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

Huge Increase in Independent Capstones at Portland High School During Unique School Year

This year, many Portland High School seniors took on unique independent projects as their senior capstone. Projects included building an artist’s shed, building a smoker, art work, career research, building a guitar, making electronic music, and researching topics such as Buddhism, reading and mental health, preparing for the Navy, lobstering and African clothing. 

Capstone requirements include student choice and research. Most students complete their capstone through a class, but some students design their own independent projects. In a typical year, there may be two or three students who take on an independent capstone, but this year over twenty students designed their own project. Independent capstones help students to explore a particular passion.

Skye Ferris, who made a series of portraits of friends and family reflects, “My advice for next year’s students is to choose a project that you are actually excited to complete, as I found my own process very enjoyable and it was something I had wanted to do for some time.”

Elias Parker who worked with two other students to help build an artist’s shed said, “ I am most proud of the seemingly far-fetched idea we had, and our ability to follow through and not sacrifice any magnificence nor quality in our project.”  When asked about advice he would give other students, Eli shared “GO BIG, you’ll be proud of yourself”

This large increase is likely due to the fact that the pandemic allowed for more independent learning, time to explore personal interests, and flexible time in which to do the projects. Hopefully this is a start to many meaningful independent projects in the future!

Information for this article was provided by Portland Public Schools 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.

How “Time Flies” at Bangor High School’s Visual and Performing Arts Academy

As part of Bangor educator Eric Hutchins’ Graphic Design class, the students learn how art is used in everyday life, especially how it plays an such a big role in the commercial world today.

Serving as the second class for students focusing on a graphic art pathway that is frequently taken by students in the Visual and Performing Arts Academy (VPA) program at Bangor High School, the students focus on how to use computer software to create interesting works of art. As a start they learn about the importance of text in graphic art, how it can be used, and why just choosing any font is not the right thing to do.

“The images you see are examples of their first text project in the class where students chose statements that are considered ‘cliche’ and then they recreate them visually only using text,” explains Hutchins.

Over the course of the semester students recreate a package for a product. They measure the packaging, create a template, and then create the imagery and designs for the product. They also create business cards, book jackets, album covers, board game designs and movie posters over the course of the class.

“This is a unique class because it teaches students the importance of art in our society, and that a graphic designer’s artwork is everywhere,” added Hutchins.

Students that take the graphic arts pathway at Bangor High School’s VPA Academy traditionally take photography, digital art, graphic design and then their senior year take Advanced Placement 2D Design and submit a portfolio to be graded for college credit.

Information for this article was provided by the Bangor School Department as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. The Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign is an avenue for Maine schools to celebrate successes and share innovative ideas, practices, and models that can be adapted and easily implemented by other Maine schools. Stories are not an endorsement of specific materials, services, or practices and are not intended to promote learning programs that are of cost to students, families, or schools. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov. 

MEDIA RELEASE: Nine Additional Maine Educators Join Maine Kids Rock Initiative for 2021-2022 School Year

The Maine Kids Rock Initiative, a statewide program that offers professional training to teachers as well as grants for instruments and equipment to schools with identified needs, enters its fifth year (2021-2022) with the addition of the following educators to its roster:

  • Lanissa Nadeau (Brewer Community School)
  • Neil James (Geiger Elementary/Lewiston Middle School)
  • Bridget Kazukiewicz (King Middle School, Portland)
  • Joshua Lund (Benton Elementary School)
  • Michelle Biddlecom (Winthrop Grade School)
  • Brittany Elwell (Carmel Elementary/Suzanne Smith Elementary/Caravel Middle Schools)
  • Thomas Stott (Beech Hill School, Otis)
  • Oren Robinson (Palermo Consolidated, Windsor Elementary Schools)
  • Nadine Baker (Rose M. Gaffney/Machias Memorial High School)

These teachers join the ranks of nearly 70 additional teachers across Maine who utilize the Modern Band approach to music education with nearly 1,500 students at all grade levels.

“My administrators and I are very excited to bring music into the 21st century for our students,” said Joshua Lund, general music educator. “At Benton Elementary, we are planning to integrate MKR into the general music class experience as well as starting new co-curricular ensembles. The training, resources, and equipment provided through Maine Kids Rock are sure to help transform what music can be for the students in my school!”

The Maine Kids Rock initiative continues as a partnership between the Maine Department of Education and the national non-profit organization Little Kids Rock.

“We’re thrilled to continue to grow Maine Kids Rock, bring more music education to Maine, and reach even more kids by using the music they know and love,” said Miranda Altman, Senior Director of Program Operations for Little Kids Rock. “We are incredibly grateful to the teachers of this initiative as we enter our fifth year. Welcome to the nine teachers that are newly joining this program!”

Throughout the year these teachers will receive free professional development opportunities, and their schools will receive a set of classroom “rock band”-style instruments for students to use as they explore music education through a modern music lens.  Learning opportunities for students go beyond just learning to play a guitar or drums; they also explore songwriting, the development of interpersonal skills, and boost self-confidence as performers.

For more information about the Maine Kids Rock Initiative through the Maine Department of Education, please contact Visual and Performing Arts Content Specialist Jason Anderson.

Bangor City Hall Student Art Show Goes Virtual

Bangor City Hall is home to four bulletin boards where art created in the Bangor School classrooms is displayed. With limited access to City Hall due to COVID-19 health and safety precautions, the district sought to provide a way to continue to share the great work that their students created by doing a video art show this year. The video allows the community to continue enjoying the student work virtually.

Information for this article was provided by 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.