County Teachers of the Year Meet with Legislative Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs

The 2019 County Teachers of the Year and the 2020 State Teacher of the Year met with the Legislative Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs last week. An annual event of the Maine State Teacher of the Year Program, the educators spent over an hour discussing relevant topics from their region with Maine legislators.

Pictured above: Senator Rebecca Millett, Representative David McCrea, Representative Jan Dodge, Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year Shawn Rice, Representative Victoria Kornfield, Piscataquis County Teacher of the Year Bobbi Tardiff, Aroostook County Teacher of the Year Kim Barnes (back), Washington County Teacher of the Year Jeanna Carver (front), 2020 Teacher of the Year Heather Whitaker, Franklin County Teacher of the Year Rob Taylor (back), Penobscot County Teacher of the Year Tracy Deschaine (front), Kennebec County Teacher of the Year Emily Bowen, Somerset County Teacher of the Year Kathy Bertini, York County Teacher of the Year Ethel Atkinson, Representative Henry Ingwersen, and Representative Dick Farnsworth.

Prior to meeting with Committee members, the teachers had the opportunity to meet briefly with Commissioner Makin, Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta, and other representatives from the Maine DOE for an informal conversation about issues and successes in each of their regions.

Legislators began the meeting by expressing their gratitude to the teachers for the work they do and for making time to share their thoughts at the session. Representative Kornfeild told the teachers, “we have been anticipating this meeting all day!”

The first topic the committee members asked about is the teacher shortage that has impacted many areas of Maine, a topic that has also been widely discussed at the state level. The panel was ready and willing to share their take and provide advice on ways to recruit more educators, which included alternative certification pathways and early college options for students.

Topics discussed by the educators ranged from National Board Certification for educators to STEM opportunities, technology integration in the classroom, and earlier pathways to Career and Technical Education for students. By far the most talked about topic in the meeting was the need for more mental health supports for students at school.

The meeting ended with a group picture and much gratitude from both sides of the horseshoe for the opportunity to meet and talk about important education issues.

Some of the teachers shared their thoughts about the experience:

“Meeting with the Education & Cultural Affairs Committee allowed me the chance to share my hopes for attracting talented graduates into the profession of Maine educators. This powerful experience allowed me to be ‘heard’ and advocate for what’s best for our Maine students and those in the teaching profession.” – Kathy Bertini, Somerset County Teacher of the Year and Science Teacher at Madison Junior High School. 

“One of the best parts of the journey as a County Teacher of the Year are the opportunities to speak up and advocate for our profession, for our colleagues, and for our students.  Meeting with the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee provided an opportunity to use our teacher voices, to learn more about the influential leaders in our state, and personally thank them for advocating change in our educational system and the support they offer teachers in inspiring Maine’s future generations.” – Tracy Deschaine, Penobscot County Teacher of the Year and Orono Middle School Math and Science Teacher.

“The experience was inspiring and affirmed for me the power and importance of
educational advocacy at the state level. It also illustrated the fact that many of what we might see as our specific local needs echo concerns shared in communities across the state. While our experience represents an annual invitation for CTOYs to share our stories, the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee made an impassioned plea to encourage all educators to extend our advocacy beyond our own districts in order to advocate for all Maine students; Maine teachers have authentic voices that can positively
impact educational policy and benefit our students.” – Shawn Rice, 2019 Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year and Dept Head, Fine Arts at Edward Little High School

“A critical and empowering component of the Maine Teacher of the Year and Maine County Teacher of the Year program is mentoring and providing teacher leaders in the state of Maine with opportunities to advocate on behalf of public education. Over the past two weeks, the 2019 County Teacher of the Year cohort had the incredible opportunity to speak with both Senator King’s Senior Education Staff and the Maine Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. The collective experience and wisdom in this group is inspiring!” – Heather Whitaker, 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year, 2019 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, and Gorham Middle School Alternative Education Teacher.

