Get to know the DOE Team: Meet Megan Dichter

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

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the Workforce Development Coordinator for Adult Education, so I support adult education programs in offering industry recognized credentials and workforce training to adult education participants. I am also the CASAS (the math and reading assessment used by Adult Education programs) state trainer.  Additionally, I have a background in teaching English to non-native speakers and also support adult education programs working with students learning to speak English.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy the variety of my work and that it allows me to continue to teach (in the form of training,) and learn daily. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing Adult Education team with whom I work.

How or why did you decide on this career?

After college I volunteered with an organization called WorldTeach and spent two years in Thailand teaching at a University. That experience helped shape my career path and I returned to the U.S and enrolled in an M.Ed program- the rest is history.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

I am an avid photographer and spend a lot of my free time doing documentary photography. I love the challenge of visual storytelling.

Gorham/Westbrook CTE Adult Ed Collaboration Brings New Opportunities to the Community

Pictured L to R: Adult Ed/CTE Coordinator Jeremy Kendall, WRVC Director Todd Fields, Assistant Superintendent Jodi Mezzanotte, Adult Ed Director Shelli Pride, and Administrative Assistant Elsbeth Bennett.

Westbrook School Department had a collective dream to one day have a robust Adult Education Program that not only helped New Mainers integrate into the community but also met the needs of adult learners in their community and the state as a whole. Three years ago, Gorham and Westbrook Adult Education programs applied for the Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Educational Services (FEDES) grant opportunity, one of three grant opportunities offered by the Maine DOE between 2017 and 2018 to provide districts with initial funding for local and regional initiatives to improve educational opportunities. In January 2018, Westbrook and their partner Gorham School District was awarded a grant to support the creation of the Gorham/Westbrook Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program, a regional adult education program that provides adult learners access to career and technical education that will prepare them for high-skill, high-demand occupations with defined pathways for advancement.

Jeremy Kendall Adult Education CTE Coordinator
Jeremy Kendall Adult Education CTE Coordinator

Building on the strong foundation of their neighbors in Gorham, Westbrook began creating career driven educational programs for adult learners. In addition to adding Jeremy Kendall to their team, as the Adult Education CTE Coordinator, they began expanding the Adult/CTE programs starting with the difficult task of building a Commercial Driving License (CDL) course, an area where the nation, including Maine, has seen a sharp shortage of workers in a very high demand occupation.

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WRVC Director Todd Fields and Jeremy Kendall standing next to one of their CDL Driving Trucks.

Finding that there were only two driving instructors in the entire state of Maine, Jeremy was lucky enough to convince one of them, Buddy Spaulding who runs a driving school in Albion Maine, to come to Westbrook and teach a course that later successfully graduated 8 students. With Westbrook’s CDL course under their belt, these 8 students are suited to take a State exam and become instructors themselves. One year later the CDL program has shown enormous success and Jeremy was happy to share that they are in the process of hiring 3 additional instructors, expanding the program to even more learners.

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CDL Driving course in session.

In addition to CDL, the CTE/Adult Ed program also offers a robust Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program and are gearing up for an expansion that will offer an automotive program, CompTIA (Information Technology skills), in addition to electrician training, building trade carpentry, and Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications.

Building on the foundation that seeks to bring new opportunities to all learners, Westbrook also integrates a language acquisition component of the CTE/Adult Ed program that focuses on New Mainers who are in the process of learning English and culture in their new home here in Maine. In conjunction with their growing trades programs, they are also building out their capacity to offer these same services, with an added language skills component, to New Mainers by working closely with partner agencies to help get them work-ready.

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 A WRVC CNA student demonstrates a typical bedside routine, going through the steps of making a mock patient comfortable.

To distinguish themselves as a full-service program, they also go the extra mile to ensure the success of each and every learner that walks through the doors of the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center/Adult Education Program. “If they need their HiSET/high school diploma, academic or workready skills, we will help them. We will assist them with their job-hunting pursuits as well.” said Westbrook Adult Education Director Shelli Pride. “We put them in trade programs and we help them find jobs,” added Shelli.

In order to track their success, Westbrook aims to maintain relationships with their students by keeping up with their progress both in education and their professional careers. They also work with an advisory board, which is made up of local businesses that help to develop the programs and make sure they are on track to make a positive difference in the community and the State.

