MEDIA RELEASE: Three New Maine State Board of Education Members Appointed by Governor Mills

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) and the Maine State Board of Education today announced the newest members of the Board and their committee assignments.

The Board consists of nine members appointed by the Governor along with two nonvoting student members also appointed by the Governor. Board members serve staggered, five-year terms and nonvoting student members serve staggered, two-year terms.

New Maine State Board of Education Members:

Mark Balfantz
Mark Balfantz of Portland was appointed to the State Board of Education in February of 2022.  He will fill seat 8 in the first congressional district.  Mr. Balfantz served in the United States Marine Corps for 10 years.  He is a Maine citizen who has served on his local school board in Portland for three years.  He is the Vice President, General Counsel and Lending Compliance Officer at Kennebunk Savings Bank.  Mr. Balfantz has years of experience as an attorney as well as a background in financial investment.  He understands policy and financing in addition to the comprehension of the Department of Education’s goals and challenges having served at the local level.  He holds a BS in Business Administration with focus on Finance and attended Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.  He has been a member of the Maine Bar Association since 2016.

Kristin Bishop
Kristin Bishop of Madison was appointed to the State Board of Education in April of 2022.  She will fill seat 4 in the second congressional district.  Ms. Bishop is not a stranger to serve on the State Board of Education as she served as a student member of the Board from 2012 to 2014.  Currently, she is the Program and Outreach Coordinator for Civic Engagement at Colby College.  Ms. Bishop holds a BA in Education and Government & Legal Studies from Bowdoin College.  She is currently pursuing her graduate studies at Thomas College in Waterville, Maine and expects to complete her MBA the summer of 2022.  Ms. Bishop holds a lifelong dedication to public service and community engagement and has been involved with numerous higher education service and civic organizations.
Committee appointments: Career and Technical Education

Thomas Keller
Thomas “Tom” Keller of Newcastle was appointed to the State Board of Education in March of 2022.  He will fill seat 6 in the first congressional district.  Mr. Keller is a retired educator and has been a classroom teacher, a school administrator, a Scientist and educational researcher.  He’s worked in education policy, and is the Founding President of STEM Education Strategies, LLC, an organization in which he works collaboratively with educators and institutions to streamline the system of science education.  He believes that there is value in interconnecting various sectors of education, that good assessment facilitates good instruction, that teacher competence breeds confidence, and that policies must support high-quality learning.  Dr. Keller has served as an Executive Director of the Maine STEM Council, he is a member of the University of Maine at Augusta Board of Visitors and serves in many other educationally formulated organizations.  Dr. Keller holds a BS in Zoology from Texas A&M University and his Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Committee appointments: Certification and Higher Education Committee

Fern Desjardins, Chair of the Maine State Board of Education, stated that the new members have brought knowledge and experiences that already benefit the work of the Board in carrying out its duties and responsibilities.

“Their energy and enthusiasm in getting appointed to the board’s committees and in being of service in any way needed to help the board accomplish its goals is greatly appreciated. Their contributions will help advance the work of the State Board in carrying out its policy-making, administrative and advisory functions,” said Desjardins.

For more information about the State Board of Education, visit their website

Maine Educators Embark on North Star Journey: FableVision Learning & Maine DOE Launch Year-Long Initiative to Foster Creativity with Educators and Students

Maine’s Department of Education’s State Agency Program Team set sail on a creativity journey to transform teaching practice and classroom outcomes through a unique partnership with Boston-based educational company FableVision Learning, founded by Peter H. Reynolds.

“We were eager to provide equitable access to quality instruction to Maine’s vulnerable youth in therapeutic education settings to enhance special education programming after the difficult times caused by the pandemic, when emotional and social issues have been heightened,” explained Dr. Mary Adley, Coordinator of State Agency Programs. “We wanted to provide staff and students a sense of excitement and creativity to view their world with optimism and we knew FableVision Learning would help us achieve that.”

