“Harvest of Ideas” Brings Together 600 Washington County Educators for Unique Learning Opportunity

Sign outside that says University of Maine at Machias"

The Washington County Consortium, a non-profit collaborative organization formed by school districts in Washington County to provide regional professional development opportunities, recently held its annual “Harvest of Ideas,” a day-long conference featuring workshops focused on high impact practices, academic and behavioral interventions, relevant resources, and research-based practices.

Held at the University of Maine at Machias, the event drew over 600 educators from the Washington County region and offered a wide range of learning opportunities, some of which will be followed up with two additional half-day workshops held throughout the school year, led by conference presenters. Uniquely this year, the conference allowed for 150-minute sessions called learning communities, providing practitioners time and space to think about what the ideas look like in their schools and classrooms, and how and where to start.

Sarah Woog introducing Commissioner Makin who participated via web conferencing to address educators.
Sarah Woog introducing Commissioner Makin who participated via web conferencing to address educators.

Sarah Woog, Executive Director for the Washington County Consortium and the coordinator of conference opened both morning and afternoon auditorium sessions by thanking the many people involved in pulling off such a comprehensive learning opportunity. “Thank you to all who helped put this day together, to the Washington County Leadership Team, the Washington County Consortium Board of Directors, everyone at UMM, from IT to facilities, to the instructors who are sharing in sessions today.” She also gave an important shout out to Culinary Arts Instructor Emily Fitzsimmons from Coastal Washington County Institute of Technology and her students from Machias Memorial High School who provided lunch and snacks that day, in addition to students from Washington Academy, who served as ambassadors for the day.

Representatives from the Maine Department of Education were present, including Emily Gribben who assisted with coordination, Lavinia Rogers who offered a collaborative work session for World Language teachers, and Shari Templeton with an interactive session for science teachers. Maine DOE Coach Darlene Bassett was also present working with Maine educators to host a workshop on Guided Reading. With the help of Woog and Maine DOE representative Mary Herman, Commissioner Makin also joined the conference virtually in two different larger sessions to offer educators her thoughts on teacher voice and its impact on spreading a positive message about education in Maine.

Also featured was a long session about integrating Maine Native American studies into classroom instruction. Geo Neptune, a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe from Indian Township, hosted the presentation. As an educator, Passamaquoddy activist, and master basket maker, Neptune was able to provide conference participants with valuable and unique first-hand perspective, advice, and tools to aid them in finding resources to teach Native American studies in ways that are contemporary and relevant, while also honoring the long history and culture of Maine’s Native American tribes. As an Educator, Geo has worked not only within Wabanaki communities toward cultural preservation, but statewide within Maine schools to help provide content.

Other sessions focused on a wide variety of pertinent topics including leadership, literacy assessment, engaging students with technology, guided reading, school counseling, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Neurodiversity, and selfcare and mindfulness to name a few. Presenters included several experts in the field including representatives from Maine Principals Association, CAN (Child Abuse and Neglect) Prevention Council of Washington County, University of Maine at Machias, Maine Parent Federation, and TREE (Transforming Rural Experience in Education), in addition to Maine educators from the region speaking to their peers as leading experts in their innovative work in education.

The day was a success on all counts providing educators from the Washington County Region with information and tools to refresh their classroom practices and help with the difficult task of ensuring students in some of the most rural areas of Maine have access to cutting edge curriculum, programming, and resources to help them achieve in today’s world.

“Every year, I just hope to do something that is more meaningful and has a greater impact than the year before,” said Woog. “I am grateful for the numerous people who work with me each year to realize this goal.”