Old Town Elementary Hallway of Flags Celebrates Diverse School Community

A few years ago Old Town Elementary School (OTES) reflected on their school’s role in expanding the experiences and perspectives of the students and staff in the school. They realized they had an obligation to make the community aware of the diverse cultures and countries entering through their doors each day and to create a welcoming environment for all people at OTES. With the University of Maine as the school’s neighbor, they often receive students from the University because parents are finishing their degrees or are professors.

OTES decided to put a flag up for every country represented at the school to welcome families and teach their students about the various cultures represented at the school with each of these new community members. As a result, OTES families coming to the school building feel immediately welcomed by the gesture of seeing their native country flying in the hallways of the school.

“Students and staff are so excited about another country joining this hall of flags and getting to know about the country,” said OTES Principal Jeanna Tuell. “We have found more opportunities to make connections with other countries and to celebrate our diversity.”

Book Study – Finding Your Blind Spots: 8 Guiding Principles for Overcoming Implicit Bias in Teaching

Join the Maine Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of School and Student Supports (O3S) as they read and reflect on Finding Your Blind Spots: 8 Guiding Principles for Overcoming Implicit Bias in Teaching, by Hedreich Nichols. Members of the Maine DOE not only introduced this book study to participants at the Educator’s Summit in early August, but they also introduced participants to the author! Hedreich Nichols is an educator, writer, and passionate advocate who is sharing her lived experiences with readers and participants of this book study so that we can be reflective practitioners and can truly understand bias. You can also find her work at #Smallbites.  The O3S first heard Nichols’ work on Jennifer Gonzalez’s podcast: Uncovering Your Implicit Biases: An Exercise for Teachers | Cult of Pedagogy.

This opportunity is open to all Maine educational personnel.  Sessions are being held on Thursdays – either at 3:30 in the afternoon or 7:00 in the evening.  Participants are welcome to join for both!  October 6th is our first offering, and we will be reflecting on chapters 1-3.

Check out the authors website to learn more about the book. For any questions about this opportunity, please direct those to O3S Director Julie Smyth at julie.a.smyth@maine.gov.

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated each year from September 15 to October 15 across the nation. The month is a time to honor Hispanic heritage by celebrating the histories, cultures, languages, and the remarkable contributions of Hispanic people to the fabric of the United States, whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. It is also a time to revisit ways to integrate diverse cultural material into education lessons all year long.

Here are some educational resources that can be used by schools to honor, recognize, and teach students about Hispanic heritage:

For further resources and information about integrating diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experiences into classroom lessons, please visit the Maine Department of Education’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion webpage.

Free Viewing of ‘Truth Tellers’ Documentary on Racial Equity, Climate Justice, and Indigenous Rights; Follow-up Conference Scheduled for 11/5

All Maine educators and pre-service teachers are invited to view, “Truth Tellers” a film chronicling the lives of courageous Americans fighting for racial equity, climate justice, and indigenous rights through the eyes of Robert Shetterly, a long-time activist, and Maine artist. Truth Tellers is both a story of Shetterly’s art and activism and a history lesson in what it means to be a citizen of a democracy. The film will be available for viewing on August 16th and 17th from the comfort of your own home.

There will be a follow-up conference on Saturday, November 5th, focusing on how all disciplines can bring this important work to students. Attendance at the November 5th workshop is encouraged but not required.

This FREE opportunity is sponsored by Maine County and State Teachers of the Year Association, Maine Math and Science Alliance, Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership, and Maine Art Education Association.

For access to this documentary, please register here. The link to view the film will be sent on Monday, August 15th.

Bangor High School Civil Rights Team Creates Calendars to help Celebrate Diverse History and Culture 

Bangor High School’s Civil Rights Team has been hard at work this year, collecting materials to help their community celebrate African American History Month, Women’s History Month, and beyond. They recently created several calendars of content, including picture book read aloud stories to help elevate and celebrate diverse stories and cultures.  

To put the calendars together, the group researched other calendars featuring content relating to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion and content that would align to the mission of the Civil Rights Team Project 

“When it came to the ‘Celebrating Black Stories’ calendar, we looked specifically for videos featuring the author or illustrator doing the read aloud as a way of preserving authenticity,” said Stephanie Hendrix, English Teacher and the Civil Rights Team Advisor at Bangor High School. “We also looked at a number of different book lists for recommendations, and we paid close attention to the Coretta Scott King award winners.” 

The information was collected from various sources in the hopes of creating resources that are user friendly for teachers and students in their school community, to help them think and talk about issues related to race and skin color, national origin and ancestry, disability, and gender. 

Here are a few of the February and March calendars but the group has calendars for the other months as well: 

PDF versions of the calendars and other relevant activates to help celebrate:

“The students on my team and I understand how important it is that everyone feels safe and welcome in our school community, and one way we can help people feel not only included, but also celebrated, is by finding opportunities for them to be seen – whether through the stories we read and bring into the classroom, the poems we share that speak to the human experience, or the calendar events that help us understand that our normal may not be everyone else’s normal,” said Hendrix. “Ultimately, we don’t know what we don’t know, and the research that the Civil Rights Team has been doing to collect and curate these materials has helped us all learn more about just how diverse our school community is and just how important it is to see and celebrate everyone’s complex humanity.” 

To learn more about starting a Civil Rights Team in a Maine school, visit the Maine Attorney General’s website or reach out to Project Director Brandon Baldwin at brandon.baldwin@maine.gov or sign up for their newsletter To get copies of the other calendars, reach out to Stephanie Hendrix at shendrix@bangorschools.net.