Adley and her team provide oversight to educational programming for state wards and state agency clients. This includes the General Supervision System of Monitoring for Maine’s approved Special Purpose Private Schools. Her team also offers special education technical assistance, professional development, and support to Maine educators, students, and families for Maine children in the care or custody of the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Corrections, educated in all settings, both in public and private settings and within Maine and placed in out of state settings.

“Our team is delighted that FableVision is embedding the Department’s Maine MOOSE (Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education) modules as curricular/content to guide educators in developing creative and specially designed instruction needed to meet each student’s Individual Education Program,” shared Dr. Tracy Whitlock, Coordinator for Special Projects.

This multi-level program of support integrates evidence-based instructional strategies, such as elements of  Dr. John Medina’s “Brain Rules,” with intentional focus on social-emotional welfare for both staff and students. Every month, educators from 9 agencies representing 25 schools meet virtually for the Creative Maine workshop and the FableVision Learning team guides discussions and activities around creative instructional design and inspiration to enhance teaching practice. A community of practice is provided on FableVision’s collaborative learning platform The Creativity Circle.

“We are exploring with teachers ways to expand the pathways for students to demonstrate their knowledge and to engage in deep and creative thinking,” explained Sara Smith, FableVision Learning’s creative curriculum developer. “Creativity in the classroom empowers both teachers and students to maximize their talents and make meaning.”

In addition to student projects highlighted in the Creative Maine course, educators are utilizing the FableVision Learning’s The North Star Program to further develop student voice and creativity.

“The essential outcome of education is for students to know who they are and what they can give to the world,” Jane Reynolds, president of FableVision Learning said. “The classroom is where they should be able to explore their strengths, learn resilience, and discover their power to create in a safe and supportive environment.”

Based on the themes in the book “The North Star,” by FableVision founder and New York Times bestselling-author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, The North Star Program is a guide to creating a classroom where students uncover their true potential.

“I have found The North Star Program to be very adaptable. I can integrate it with the existing social skills curriculum as well as adjust lessons to fit the variety of learning levels in my classroom,” explained Teresa Dickson, participating educator from NFI Sidney River Bend.

The program includes best practices for setting up the classroom and establishing a positive, creative climate as well as 18+ weeks of activities and projects that help students develop their strengths, values, and goals that will start laying the path to the future selves they want to be. Activities include teamwork challenges, problem solving projects, social-emotional games and experiences, literature exploration and discussions, and personal reflection writing pieces.

“Since I have begun using The North Star Program, I have watched my students become more confident in their learning and more accepting of themselves and others,” Dickson said. “The lessons can be taught in sequence or be pulled out to target a specific concept or skill. I was able to easily integrate The North Star Program with the Common Core Standards. The North Star Program hits many content areas such as music, art, writing, reading, and poetry.”

In 2022, Maine Department of Education’s State Agency Programs and FableVision Learning will continue the Creative Maine journey as educators continue to explore creative problem solving and creative classroom management.


About FableVision Learning

FableVision Learning is a Boston-based company founded by Peter H. Reynolds, New York Times best-selling author/Illustrator who has been inspiring teachers for over three decades with his message books for all ages, animated films and creativity software. FableVision Learning’s tools, curricula and programs are informed by the philosophy in Reynolds’ books, which encourages teachers to create bravely on their own creative journeys as they lead the way for their students. Along with its award-winning suite of research-backed learning games and animation software, FableVision Learning also develops custom, in-class/hybrid remote programs for educator/leader PD, after school, CTE, and summer learning, with a focus on storytelling, creativity and SEL.

About Maine Department of Education Office of Special Services

The Maine Department of Education – Office of Special Education is dedicated to improving results for students with disabilities by providing leadership, support and oversight to local education agencies. The Office of Special Services is committed to ensuring the provision of a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for children with disabilities (ages 3 to 22) as well as early intervention services to infants and toddlers (birth through age 2). Our work is accomplished through collaboration with families, school districts, public and private agencies, and other programs.