The word of the day posted at the front of the class reads “tedium-boredom,” which could not be any more opposite of the reality in Mrs. Maker’s high school science classroom on this blustery coastal day. Despite the weather, Colleen Maker’s classroom is alive with inquisitive minds ready to glean wisdom from their favorite teacher. This 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year finalist and 2023 Washington County Teacher of the Year has a large following of students, parents, colleagues, administration, and community members who are big fans. Whether it is harvesting carrots in a post-storm mist to send off to the local food pantry or identifying the species of invasive crab in class, Colleen Maker’s students are engaged, learning, and know they are cared for by their exemplary teacher.
“I’ve never seen anything like her passion.”
“Colleen is like a refuge kids can go to.”
“She is ever present, everywhere.”
“She is very curious and that’s what she passes on to her kids.”
“She is a conduit for the community.”
While these quotes are high praise for any educator, they are especially so coming from parents. The parents of Colleen Maker’s students sing her praises from the mountaintops. While they recount many stories about how Mrs. Maker has impacted their children and families, it is easy to see the light of pride in their eyes and fervor in their words as they express their gratitude for the impact she has on a daily basis. While all of these brilliant characterizations are true in the classroom, Colleen’s impact doesn’t stop there. From attending sporting events to music recitals, Mrs. Maker can be found all over the community supporting her students throughout the entire year. This kind of dedication, parents say, is what makes her so magical.
It would be enough to hear how proud parents are to have Mrs. Maker in their children’s lives, but the accolades don’t stop there. Her colleagues were also quick to expound on her impact.
“She’s brought a level of engagement and enthusiasm that is remarkable.”
“Her excitement is infectious.”
Speaking of Colleen as a life-long learner who is quick to shine the spotlight on others, her colleagues clearly see her as an integral and inspirational part of the Washington Academy family. From highlighting her stepping in to sell popcorn last minute at a volleyball game to making sure her diverse array of students all feel seen and understood, Colleen Maker is a teacher her colleagues look up to as a mentor and friend. Words like nurturing and sunshine are mentioned often as her fellow teachers discuss not only how she makes students feel but how she makes them feel as well.
If all the praise from parents and colleagues weren’t enough, the way her students talk about her is the true icing on the cake.
“She is really amazing.”
“She genuinely cares.”
“She never makes you feel stupid for not understanding something.”
“She makes you feel important.”
Students recounted lessons in the classroom about invasive species of crab threatening Maine’s coast to working with Mrs. Maker in Sustainability Club and with Student Council as memorable and life-changing. One student wants to pursue a career in Marine Biology thanks to her, and another is seriously considering a career in education because of her passion and dedication to students. These teenagers all agreed that their time at Washington Academy is more exciting and engaging because of Mrs. Maker, and above all else they feel loved and accepted in her company.
Spending just one day with Colleen Maker made it clear that she has an incredible impact on not only her students but on her school at large and the community. While her accomplishments are many, Mrs. Maker approaches her daily life with self-deprecating humor and passion, highlighting what her administrators said about her perfectly, “I don’t think she realizes the impact she has.” There is no doubt Colleen Maker is an educator with a huge heart who makes lasting impacts in the lives of everyone she touches. She is truly “unparalleled.”