The teacher leaders from the Maine Teacher of the Year program including 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year Matt Bernstein and the 2023 Maine County Teachers of the year got the opportunity to meet with representatives from Senator Angus King’s office. Deputy Legislative Director Sanjay Kane and Legislative Aid Kate Durost of Senator King’s office joined the teachers via a Zoom video call to give them the chance to speak about important topics and issues in Maine schools and the teaching profession.
The meeting began with introductions and a welcome from Maine Teacher of the Year Matt Bernstein who led the hour-long conversation.
A point of pride that the teachers shared at the meeting was the tremendous sense of support and comradery they felt through the Maine Teacher of the Year Program. The newly formed 2023 County Teacher of the Year cohort gave them a much-needed network with educators across Maine and a sense of purpose in representing fellow educators and their own school communities. One suggestion made by 2023 Penobscot County Teacher of the Year Jessica Archer, was to create a state-wide hub for educators to connect with and support each other.
One of the first topics of discussion was teacher retention, which became a recurring theme of the meeting. Many of the educators on the call expressed the need to recruit and inspire people to become educators, especially in Maine but also felt that it is important to note that teachers do not always feel supported in the ways they need most.
“We’re doing more with less at the moment,” said 2023 Aroostook County Teacher of the Year Emily Rosser when speaking on the burnout and lack of resources faced by teachers. Rosser went on to say that while she wants to bring more people into teaching, those currently teaching are very tired—a sentiment echoed by many others throughout the call.
Proposed solutions for attracting new teachers while also supporting current ones included increasing funding for education, in addition to emotional and mental health support services. Teachers also advocated for more professional development opportunities with 2023 Franklin County Teacher of the Year Maryam Emami saying, “we need to start treating teachers as professionals.”
Other topics of conversation ranged from issues with school funding to the impact of homelessness and immigration policy on the well-being and education of students. Universal pre-K and quality civics education were also advocated for during the meeting. “Everything that impacts kids is education policy,” said Bernstein about the variety of topics covered.
As the end of the meeting approached, Kane assured the teachers that Senator King and his office want to help and support them. After recognizing their hard work and leadership, Kane closed his remarks by telling the teachers, “We have your back,” a message he shared from Senator King.
As part of their year of service in the Teacher of the Year Program, Maine’s State and County Teachers of the Year serve as advocates for teachers, students, and public education in Maine. They also receive ongoing professional learning and participate in many state and county leadership opportunities.
In partnership with the Maine Department of Education, the Maine Teacher of the Year program is administered by Educate Maine. Funding is provided by Bangor Savings Bank, Dead River Co., Geiger, Hannaford, the Maine Lottery, the Silvernail Family, Unum, and Pratt and Whitney with support from the State Board of Education and the Maine State and County Teacher of the Year Association. For more information about the Maine Teacher of the Year program, visit the Maine Teacher of the Year website.