Accomplished Bangor High School Alum Provides Interdiciplinary Art Lesson to Students

Submitted by Kathy Harris-Smedberg, Assistant Superintendent of Schools at Bangor School Department.

Bangor High School Teachers Emilie Throckmorton and Eva Wagner recently collaborated on a unit to connect students with nature. Both visual art and creative writing share a long history of artists being inspired by nature.  Wagner and Throckmorton are nature enthusiasts and have a connection with artist eco-artist Mariah Reading, a Bangor High School and Bowdoin College graduate. Their unit culminated with an adventure to Schoodic Point where Reading is the Artist in Residence. Wagner brought her Sculpture class and Throckmorton brought her Creative Writing class.

When Wagner and Throckmorton realized that Reading was chosen to be an artist in residence in Maine, they both thought about what a wonderful opportunity it would be for their students to learn from her.  Mariah is positive and energetic and her mere presence would be good for students to absorb. With help from grant writer, Cathleen Neslusan and the Friends of Acadia, the trip became possible.

Students looking at rocks on the beach

The day started with a talk with the artist who discussed the reason behind her eco-centered art making. Reading finds trash found in national parks and other protected places and paints bold, colorful realistic landscapes onto them.  She then photographs them in front of the landscape so they blend in seamlessly with the environment. Reading has always been inspired by nature but she realized when she was in college that her work was often creating more waste which led to more degradation of the environment.  She decided to do something about it and then collected trash and used it as a substrate for her work. Her artwork was so striking and unique that it commanded more and more attention as she shared it on social media. Eventually with 7000 plus followers the art world started paying attention and Mariah got sponsorships.

After Reading’s inspiring and informative talk, the students headed out with their paints, and writing prompts in hand and found a beach to create on.  Some students painted, some wrote and others collaborated on an Andy Goldsworthy inspired sculpture. The students seemed awestruck by the thunderous waves and rocky shores.  Many had never been to Schoodic Point and some students had never visited the ocean before.

The students responded to the environment, worked together and learned from a contemporary artist that art can make a difference. What was especially important for these students was that Reading had also been a student at Bangor High School, it made her successes seem that much more attainable.  A great day was had by all and Throckmorton and Wagner are convinced that students will remember this day for a long time.

paintings on the rocks at the beach

School Construction List Receives Approval 

Three schools in critical need of renovation or replacement got the go-ahead to build new facilities or renovate existing ones last week from the State Board of Education, which approved a proposal from Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin.  The three projects were considered because their total estimated costs, when added to existing debt, will be within the current debt service limit of $126,000,000. 

The Board approved the Maine Department of Education’s “Approved Projects List,” a key step in a school construction process that includes: evaluating needs, determining solutions, designing, and building.  The schools were at the top of the Final Priority List of 74 schools that applied for renovation or replacement, which was approved by the State Board in August of 2018. 

The three schools on the approved list are:  Fairfield Primary School (RSU 49/MSAD 49);  Skowhegan’s North Elementary School (RSU 54/MSAD 54);  and Rumford Elementary School (RSU 10). 

The Department would like to stress that the decision to begin work on the first three projects does not preclude additional projects from being approved later.  As the nature and anticipated costs of the first three projects becomes clearer over the ensuing months, the Department intends to then assess when, and if, additional projects on the Final Priority List can be approved to move forward. 

Information about the Department’s school construction program can be found at: http//www.maine.gov/doe/schools/facilities/mcscp. 

Webinar to Assist with Annual Dropout Data Submission

To assist those who are responsible for the important task of reporting annual dropout data to the Department of Education, the DOE Data Team will be holding a webinar on Wednesday October 23rd from 10am to 11am.

This webinar will focus on how to complete, validate and certify the Annual Dropout Report. If you are tasked with editing, validating or certifying the annual Dropout Report for your district or school, you are encouraged to attend. If you have any questions, comments or concerns in regards to this webinar, please do not hesitate to contact us at the MEDMS helpdesk at MEDMS.Helpdesk@Maine.gov  or (207) 624-6896.

Please use the Registration URL and the Webinar ID:  785-724-819.

