RSU 40 Teachers Find Connection with Students Through Poetry – a Podcast by 2020 Lincoln County Teacher of the Year

In the spring semester of 2021, RSU 40 English teacher Heather Webster embarked on a project to encourage her students to utilize their creative side. She guided students through completing an “I am” poem following a standard structure- each line begins with a statement about oneself. She chose this creative writing journey for her students because “I am” poems give space for students to be open, honest, and vulnerable with their teacher and classmates, a deep connection that has been missing for many students and teachers throughout the rollercoaster of changes brought on by the pandemic.

One day, walking down the hall shortly after starting the poetry unit, Webster noticed a wall of self-portrait. She went to take a closer look and realized that Brooke Holland, RSU 40 art teacher, had beat her to the “I am” poems with her students (many of which overlapped with Webster’s students). Webster was immediately impressed with the work of the students. “I realized that the poems demonstrated wonderful common threads from our students’ experiences,” Webster stated. More specifically, Webster was awed at the commonality between each students’ pandemic experience, which they shared in their poems.

Reflecting on the start of the COVID19 pandemic, Webster remembers how hard it was to get students to participate and also reflects on how silent students became. She met with her colleague Holland and discussed how impressed they were with their students. After a year and a half of silent students, seeing the students’ creative sides and hearing personal reflections on the pandemic was so enlightening for both teachers. The “I am” poem project gave both teachers insight into their students’ lives over the past year. Both teachers had been feeling distant from their students over the course of the pandemic, but this project allowed them to know their students on a personal level once again. Webster notes that after a year of non-stop discussion of learning loss, “[The students] will be okay. It will be okay.”

Heather Webster was the 2020 Lincoln County Teacher of the Year and a Maine teacher of the Year Finalist. Her podcast on the experience of the “I am” poem can be listened to below.

Non Fiction Final Project

This article was written by Maine DOE Intern Clio Bersani in collaboration with RSU 40 as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov

Build Community Through Writing – Summer Institute for Educators

The following opportunity is being hosted by The Telling Room as a resource for information and opportunities; is not an endorsement of any product or program.

Summer Institute for Educators 2021 seeks to build community through writing.

This year’s institute will take place from 6/28/21 – 6/30/2021. We will be running the Institute virtually over ZOOM.

Join us for three days to learn The Telling Room’s proven method for improving literacy skills while building confidence and a sense of community. We offer tools and techniques to teachers, artists, and nonprofit leaders in a professional development setting.

We gear our forum to educators who work with students 6-18, and seek deliverables that can be taken back to any community or student population.

Cost: $250 for full registration

What is included with registration:

  • Three days (10-3) of intensive workshops led by Telling Room staff & teaching artists. There will be a mix of presentations, small group work, and breaks throughout the day.

  • Opportunities to network with like-minded educators

  • Classroom-ready writing and publishing curricula

For more information and to register visit: https://www.tellingroom.org/program-reservations/summer-institute-for-educators-2021

MEDIA RELEASE: Commissioner Makin Celebrates Poetry Month with a Reading

Maine Department of Education (DOE) Commissioner Pender Makin has recorded and released a poetry reading and a special message to Maine’s education field today in celebration of National Poetry Month. The video is part of a month long effort by Governor Mills, Maine DOE, state partners, and schools across Maine to encourage poetry as an important resource in education and as a tool for reflection during this difficult time.

In the video, Commissioner Makin reads a short poem by Maine poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, followed by a poetic response that she wrote herself, and a message that, “no matter how busy you are, there is always time to pause and enjoy a poem.”

MEDIA RELEASE: Governor Mills Proclaims April 2021 as National Poetry Month

Governor Janet T. Mills has proclaimed April 2021 National Poetry Month in the State of Maine, marking the importance of poetry in education and the everyday lives of our citizens.

“National Poetry Month brings us together as readers and writers, whether at home, in classrooms, bookstores, or libraries throughout our nation,” said Governor Janet T. Mills as part of the official proclamation. “Poetry illuminates hope in our darkest hours, gives voice to our struggles, brings inspiration to our triumphs, and is a gift of expression that transcends our personal experience to unite us in words.”

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) joins Governor Mills and our partners throughout the state this month by promoting and participating in activities that support schools in using poetry as a tool and a topic for instruction.

“Poetry is often taught as a stand-alone unit of study, yet the power of poetry is in its versatility by virtue of form and precision, and could be included in every unit of study all year long,” said Morgan Dunton, Maine DOE English Language Arts Specialist. “Regular engagement with poems, long or short, contemporary or historical, provides an opportunity to better understand complex texts.”

With a theme of “Normalize Poetry in Your Classroom” the Maine DOE has collaborated on poetry themed events and opportunities in April including:

How We Do It: Inspiring Students to Write and Publish 
The Telling Room hosted a conversation with educators about their experience supporting and encouraging educators to write stories and poems. They discussed their recent collection of youth poems called, “A New Land” and share resources you can use in your classroom.  Download the collection here. Learn more and access their educator toolkit.

Spend an evening with Maine Poet Gary Lawless 
Hosted by the Maine Council of English Language Arts. Lawless is a poet who has authored 21 collections of poems. He is also the co-owner of Gulf of Maine Books, a book editor, and publisher. Thursday, April 8th, 7pm: Click here to register.

Normalize Poetry: Teach Poetry in Every Unit 
Many of us teach a poetry unit each year, but that is just not enough. Poetry is a fabulous tool for teaching the fine art of language use in every instructional unit. Maine DOE ELA Specialist Morgan Dunton will demonstrate methods of teaching grammar, usage, mechanics, and appreciation of the poetic form to enhance reading, speaking, and writing skills. Thursday, April 15th, 3:30 pm. Click here to register.

In concluding the official proclamation, Governor Mills writes, “I urge all Maine citizens to celebrate the creativity of poets and the indelible marks their words leave upon the pages of our shared humanity by reading and writing poetry.”

Find additional information, events, and resources to celebrate and appreciate the beauty of poetry all month on the Maine DOE Website. For further questions about poetry in curriculum or the Department’s efforts for poetry month, please contact Maine DOE English Language Arts (ELA) Specialist Morgan Dunton at morgan.dunton@maine.gov.

Bangor High School Students Record Themselves Reading Aloud for Elementary School Remote Learners

Bangor High School Student Council members recorded a selection of the 2020-2021 nominee picture books for the annual Chickadee Awards. This project was completed for Bangor elementary children learning remotely so that they might hear and enjoy the read aloud books from home.

Learn more about the project and see the recorded readings here

Thank you to the Bangor High School students for sharing the love of reading with younger students!

Information for this article was provided by the Bangor School Department as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.