Submitted by Sarah Woog, Executive Director at Washington County Consortium.
Meet Mary Anne Spearin, Principal of Calais High School
I first met Mary Anne when we were Middle School teachers together at Indian Township School. We connected pretty quickly, and would often share our books, our ideas, our practices, and our struggles. It was clear the way Mary Anne engaged with me as her colleague was not accidental or incidental. Mary Anne, then and now, has professional habits learned and practiced over time. Life-long learning and commitment to personal and professional growth are essential values that define how she teaches, how she leads, and how she engages with colleagues. I asked Mary Anne if I could interview her for a profile because I wanted to understand how she developed these habits, and how they impacted her steep trek up the professional ladder, from Ed. Tech, to teacher, to principal.
Mary Anne began her career in education as an Ed. Tech I at Charlotte Elementary School. She had previously substituted in schools and had about 2.5 to 3 years of coursework behind her. Once an Ed. Tech at Charlotte Elementary, she gained two invaluable mentors, who served to push her, help her expand her vision of what is possible, and to understand professional growth as a welcome and wonderful professional responsibility. These mentors, Principal Peggy White, and Teacher Ann Luginbuhl supported Mary Anne in deciding to go back to school and she began accessing coursework at the Washington County Community College. They also encouraged her to learn and grow outside of the coursework and fostered a supportive community of educators who learned and grew together. Mary Anne soon went from Ed Tech I to Ed Tech III and began to believe she could become a teacher. When a teacher was out for medical leave, Mary Anne stepped in as a long term substitute, and realized that not only could she be a teacher, but that she loved it too. She enrolled at the University of Maine at Machias and finished her Bachelor’s degree in 2007, ten years after she first stepped into the classroom as an Ed Tech.
Mary Anne caught the learning and growing bug. Charlotte Elementary Principal Peggy White tapped her to start a Master’s cohort together immediately after Mary Anne finished her Bachelor’s degree, which they completed two years later, in 2009. Soon thereafter, Mary Anne was at it again, and completed a Certificate in Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) from the University of New England. With this degree, Mary Anne also became a certified principal in 2011. She didn’t stop there, and she hasn’t stopped yet. Mary Anne participated in Educate Maine’s Education Leadership Experience Beta Class in 2012/2013, and achieved her Superintendent’s certification in 2017. To this day, Mary Anne continues to engage in educational learning communities and still lends me books (and advice and support, too).
I admire Mary Anne. She is clearly admirable. I’m grateful she is my friend and colleague and I know a lot of other educators and students who are grateful for her too. She is a model of ambition and growth, collegiality and camaraderie. But Mary Anne’s career trajectory also imparts some important lessons we can all stand to gain from. I asked her what she attributes her trajectory and success to. First, she said, she attributes it to her colleagues, supervisors and administrators who supported her professional growth. Let’s be those colleagues. Second, she attributes it to the lesson she learned from Peggy and Ann, “that there is no finish line.” Let’s share that lesson with our students and in our professional communities. And, last, to an understanding she’s developed over time: “If we are going to work in education, we need to support education.” Let’s be those supporters. Let’s also take moments to express gratitude to those who have supported us along our paths, too. Thank you, Mary Anne, for giving me what others gave to you.