MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Honors 11 Inspirational School Employees Through RISE Award

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) today announced the state finalists for the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award.

In two special outdoor gatherings held today at East End Community School (Portland Public Schools) and Marcia Buker Elementary School (RSU 2), Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin presented Maine’s two State-level Honorees each with certificates and flowers and thanked them for their service. Award nominators and members of their school community were also present to show their gratitude and share inspirational messages about how these individuals have impacted their community.

Created by Congress in 2019 and overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, the RISE Award honors classified employees in the education workforce who provide exemplary service.  The Maine DOE in coordination with the Office of Governor Janet T. Mills has selected 11 finalists from a pool of over eighty exceptional nominees submitted from across Maine by local educational agencies, school administrators, professional associations, nonprofits, parents/caregivers, students, and community members.

“As the daughter of a longtime public school teacher, I know how hard our teachers work every day to provide a quality education. These last few years have brought even greater challenges, and I am grateful to teachers across Maine who have risen to the occasion to educate our children and keep them safe,” said Governor Mills. “On behalf of all Maine people, I sincerely congratulate our RISE award winners on this well-deserved honor, and I thank them for all they do for our state.”

“Today I have been privileged to honor and recognize two of the thousands of heroes who are ensuring that Maine children have access to safe and successful schools,” said Commissioner of Education Pender Makin.  “These dedicated staff members support teachers and families, and ensure that the health, safety, nutritional and academic needs of students are met day after day. Without their dedication and hard work, our schools, our communities, would falter. I urge all Maine people to join me in recognizing these two individuals, and in thanking our entire education workforce, who continues to rise above and deliver on behalf of their students.”

RISE nominees demonstrate excellence in the following areas: (A) Work performance; (B) School and community involvement; (C) Leadership and commitment; (D) Local support (from co-workers, school administrators, community members, etc., who speak to the nominee’s exemplary work); (E) Enhancement of classified school employees’ image in the community and schools.

Of the 11 finalists, two state-level honorees have been selected and submitted to the U.S. Department of Education to represent Maine for consideration in the national RISE Award. The U.S. Department of Education will announce one national honoree and present the individual with an award in the spring. Each of Maine’s finalists will be honored with a letter from the Commissioner of Education and receive spotlights on the Maine Department of Education website.

Maine’s RISE State-Level Honorees:

Deb Bodge
Administrative Assistant/Secretary
Marcia Buker Elementary School, RSU 2

“Mrs. Bodge has been a foundation for Marcia Buker School for many years. Not only has she been resilient during the COVID crisis, but she continues, each day to know about each child and how their worlds work. She also does it all with a smile. She is a rock for our little school and is completely deserving of such an honor,” said one of her nominators, Julie York.

Betsy Paz-Gyimesi
Spanish Family and Community Engagement Specialist
Multilingual and Multicultural Center, Portland Public Schools (PPS)

“Betsy bridges the home/school divide for our families, is a fierce advocate in ensuring that students access programs and services that would nurture and advance their academic performance and social/emotional well-being,” said nominator Maureen Clancy, PPS Language Access Coordinator.

Maine’s RISE Finalists:

Kelly Brown
School Nurse
Kennebunk Elementary School, RSU 21

Vicki Dill
Head Cook, Food Services
Whitefield Elementary School, RSU 12

Jessie Eastman
School Nurse
Lincoln Elementary School, Augusta School District

Leland Gamache
Bus Driver/Custodial Staff
Libson Community School, Lisbon School Department

Ellen Kimball
Food Service Staff
T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School, RSU 56

Brittany Layman
Health and Wellness Coordinator/School Nurse
Earl C. McGraw Elementary School, RSU 22

Martha Thompson
Education Technician- Carpentry
Portland Arts and Technology High School
Melinda Williams
Special Education-Education Technician
Sanford School Department

Paula Quirk
Main Office Clerk
Waldo T. Skillin Elementary School, South Portland Public Schools

For a full description and picture of each of the nominees and finalists, visit the Maine Department of Education’s RISE webpages.

For more information about the RISE award including a description of a classified employee, visit the U.S. Department of Education Website. To learn more about Maine’s process including criteria and frequently asked questions, visit the Maine Department of Education Website.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine’s Teacher of the Year Journey Starts with Your Nomination

Help Honor and Elevate Maine Teachers. Nominations Now Open for County and State Teacher of the Year Program

MAINE – Nominations are now open for the 2022 County Teachers of the Year and 2023 Teacher of the Year. Members of the public are encouraged to nominate educators who demonstrate a commitment to excellence and who inspire the achievement of all students.

