In a surprise ceremony held at Casco Bay High School in Portland, the Maine Department of Education and Educate Maine named ninth grade Humanities and Social Studies teacher Matthew Bernstein as Maine’s 2023 Teacher of the Year while students and colleagues at the school congratulated and honored his tremendous impact on his students and dedication to teaching.
“We are thrilled to announce Matthew Bernstein as Maine’s 2023 Teacher of the Year. Today we celebrate Mr. Bernstein’s love of teaching, his dedication to his students, and his leadership role in education,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “Mr. Bernstein’s students and colleagues at Casco Bay High School have described him as energizing, empowering, inclusive, a mentor, supportive, patient, and loving. Congratulations!”
Bernstein’s Teacher of the Year journey began in May, when he was named the 2022 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year. Along with 15 other County Teachers of the Year, Bernstein was selected from a pool of hundreds of teachers who were nominated earlier this year. In August, he was named one of four state finalists before being selected as the 2023 Teacher of the Year.
Bernstein’s pedagogy is centered around student voices and student activism. He believes that the purpose of education is to help students find their way of contributing to a more equitable world. He is passionate about creating opportunities for students to experience joy and belonging at school on a daily basis and, to that end, he believes in cultivating meaningful relationships with students, often through his work as a 9th grade crew advisor, that are grounded in deep listening and holistic support. Bernstein has served as a team leader, crew team leader, and is currently a professional learning community coach where he facilitates ongoing professional learning with his colleagues.
He is a member of the Portland Public Schools Social Studies Vertical Content Team, collaborating with teachers across the district and local experts to develop Wabanaki Studies curriculum. It is through these efforts to embrace opportunities that deepen his knowledge and practice that he was recently named a 2022 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar, participating in a seminar entitled, “Teaching the Holocaust through Visual Culture.”
While not teaching, Bernstein is playing or coaching soccer and basketball, reading a book, or trying to determine where to find Portland’s best slice of pizza. He has a Bachelor of Arts in History with a European History concentration from Bowdoin College where he was also a Bowdoin Teacher Scholar. He is the 2022 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year.
“I’m extremely grateful that Mr. Bernstein is getting the recognition that he deserves after years of being a role model for me and so many others. With all of his hard work, kindness and compassion I’m in a true awe of the human that Mr. Bernstein is, all I can hope for is to be the kind of educator that he is,” said former student Yusur Jasim who nominated Bernstein.
The Teacher of the Year Program is a year-long process that involves educator portfolio and resume submissions, interviews, oral presentations, and classroom visits made by a selection panel comprised of State Board of Education members, school administrators, Maine Department of Education staff, legacy Teachers of the Year, and other Maine business partners.
“Educate Maine is proud to administer the Maine Teacher of the Year program. Matt Bernstein is an intentional and dedicated practitioner who will serve as an ambassador for educators and students across our state. We look forward to working with him as we continue our efforts to recognize excellence within our educational workforce and elevate the teaching profession in Maine,” said Educate Maine Executive Director Jason Judd.
As the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year, Bernstein will spend his year of service advocating for students and teachers and speaking to the importance of education in preparing Maine students for the future. He will also represent Maine in the National Teacher of the Year program.
“Matt Bernstein puts celebrating and recognizing the needs of individual students at the forefront of his teaching. Whether it is through the subtle check-ins he has with each student before, during, and after lessons or the immense time that goes into planning thoughtful lessons related to what his students need, Matt establishes a classroom community — his crew — by always putting student choice and voice first. Students want to be in Mr. Bernstein’s room because they know that that is a space where they can be seen, heard, and truly listened to and I know Matt will take that same practice forward as he represents Maine as 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year,” said Kelsey Stoyanova, Maine’s 2022 Teacher of the Year.
“He is a passionate, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and energetic teacher who represents everything that is good about Maine educators,” said Tory Kornfield, Teacher of the Year Selection Member and Maine State Board of Education Representative.
The Maine Teacher of the Year program is administered by Educate Maine, a business-led advocacy organization, in partnership with the Maine Department of Education, the Maine State Board of Education, and the Maine County and State Teachers and County of the Year Association (MCSTOYA). Funding for the program is generously provided by Maine businesses. The program’s lead sponsor is Bangor Savings Bank. Other program sponsors include Dead River, Geiger, Hannaford, the Maine State Lottery, Unum and the Silvernail Family.
For more information about the Maine Teacher of the Year program, visit www.mainetoy.org.