Maine DOE Update – October 10, 2019

From the Maine Department of Education


Reporting Items

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News & Updates

Gorham Middle School Teacher Named 2020 Teacher of the Year

In an all-school assembly today at Gorham Middle School, the Maine Department of Education and Educate Maine named alternative education teacher Heather Whitaker Maine’s 2020 Teacher of the Year. | More

PRIORITY NOTICE: Seeking Public Comment on Health Education and Physical Education, Visual and Performing Arts, and World Languages Standards

The Maine Department of Education invites school districts to nominate graduating high school seniors for the U. S. Presidential Scholars Program. Each district may nominate one senior who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent U.S. resident and has demonstrated excellence in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program and one senior who had scored exceptionally well on either the SAT of the College Board or the ACT of the American College Testing Program. | More

PRIORITY NOTICE: Proposed Revisions for Rule Chapter 40; Hearing on October 28, 2019

The Department is proposing revisions to Rule Chapter 40: Medication Administration in Schools to reflect recent statutory changes. | More

PRIORITY NOTICE: Proposed Revisions for Rule Chapter 180 (Educator Effectiveness Rules); Hearing on October 28, 2019

The Department is proposing revisions to Rule Chapter 180: Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems to reflect recent statutory changes and feedback from conceptual conversations. | More

Resources for Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Schools

In recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Maine Department of Education would like to share resources and information that educators and schools can use to teach about Native American history and culture, as part of their classroom and school activities that commemorate this important holiday. | More

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

We know that Maine schools are actively working to ensure they are providing a safe and inclusive community in which all educators and students feel supported and can thrive. Bullying prevention takes a team effort, adult modeling and a commitment from the whole community. Educators, families, students and community members can work together to build safe, supportive learning environments for all Maine students. | More

Maine Schools Join Others Around The Nation to Recognize National School Bus Safety Week October 21-25

National School Bus Safety Week, scheduled October 21-25 this year, is a public education program that promotes school bus safety. Nationally, each day about 480,000 school buses travel the nation’s roads transporting about 25,000,000 students to and from schools and school-related activities. This makes school buses the largest mass transportation program in the nation.  | More

Maine Officially Launches Harvest of the Month Program

The Maine Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Program is excited to announce the official launch of Maine’s Harvest of the Month (HOM) Program. The program was piloted in schools in Spring 2019 with participation from over 165 schools state-wide. The full roll out of the program begins this fall for School Year 2020. | More

Opportunities to Lead and Participate In the 17th Annual MLTI Student Conference

Each year, the Department of Education’s Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) hosts the MLTI Student Conference. Over 1000 students and their teachers gather to engage in a day of learning and creating with technology. This year the event will be held at the University of Maine in Orono on Thursday, May 21st, 2020 from 8:30am – 3pm. Details about opportunities to lead and participate in the day are below. | More

Get to know the DOE Team: Meet Paula Gravelle

Maine DOE Team member Paula Gravelle is being highlighted this week as the part of a Get to know the DOE Team campaign! Learn a little more about Paula in the brief question and answer below. | More


Maine Schools Sharing Success Stories

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Professional Development & Training Opportunities

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Latest DOE Career/Project Opportunities

MEDIA RELEASE: Gorham Middle School Teacher Named 2020 Teacher of the Year

Gorham, Maine – In an all-school assembly today at Gorham Middle School, the Maine Department of Education and Educate Maine named alternative education teacher Heather Whitaker Maine’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.

During her 18-year teaching career at Gorham Middle School, Heather has been a true advocate for combining learning opportunities with the needs of the community. She started her school’s garden, which donates over 800 pounds of produce for the local food pantry each year. She also was a founding member of the Gorham BackPack Program, which provides students in her community, experiencing chronic hunger, with food over the weekend. Her alternative education students are active volunteers for both programs. Just recently, this program was awarded a $25,000 State Farm Community Assist grant.

Heather is passionate about and experienced in using restorative practices and experiential learning. She believes in the power of relationships and that learning should be meaningful to students. Whenever possible, Heather takes students out of the classroom and has them engaged in the community.

Heather graduated from Boston College in 2000, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with Moderate Special Needs. She later earned her Master of Science in Literacy Education at the University of Southern Maine.

Heather’s biggest love is her family. Her husband, Marc, son Trent, and daughter Maeve inspire her daily. She loves hosting friends at her house, can be found in the mountains skiing during the winter, and is proud to be a “Maine-ah.”

She was nominated by her former principal, Robert Riley, who stated “because of her innovative, can-do nature, her refusal to give up on any student and her selfless contributions to our school community and to her students, I believe Heather is an excellent candidate to represent all that is good in our educational system.”

Heather was selected from a pool of more than 300 teachers who were nominated by a member of their community earlier this year, she was then named the 2019 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, and then later named one of three State finalists before being named the 2020 Teacher of the Year today.

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, former Teachers of the Year, and other Maine business partners.

As the 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year, Heather will travel throughout the state and country collaborating with other educators to support the efforts underway to prepare all students for college, work, and civic life. She will be Maine’s representative in the National Teacher of the Year program which includes a national forum with other State Teachers of the Year, a week at a NASA Space Camp, and a visit to the White House.

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 and the Maine State Board of Education. Funding for the program is generously provided by Bangor Savings Bank, Dead River, Geiger, Hannaford, Maine Lottery, and Pratt and Whitney.

For more information about the Maine Teacher of the Year program, visit www.mainetoy.org.