“Our educators have continued to inspire, educate and care for their students during dynamic and difficult times,” said Commissioner of Education Pender Makin. “We encourage education colleagues, students, and community members to nominate an educator who exemplifies the committed heroes in our classrooms and schools.”

Nominations can be made through a nomination form on the Maine Teacher of the Year Website now through 5:00 pm on Feb. 4, 2022. Nominations will be accepted from students, parents, caregivers, community members, school administrators, colleagues, college faculty members, and associations/organizations (self-nominations, and nominations from family members are not accepted).

To be considered for the County and Maine Teacher of the Year award, a person must:

Maine’s County and State Teachers of the Year serve as advocates for teachers, students, and public education in Maine. They serve as advisors to the Department of Education and state-level education stakeholders across Maine.  Additionally, County and State Teachers of the Year join a cohort of teacher leaders that actively work together for the betterment of education in Maine. They also receive on-going professional learning and participate in many state and county leadership opportunities.

The 2022 County Teachers of the Year will be announced in May. The 2023 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 Maine Teacher of the Year is announced by Maine’s Education Commissioner at a school assembly in the fall. Each year, State and County Teachers of the Year are honored at the annual Teacher of the Year Gala also held in the fall.

Help us promote the Teacher of the Year Program! Our goal is to expand and diversify our nomination pool!

About the Program:


Video Testimonials:

On behalf of, and in partnership with Maine Department of Education, 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, the Silvernail Family, and Unum, with support from the State Board of Education and the Maine State Teacher of the Year Association.

The Maine Teacher of the Year program is committed to a nomination and selection process that ensures people of all backgrounds are represented.  Educate Maine and the Maine Department of Education champion that commitment by encouraging the nomination of educators from all culturally diverse experiences and backgrounds.

“We are proud to administer the Maine Teacher of the Year program in collaboration with the Maine Department of Education,” said Dr. Jason Judd, Educate Maine Executive Director. “Our unique program is a partnership between business and education designed to honor the good work of teachers, elevate the profession, provide professional growth opportunities and amplify the voice of classroom teachers.  The network of State and County Teachers of the Year is a valuable resource for our state and we often call upon their expertise to guide and inform our work.”

“We are grateful for our partnership with Educate Maine and for their commitment to a program that elevates the voice and role of Maine educators,” said Commissioner Makin. “We are also grateful for our sponsors and the network of Maine’s County and State Teachers of the Year for their ongoing advocacy and leadership.”

Through the generous support of Maine businesses, there is no cost to the local district when the Teacher of the Year is out of the classroom on their official duties, which includes representing educators state-wide and nationally through safely distanced in-person and virtual events that highlight the important work of Maine schools, communities, and educators.

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

Media Contact: Dolly Sullivan, Educate Maine at


Maine State Board Member Elected as Secretary-Treasurer of National Board

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) has announced the election of Fern Desjardins, chair of the Maine State Board of Education, as secretary-treasurer for a two-year term on its board of directors.  Desjardins previously served a two-year term as new member representative on the NASBE and was also chair of NASBE’s Public Education Positions Committee.

Janet Cannon, a member of the Utah State Board of Education, became NASBE’s board chair at the close of the organization’s virtual Annual Conference and business meeting this year and Christine Benson, a member of the Illinois State Board of Education, was voted NASBE’s chair-elect also.

A former Superintendent of Schools in MSAD #33, Desjardins has spent a 43-year career in public education in Maine and has served on Maine’s State Board of Education since 2018. She has taught graduate level courses for UMaine as an adjunct faculty member in their outreach programs in Aroostook County for almost a decade.  She holds a Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership and a Master’s Degree in Language Arts from UMaine, a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Educational Leadership from USM, and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from UMFK.

“NASBE’s board of directors plays an important role in helping the organization achieve its mission of developing, supporting, and empowering state boards to fully embrace their role as citizen leaders,” said NASBE President and CEO Robert Hull. “This board is primed to work closely with incoming President and CEO Paolo DeMaria to expand the robust work of developing state boards’ capacity to lead in these important times of high needs and unprecedented resources.”

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at

ACTEM Honors Amanda Nguyen with ACHIEVE Award

Amanda Nguyen, the Program Director for the Centers of Innovation at Thomas College has been recognized by the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine (ACTEM) with their ACHIEVE award.