At a recent convening of local businesses at the WRVC, a local driving company approached Jeremy. “We are looking for drivers, do you have anyone in mind?” A question to which he was delighted to respond, “Yes, we are running a CDL-B course right now and there is a really great kid on the driving range, do you want to meet him?” The company was able to do an on-the-spot interview and they offered him a job right then and there. The student was not only a high school graduate of the WRVC program but was also enrolled in the Adult Ed CDL course at the time.

The CTE/Adult Education program recently celebrated the graduation of all 13 CNA students who sat for their state exams, which was a 100% pass rate for our CNA program.

The CTE/Adult Education program was a recent recipient of a very generous donation from the Associated General Contractors of Maine. This money will be used to support a scholarship fund for future CTE/Adult Education students.

It is outcomes like these that help solidify the need for the recently developed collaboration, and the projected success it will bring to the community.

Grateful to have the collaboration of their partners in Gorham who have a readymade adult education program that Westbrook was able to ride the coat tails of, they now have a long-term goal of offering each career-focused program to all high school students and adult learners in the region. They hope to help fill Maine’s high demand occupations by continuing to expand the opportunities they offer. Down the road, they will be looking into starting programs in both business and diesel mechanics and from there, the possibilities are endless.

This article was written by Maine DOE Staff Rachel Paling in collaboration with school leaders at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center and Westbrook Adult Education program as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. For more information or to submit an idea or a write-up, email Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Maine Adult Education System Receives Champion of Education and Workforce Development Award

Gail Senese, Maine DOE Director of Adult Education, Lisa MacDonald Cooper, MDF Program Director, Education & Workforce, Shirley Wright, Executive Director of MAEA, and Suzanne Nowinski, President of MAEA.
Gail Senese, Maine DOE Director of Adult Education, Lisa MacDonald Cooper, MDF Program Director, Education & Workforce, Shirley Wright, Executive Director of MAEA, and Suzanne Nowinski, President of MAEA.

At the 2019 Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon hosted by the Maine Development Foundation (MDF), Maine’s Adult Education System, comprised of over 70 local Adult Education Programs, the Maine Department of Education’s Office of Adult Education, and the Maine Adult Education Association (MAEA), was one of six award recipients.

As part of the award presentation, MDF described the Maine Adult Education System in the following way:

Local adult education programs throughout Maine provide a range of instructional services to help adults develop the skills for further education opportunities, job training, and better employment, and to realize their full potential as productive workers, family members, and citizens. Adults seeking to further their education or advance their careers can enroll in adult education courses in literacy and adult basic education, high school completion, English language acquisition courses, Maine College Transitions, and career preparation and enrichment. Instruction is aligned with adult learners’ goals and focuses on supporting their efforts to meet the College and Career Readiness Standards. The Maine Adult Education System partners with Maine CareerCenters, local employers, higher education, and community agencies to maximize the education and training opportunities for its adult learners. And, most importantly, it embodies the very spirit of lifelong learning, which enriches individual lives and whole communities.

Accepting the award on behalf of adult education programming statewide were Gail Senese, Maine DOE Director of Adult Education, Suzanne Nowinski, President of MAEA, and Shirley Wright, Executive Director of MAEA.

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Gail Senese, Maine DOE Director of Adult Education.

“This means so much to all of us,” said Dr. Gail Senese in an acceptance speech she gave on behalf of the Maine Adult Education System. “We see ourselves as part the economic development chain in this State, preparing people to be good workers, and good community members, and good neighbors. We thank you so much for this recognition, for not only the people who work in this field but for the people who deserve to be served.”

Maine DOE Kicks off Teacher Appreciation Week Early with Video Shout-outs to Maine Teachers #TeachMaine 

The Maine Department of Education will be releasing short video shout-outs starting on May 2nd of Maine DOE employees thanking Maine teachers who have influenced and inspired them.  

Teacher Appreciation Week runs May 6th through the 10th, and it is our hope that people throughout Maine, including students, will be encouraged to thank a teacher who has inspired or influenced them and share a video message through social media with the hashtag #TeachMaine. Please tag Maine DOE on Facebook and/or TwitterWe want to spread the word! 

This campaign is intended to honor and thank Maine teachers, and we appreciate your support in sharing positive messages. 

For further questions please contact Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.