Maine Educators Jenn Heidrich and Erin Towns to Embark on Polar Research Experiences

Two Maine high school teachers have received the opportunity of a lifetime. Jenn Heidrich and Erin Towns, both high school social studies teachers at Edward Little High School in Auburn, Maine, work across the hall from each other. Both entered separately into a competitive application process that resulted in them receiving the opportunity of a lifetime: Traveling to the Yukon’s Boreal Forest and the Greenland Ice Sheet to study with internationally-renowned climate scientists.

This opportunity will allow them to travel to the Arctic region in order to help create classroom experiences and resources which will combine social studies and environmental science in Maine classrooms.

Jenn Heidrich will be traveling to the Yukon for five weeks to study carbon sequestration in the alpine region of the Yukon, as well as biodiversity in various arctic ecosystems. She will be doing this with Dr. Jennie McLaren of University of Texas El Paso. Jennifer has a background in archaeology, geography, and science and as such, is thrilled to be working with a biologist who is examining trophic cascades in the sub-arctic. She hopes to bridge the gap between social studies and science in Maine classrooms, with a specific focus on how changes in remote ecosystems will impact cultures around the world.

Erin Towns is traveling to Ilulissat Greenland for two weeks to study how increases in surface runoff influences ice flow and subsequent loss of water mass from the Greenland ice sheet to the oceans . She will be working with Dr. Sarah Das, a glaciologist and climate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Erin’s background includes extensive work in the areas of global education, geography, and teacher professional development and she will use the experience to build social studies and science inquiry based strategies and classroom activities related to the Gulf of Maine and climate change adaptation efforts.

Beginning in June for Jenn and August for Erin, each teacher will participate as a full research team member in an authentic scientific expedition in the Arctic, joining the ranks of educators who will be working in research locations from the Arctic Ocean to Antarctica, as part of a program that allows educators to experience first-hand what it is like to conduct scientific research in some of the most remote locations on earth.
Erin and Jenn are two of eleven educators selected through a nationwide search to participate in PolarTREC, an educational research experience in which classroom teachers and informal educators participate in polar research, working closely with scientists as a pathway to improving science education. Through PolarTREC, selected educators will have the rare opportunity to spend several weeks working with a research team in the Arctic or Antarctic.

While on field expeditions, educators and researchers will share their experiences with scientists, educators, communities, and students of all ages through the use of Internet tools such as online teacher and researcher journals, message boards, photo albums, podcasts, PolarConnect real-time presentations from the field, and online learning resources. After the field experience, teachers and researchers will continue to share their experiences with the public and create instructional activities to transfer scientific data, methodologies, and technology to classrooms.

The first expedition departs in spring 2020 with an educator deploying to the Arctic community of Utqiaġvik (Barrow) Alaska. Additional expeditions will take place throughout the Arctic field season in the summer of 2020. The Antarctic field season will be in full swing by November and continue through the winter of 2020-21. This year’s expeditions will range from the Arctic Circle to the South Pole and study a large scope of topics from marine biology to landscape ecology.

PolarTREC is managed by the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS) and funded by the National Science Foundation and additional partnerships. For more information and to participate, see the PolarTREC website at: or contact the ARCUS Project Managers, Janet Warburton and Judy Fahnestock at or call 907-474-1600.

Follow Erin Towns on Instagram @Esctowns and Jenn Heidrich @MrsJHikes to keep up with their travels, stories, and scientific work.

The Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS) is based in Fairbanks, Alaska and was formed in 1988 to provide leadership in advancing knowledge and understanding of the Arctic. ARCUS is a member consortium of educational and scientific institutions. Further information is available at:

This story was submitted by Shelly Mogul, Curriculum Director for Auburn School Department as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email it to Rachel at

Vine Street Elementary School Custodian Honored with A. Burleigh Oxton Award for Excellence

The Educational Plant Maintenance Association (EPMA) of Maine awarded the A. Burleigh Oxton Award to Head Custodian Christopher Whitney of the Vine Street Elementary School in Bangor recently.

On Tuesday, December 10, Andrew R Madura, Director of Facilities
SAD #61-Lake Region Schools and Dana Petersen, EPMA President and Manager of Facilities at York County Community College drove to Bangor to present the award to Chris at an assembly in the school’s gymnasium.

