A Day with Maine Teacher of the Year Finalist Edith Berger and the Miller School Community

Miller School in Waldoboro greets people with joy from the instant you walk in. Colorful murals cover almost every hallway. Created by classes stretching back decades, these murals tell a story about generations of students and create a connection with students and educators walking the halls today on their way to lunch, recess, or the next class. Everyone greets you with a warm smile and there’s a feeling that this is a great place to learn.

If you arrive early enough, the sound of music may draw you into Mrs. Edith Berger’s classroom. She often plays music in the morning to set a good tone for the day and share the sounds with students and staff. Her classroom is just as colorful and joyful as the rest of the school, and it’s the room everyone goes to when they have a question, need help, want to bounce an idea off someone, want a snack, or just need someone to talk to. Students and other educators know Mrs. Berger’s class is a safe, supportive, and welcoming place for all. She makes every feel seen, heard, and appreciated.

Mrs. Berger is a sixth-grade writing and social studies teacher at Miller School, the 2023 Lincoln County Teacher of the Year, and a 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year Finalist. Her colleagues, students, and community members describe her as a role model, a quiet leader, inspiring, compassionate, dedicated, creative, and professional.

In today’s writing class, where everyone is referred to as a writer, students are given various mentor texts to examine what expression and reflection look like in essays, stories, and poems. The students analyze the texts and find the spots that show why the author wrote the piece. They share their thoughts in groups and then as a class, discussing what certain passages of the writing say about the author’s purpose and making connections to their own lives. Mrs. Berger engages with the different groups and poses questions to get them to engage more deeply with the texts and make connections.

If you close your eyes, you’d think you were in a high school class.

With the school year still so fresh, the students have just started to look at personal narratives from the perspective of purpose. They’ve examined why people write and explored ways that writers get in the zone to write. These writers are blossoming.

Later in the day comes social studies, and Mrs. Berger teaches a civics lesson connected to Constitution Day. Students are provided the preamble of the Constitution, which they read together last week and identified the portions that illustrate the functions of government as viewed by the framers of the Constitution. In this class, students are given examples of American civil life, such as a federal agency providing food for children or having marshals on planes, and are asked to connect those examples to the different functions of government. The students share their reasoning in groups and then as a class. Through this, Mrs. Berger gives the Constitution life and connects it to modern examples the students can identify with.

Mrs. Berger’s colleagues say that she honors everyone’s voice, and that practice becomes a model for students. They say that she meets kids where they are while having high expectations—and that those high expectations come with a high level of support. They say she doesn’t give up on any kid—she finds a way to reach them no matter what. That’s clear with any visit to her classroom.

Her colleagues also describe her as not just a teacher of children, but also of adults, saying “I would not be the principal I am without Edie, I became a better teacher by working with Edie, she’s the room I go to if I have questions or need help, and everyone is part of her classroom.”

There are stories of Mrs. Berger responding late at night to help another teacher struggling with a lesson plan, making handmade journals for students to use to help them cope with anxiety, coming back from a conference or event full of new ideas for her class and the school, always being on the cusp of what’s new, and always finding ways to grow.

What’s also evident is just how much Mrs. Berger is a fixture of the community. Whether it’s speaking at the library about civics, bringing in guest speakers for her class, going to community events, or promoting her school, she is constantly building bridges between Miller School and the rest of the community.

Edith Berger doesn’t just teach civics; she is a true citizen. She’s also Miller School’s guiding light and helps everyone in her school community shine.