a Portland rental to be closer to the jetport and a close-to-Acadia farmhouse. Her daughter started high school at Mount Desert and encouraged her to apply when the curriculum position opened. “I was lucky to be hired,” Julie said, “and I’ve been honored to have this position. I’ve learned much more in the last six years than I did earning my doctorate.”