Media Release: Nominations Sought for 2020 Teacher of the Year

AUGUSTA – As part of the Maine Department of Education’s ongoing efforts to highlight Maine’s outstanding teachers, nominations are now open for the 2019 County Teachers of the Year and 2020 Teacher of the Year. Members of the public are encouraged to nominate educators who demonstrate a commitment to excellence and nurturing the achievement of all students.

Nominations can be made through the Maine Teacher of the Year Website starting today, January 4, 2019 and will be open through Feb. 4, 2019.

To be considered, a teacher must:

  • hold the appropriate professional certification for the position,
  • be employed by a Maine public school – including a public charter school or publicly-supported secondary school,
  • be actively teaching students at least 50% of full-time at the time of nomination and during the year of recognition, and
  • have a minimum of five years teaching, three of which are in Maine.

The eventual winner serves as an advocate for teachers, students, and the efforts underway in Maine’s public schools to prepare students for success in college, career and civic life.

Maine’s recently named 2019 Teacher of the Year, Joseph Hennessey, an English teacher at Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford, was selected from over 300 entries and included recognition as the 2018 Piscataquis County Teacher of the Year. In addition to Hennessey, the other 2019 state finalists include Connie Russell, a teacher at Mabel I. Wilson School and 2018 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, and Shana Goodall, a teacher at Orono High School and the 2018 Penobscot County Teacher of the Year.

The 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year will be selected from the 16 county honorees. The field will be narrowed to eight semi-finalists and then three state finalists before the ultimate winner is announced by Maine’s Education Commissioner at a surprise school assembly in the fall.

The Maine Teacher of the Year program is administered by Educate Maine, a business-led organization whose mission is to champion college, career readiness, and increased education attainment. Funding is provided by Bangor Savings Bank, Dead River Co., Geiger, Hannaford, the Maine Lottery, and Pratt & Whitney with support from the State Board of Education and the Maine State Teacher of the Year Association.

The Teacher of the Year program is no cost to taxpayers. Bangor Savings Bank reimburses the winning educator’s school district for the cost of substitutes while the Teacher of the Year is out of the classroom on their official duties, which includes travel throughout the state, a week at NASA Space Camp and a visit to the White House.

For more information about the Maine Teacher of the Year program, visit the Maine Department of Education website.

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Media Contact: Rachel Paling, Maine DOE Director of Communications, rachel.paling@maine.gov

Maine Celebrates School Counselors of the Year with Local and National Ceremonies

The Maine School Counselor Association (MESCA) is pleased to announce that Kelly O’Brien Weaver from Weatherbee Elementary School is the 2018 Maine School Counselor of the Year and will represent Maine at the 2019 School Counselor of the Year celebration at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. in February. Kelly’s focus has been on promoting comprehensive school counseling programs in the State of Maine through the RAMP process (Recognized ASCA Model Program).  Kelly has also worked to promote National Board Certification (NBCT) for School Counselors in Maine. Kelly’s passion includes use of experiential social learning through educational break-out boxes and escape games.

In addition, Tara Kierstead from Hall-Dale Middle & High School, has been announced as Maine’s 2019 School Counselor of the Year.  Tara was recognized at MESCA’s annual conference on November 30, 2018 in Portland, Maine. Tara’s focus has been to support all students, especially those who identify as LGBTQ to ensure they are successful in high school and beyond.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) School Counselor of the Year program (#SCOY19) honors the professionals who devote their careers to serving as advocates for the nation’s students, helping them achieve success in school and in life.  State school counselor of the year honorees were selected based on several criteria, including: school counseling innovations, effective school counseling programs, leadership and advocacy skills and contributions to student advancement.

“The ASCA School Counselor of the Year award is an esteemed recognition for our profession,” said Richard Wong, Ed.D., ASCA executive director.  “School counselors make significant contributions to the overall well-being of students and their success. Their unique qualifications and training allow them to support students’ academic achievement, career development and social/emotional needs. This award highlights their commitment, dedication and excellence.”

On February 7, 2019, from 2:00-4:00, MESCA and the Maine DOE will recognize Kelly, Tara, and all of Maine’s School Counselors in the Hall of Flags to celebrate National School Counselor Week.  All are welcome!

For more information or questions about the role of the School Counselor, contact Sarah Adkins at sarah.adkins@maine.gov or 207-624-6685.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE Celebrates Educational Support Professionals Day

In celebration of Educational Support Professionals Day, the Maine Department of Education would like to thank and congratulate the tens of thousands of educational support professionals working in Maine’s public schools.

