The Washington County Educator Profile is submitted by Sarah Woog, Executive Director of the Washington County Consortium.
I have known Mitch Look for some years now. He’s been a member of the Washington County Leadership Team (WCLT) since before I began working with the team four years ago. I have always been struck by Mitch’s passion for education in Washington County, and by his skills as a leader. I appreciate his ability to act as a kind and supportive team member but also advocate and dissent when he is called to do so. Honestly, I admire Mitch and wanted to learn about what makes him tick. I also thought his story could provide some lessons for all of us. I met Mitch in his office last week, in the midst of back-to-school prep and PD that’s a familiar ritual to us all.
Mitch has been teaching “ever since I could.” He studied education at the University of Maine at Machias and coached basketball at Machias Memorial High School while still an undergraduate student. After working in the classroom for some years, as a middle school teacher and coach, he “wanted to have a bigger voice in decision-making” and went back to school to get his Master’s Degree and become a certified administrator. He engaged in the years long trek familiar to many of us, teaching full time while traveling back and forth in the evening for his studies in Orono. He earned his credentials, and was first a teaching principal at Fort O’brien Elementary, then principal at D.W. Merritt School, after which he served as principal at Rose M. Gaffney School for seventeen years. In 2009 he added a Certificate in Advanced Studies (CAS) to his resume.
Mitch became the ESEA/Curriculum Coordinator for AOS 96 five years ago. He is happy in his position, happy to “make it my own.” He had been apprehensive about assuming leadership positions outside of schools because he cannot stand the idea of his work getting further from the educators and students, which creates a tension with his desire to increase his impact. He told me he takes every opportunity to get into the schools of AOS 96, to feel the pulse of the school and learn from those he serves. His idea of staying current, in addition to being informed by current research and best practices, is also keeping an ear to the ground and finding innovative ways to problem-solve based on what’s working and what’s not working in schools. Mitch’s perspective expresses the duality we all experience in our work- the eternal quest for improvement fed by learning, not only from the “experts” but also, and especially, from the folks right in our schools and communities.
And Mitch loves those schools and communities. He has a keen eye for equity. When I asked what he hoped for education in Washington County, he said “the same opportunities and resources for our kids and educators that others get. Always been a dream of mine to see our kids and teachers have the resources that others have. With the talent we have down here, can you imagine what could be.” I hear you, Mitch. And I agree with your not-so-veiled critique of the inequities we all experience. However, I’d argue we can do what Mitch does in the meantime, and harness our greatest resource- our people- to realize the visions of our collective imagination.