ACTEM’s ACHIEVE Award recognizes professionals who effectively apply available technology now. They move forward utilizing current best practices and cutting edge approaches. They see students as real people by activating student voice and choice in education. They teach through relationships- inspiring, encouraging, and nurturing. These professionals also recognize that further change is necessary, but understand that it is a process for all stakeholders. They realize that teacher and student empowerment is the key element to technology integration. ACHIEVE Educators expect success and motivate through awareness and access to information.

At Thomas College, Amanda has the opportunity to connect with students and educators across the state through various programs (such as the college’s virtual Thomas Cup) — but has also embraced a new opportunity to lead innovative projects designed to increase the employability of Thomas students, as well as the career aspirations of future students. One colleague said, “Amanda has reimagined our whole professional and career development experience. Students have opportunities to tackle real world problems, work with employers, and build strong resumes for the future. She is doing this by working with colleagues across departments and with employer partners across the State. Her work really exemplifies what is possible at Thomas College.”

Additionally, Amanda has served on the ACTEM Conference Committee and is excited to co-chair the committee in the coming year. She also serves as an ISTE Community Leader, and enjoys the opportunity to collaborate with educators across Maine (and the globe) to support learning and teaching with technology.

At a small gathering at Thomas College in early November, the ACHIEVE Award Committee Co-chairs, Jamie Ela and Deb White, along with Executive Director Gary Lanoie and ACTEM President Will Backman, presented Amanda with the award. Bette Manchester and Jim Moulton, along with several of Amanda’s colleagues from Thomas, were able to join the celebration as well.

At the event, Thomas College President Laurie Lachance, said: “We’re so proud of the work that you do. You’ve worked with everyone in this room, and you’ve set a new standard for us, and are taking us to a level that we’ve only dreamed of. Thank you for your work – very well deserved.”

ACTEM Award - Thomas College group shot

ACTEM’s ACHIEVE winners receive a personal cash award of $2,000 along with a $1,000 gift certificate to be used by their school for technology related purchases. They are also awarded the Making IT Happen award from ISTE. The Making IT Happen award honors outstanding educators and leaders who demonstrate extraordinary commitment, leadership, courage and persistence in improving digital learning opportunities for students.

Phil Rossetti Named High School Assistant Principal of the Year

The students and staff at Windham High School (WHS) in RSU 14 received a surprise morning announcement by Superintendent Chris Howell recently, explaining that the Executive Director of the Maine Principals Association (MPA), Holly Blair was in the building and had good news to share:

“MPA recognizes outstanding high school assistant principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for their students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession,” said Blair during the morning announcement at Windham High School. “After much consideration, MPA has determined that Mr. Rossetti meets those standards and has decided to name him the Secondary School Assistant Principal of 2022.”

Rossetti’s role as assistant principal has made many impacts on the community. Captain William Andrew of the Windham Police Department works closely with Rossetti as a leadership team member for Be The Influence Coalition.

“Phil’s dedication, commitment, and most of all his heart for the betterment of education, the staff, and most importantly the students is what makes this a most deserved award,” said Captain Andrew.

His coworkers enjoy the opportunity to work with Rossetti, including WHS Principal Ryan Caron who has known Rossetti for over twenty years, eight of those years were teaching together at WHS in the social studies department. Rossetti was also one of Caron’s assistant principals at South Portland High School, and now they work together on the administrative team at WHS and have done so for the last four years.

“Phil puts the needs of our students and staff first in all things that he does,” Caron said. “He takes the time to really get to know both students and staff, which allows him to provide support and guidance that is appropriate for the individual while building lasting relationships. When you work with Phil you know that he cares about you and wants the best for you. Students and staff respect his honesty and integrity and believe that he has their best interests at heart.”

Superintendent Howell agrees with Caron and added that Rossetti does a great job mastering the skills and expectations of a vice principal.

“I have known and worked with Phil for close to 20 years,” Howell said. “He is a highly skilled administrator who has a huge heart for meeting the needs of students. Phil has always been able to focus on the big picture as he works to support the students at WHS. I cannot think of a more deserving person for this honor.”

Rossetti said that making a positive change in a student’s life is what motivates him to be the best he can be. “We work to find restorative practices and conversations to turn negative experiences and actions into something positive that create long-term change. People make mistakes and it’s what you do with those mistakes that matters.”

The newly named Assistant Principal of the Year said that his current job is the best job he’s ever had.

Rossetti lives in Raymond with his wife Sara and daughter Maria. When he is not busy at work, Rossetti enjoys golfing and vacationing with his family.