At 8 am, each of the individual classrooms began to file into the gym to participate in honoring Chris.  His Mother and a local NBC news reporter were also in attendance. One by one the classes rose and presented him with cards of appreciation, stories and one class even sang a song to their favorite custodian.

Chris is much more than a custodian to the school and community.  One particular story I came away with was from the school Principal, Lynne Silk who told the crowd that every Memorial Day Holiday on his day off, Chris and his son will get up early and go to every school in the district and ‘properly’ lower the flags to half-staff, paying honor and respect to all the men and women who have died defending this country.  He brings his son who sometimes brings a friend and thus teaches them how to respect the flags and our military personnel. – Dana Petersen

The pictured in the photo above are (left to right): Dr. Betsy Webb – Bangor Superintendent of Schools; Andy Madura, EPMA Chairman A. Burleigh Oxton Award Committee; Christopher Whitney, 2019 Award Recipient; Dana Petersen, EPMA President; Lynne Silk, Principal.

The event was truly emotional for everyone and I am glad to be a small part in the EPMA organization and this annual recognition award.

This story was submitted by Dana Petersen, EPMA President and  Manager of Facilities at York County Community College as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email Rachel Paling at

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE Launches #LoveTeaching Campaign on Valentine’s Day

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) today kicked off the national #LoveTeaching campaign in Maine. Running February 14th through February 21st, the #LoveTeaching Campaign is observed by educators around the country as an opportunity to celebrate teaching, leading, and learning in a way that unites and invigorates educators and those they inspire all around the world.

Every year, Valentine’s Day marks the beginning of a week-long conversation that aims to illuminate why teachers enter and remain in the field of education, offering a mindset shift from the seemingly singular focus on the challenges of the profession.

Starting today, we encourage educators across Maine to participate by using the #LoveTeaching hashtag on social media to share why they love teaching, either through a story, a moment, a memory, a picture, a quote, a phrase, or a simple explanation. Tag the Maine DOE at @mdoenews on Twitter and at @MaineDepartmentofEducation1 on Facebook so that we can share your teaching inspiration around our state!

To help get the conversation going, we are releasing this two and a half minute video, developed by the Maine Department of Education, starring 20 educators from across the State of Maine who explain why they teach:

In collaboration with the Maine Education Association, the Department is looking forward to hosting educators in Augusta next week to celebrate their profession and engage in meaningful conversations about teaching in Maine.

For further information about the #LoveTeaching campaign, please visit Follow the conversation on Maine DOE’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Calling all High School Senior STEM Students! Exciting FREE Opportunity!

Each year two seniors are selected from each state to attend the National Youth Science Camp (NYSC). NYSC is a residential STEM program, designed to honor and challenge some of the nation’s rising STEM leaders. At the NYSCamp, STEM professionals present lectures and lead small-group directed studies on a broad array of STEM topics; some delegates are able to conduct research at the nearby Green Bank Observatory. The NYSCamp experience also features excursions into the Monongahela National Forest including backpacking, rock-climbing, caving, mountain biking, and kayaking.

Delegates are required to participate in the NYSCamp program for its entirety; the fast-paced activities and remote location simply make travel to and from the NYSCamp very difficult. The NYSCamp is offered to selected participants at NO COST, so that talented students may attend regardless of their financial ability – transportation included. This all-expense paid experience is open to students graduating between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. Additionally, students must:

  • have documented superior academic proficiency, including recognition in mathematics or the sciences.
  • have documented leadership abilities and social maturity through involvement in school or community activities.
  • have documented skills and achievements outside the realm of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and outside the realm of academia.
  • demonstrate a curiosity and an eagerness to explore many and varied topics.
  • intend to pursue higher education and a career in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics-related field.
  • be willing and able to participate in the entire NYSCamp program.  The 2020 NYSCamp dates are June 22 – July 15, 2020.

Students will apply online by completing the application found at The deadline to submit applications is 6:00 PM EST on February 28, 2020.

For more information visit or contact Shari Templeton, Maine DOE Science and Technology Specialist, at