Educational Support Professionals Day is held the Wednesday during American Education Week each year in November. The day celebrates and honors the significant contributions that school support staff make in public schools every day.

Education support professionals include education technicians, bus drivers, security guards, school nurses, facilities staff, office assistants and more. They drive students to school, clean classrooms and hallways, bandage scraped knees, and prepare and cook meals, among many other things. They are often the first to arrive at school and the last to leave.

We hope that schools state-wide will share in thanking and congratulating education support professionals for everything that they do to support students, schools, and communities throughout Maine.

MEDIA RELEASE: RSU 13 Superintendent John McDonald Honored with Commissioner’s Award

Superintendent John McDonald of Rockland Public Schools in Regional School Unit (RSU) 13 has been honored with the Maine Department of Education 2018 Commissioner’s Award from Commissioner Robert G. Hasson, Jr.

As part of a celebration and recognition of Maine’s educational leaders during the annual Commissioner’s Conference held in the spring, the Commissioner awards an outstanding Maine superintendent who has gone above and beyond in his or her duties as a leader in their community.

“John is an extraordinary leader. He is very focused on students and the needs of the whole child,” said Commissioner Hasson. “His success in helping to develop school boards by holding workshops that allow them to set achievable goals for students is a testament to his vision for the success of all students.”

John McDonald has held various roles during his multi-year career and service to public education, including teacher, technology and assessment director, school board member, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and now in his current role as Superintendent of RSU 13. He holds Master’s degrees in both educational leadership and elementary education, and Bachelor’s degrees in both anthropology and writing.

“John is a quiet person. He does not promote his own success as an educational leader, but he is truly deserving of this recognition for his many years of service to Maine students,” added Commissioner Hasson.

The 2017 recipient of the Commissioner’s Award was Michael Felton, Superintendent of Schools in neighboring St. George Municipal School Unit.

Students, Parents, and Schools Celebrate School Bus Driver Appreciation Week Oct. 22-26

A school bus driver’s career is about safely delivering the world’s most precious cargo – our students. Making a positive difference in the life of a child is what motivates school bus drivers.

Locally, parents, teachers, and superintendents celebrate National School Bus Driver Appreciation Week by making special cards, delivering special snacks, talking with drivers about how much their commitment to student safety means to families, schools, and the community, and learning about a day in the life of a school bus driver. School district transportation directors celebrate National School Bus Driver Appreciation Week by providing driver safety training at the district. It’s all about safety first.

Historically, Maine schools celebrate National School Bus Driver Appreciation Week during National School Bus Safety Week which occurs annually during the third week in October. It is a time for Mainers to reflect upon the outstanding job performance of our school bus drivers who transport students to and from school and school related events throughout the year traveling over 30 million miles of urban and rural roads. In Maine about 80 percent of students ride the school bus which is much higher than the national average of 50 percent.

School bus drivers provide an essential service. They are responsible for conserving the comfort, safety, and welfare of students they transport. Should a critical incident occur that requires student relocation, school bus drivers will be called on to deliver students to a safe haven.

A typical day in the life of a school bus driver means arriving early, performing daily pre-trip bus inspections, knowing what students ride the bus, where each student lives, and what school each student attends. During the day drivers may deliver students to field trips or education events and they may work at the school as a bus technician, safety officer, software technician, or custodian. At the end of each day the driver performs a post-trip bus clear and inspection to secure the bus in preparation for the next day.

School bus drivers like to drive, enjoy working with students, care about children’s safety, have great people skills, remain calm under pressure, and have flexible or full-time work schedules. School bus drivers must receive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) commercial driver’s license (CDL) with school bus S and passenger P endorsement. This requires additional driving and skills tests that are administered by a certified examiner. School bus drivers must pass federally regulated skills and knowledge evaluations which are conducted with a written and driving exam. Federal regulations require random drug testing. Maine regulations require a background check and physical exam to determine driver fitness for duty. Important qualities for school bus drivers are good customer services skills, normal hand-eye coordination, good hearing and visual ability, patience, and good physical health. School bus drivers are the first school employee students see at the beginning of each school day and the last one they see at the end of the school day.

For information about how to become a school bus driver contact the Maine Association for Pupil Transportation (MAPT) http://www.maptme.org/.