Education Commissioner Makin Visits Katahdin Elementary School and Explores Outdoor Learning Spaces

Education Commissioner Pender Makin visited Katahdin Elementary School this week to meet with students and staff and experience the growing outdoor learning opportunities at the school.

Commissioner Makin was joined by Superintendent and Katahdin Elementary School Principal Dr. Marie Robinson, who proudly introduced her staff, many of whom are graduates of the Katahdin schools. The sense of pride and community was evident throughout the building, as well as the commitment to a supportive and fun learning environment. Ms. Jaide Berry joined on the tour of the school and talked about the ways in which she uses the outdoor spaces to connect with students as part of their social and emotional skill building activities. Katahdin Elementary School has created a space where students and staff learn about restorative justice practices, including understanding how the brain works, and how to communicate effectively as valued members of the school and classroom communities.

As she greeted pre-k students on their way into afternoon classes, and learned about another class’ outdoor investigation to find signs of spring, Commissioner Makin had the privilege to thank the teachers of Katahdin Elementary School for all of their hard work and dedication to their students. After a quick tour inside, it was time to put on snowshoes and head out to investigate the amazing learning spaces on campus. The school has snowshoes, skis, and a clothing supply closet that students can access, ensuring that with the right gear, all weather is good weather for learning!

Joined by grade 2 student Bentley and grade 5 student Abbie, Commissioner Makin got to check out outdoor learning spaces, including a shelter built by grade 5 students with the volunteer assistance of a school board member, who used his military training to design a cozy and dry space, and a pond where a game camera caught the exciting adventures of a beaver family and their hut.

With a commitment that began in 2016 to getting students outdoors more, Katahdin Elementary School has developed a campus with trails, a weather station, raised garden beds, and even their own apple orchard. As schools shifted to outdoor learning spaces over the past two years as a prevention method for the spread of COVID-19, the school expanded their own offerings, and used federal relief funds to build large outdoor learning pavilions, and RREV (Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures) funds received through the Maine Department of Education for other outdoor spaces.

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso Participates in Read to ME Challenge

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso recently took part in the Read to ME Challenge by reading Poppy by the author Avi to Mrs. Perkins’ fourth grade class at Canal Elementary School. Following the reading, Camuso and the students learned about and dissected owl pellets.

Maine’s Read to ME Challenge is a month-long campaign every February to promote the importance of literacy for all of Maine’s students, regardless of age. In its seventh year, the campaign sponsored by the Maine Department of Education encourages adults to read to children for 15 minutes, capture that moment via a photo or a video, post it to social media using the hashtag #ReadtoME, and challenge others to do the same.

There’s still plenty of time to join the Read to ME Challenge and February break is the perfect opportunity to grab one of your favorite stories and read to a child in your life.

Schools, families, and community organizations can find a Read to ME toolkit and resources on the Department of Education website and the Department continues to share videos, photos, and updates from the Challenge all month long on social media.

Reminder: Pre-K for ME and K for ME Program Summer Training Opportunities

Since 2018, the Maine Department of Education has adapted and piloted open-source Pre-k and Kindergarten programs based on the Boston Public School’s evidence-based Focus on K1 and Focus on K2 curricula. Our own Pre-K for ME was launched in 2019.  K for ME will be launched in August of 2021.  These programs focus on the whole child and are interdisciplinary and developmentally appropriate.  They are also aligned to Maine’s learning standards.  While Maine schools are responsible for the purchase of the materials that support the programs, the programs can be accessed at no cost via the Maine DOE’s website.  Informational overviews for each of the programs available through the following links:

Pre-K for ME Informational Overview

K for ME Informational Overview

Educators/schools/programs interested in utilizing Pre-K for ME and/or K for ME in the coming year may want to take advantage of 2-day initial trainings scheduled for this August.  These trainings are provided to promote understanding of program design and to support successful program implementation.  School administrators are strongly encouraged to attend the trainings with their Pre-K and/or Kindergarten teachers.

This year’s training opportunities will be held virtually from 8:30-3:30 on August 9 and 10 for Pre-K for ME and on August 11 and 12 for K for ME.  Registration for these trainings should be completed at the school/program level.  Principals and educators should complete one registration on behalf of their school/program.  Details about how to prepare for the trainings and the materials needed to support the programs will be provided via email after registrations are received. Registrations for the 2-day training should be received by June 30, 2021.

Registration Links:

Pre-K for ME 2-day Training Registration (August 9-10)

K for ME 2-day Training Registration (August 11-12)

For additional information about Pre-K for ME, contact Nicole.Madore@maine.gov, and for K for ME, contact Leeann.Larsen@maine.gov.

Free Inclusive Practices Training & Technical Assistance for Public Preschool Programs

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is pleased to announce a professional development opportunity designed specifically for Public Preschool Programs. This initiative will support a third cohort of public preschool educators and administrators in providing inclusive practices within high quality preschool environments for 4-year-olds.

This offering is available to any district in Maine with a Public Preschool Program. The 2021 cohort will consist of 3 classrooms of 6 participants each. Teams must include the preschool teacher, ed tech, principal, special ed director, elementary special ed teacher and a regional CDS consultant or teacher. The purpose of team participation is to ensure consistent understanding and application of the course content so that high quality inclusive practices will be supported and sustained.

The DOE Inclusive Initiative is a collaboration with Child Development Services (CDS) and Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network (MRTQ PDN), a University of Maine System partnership between University of Southern Maine (USM) and University of Maine (UMaine).  The partnership includes the University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies (CCIDS) which has expertise in providing training and technical assistance around inclusion, equity and access.

The project faculty will deliver a continuum of learning and support activities through a blended learning model that equips teams to learn about, reflect on, practice and apply the information and strategies to build and strengthen instructional practices that promote high quality preschool environments. Each team will participate in and have access to:

  • Online training covering a range of topics with the objective of helping early educators develop a deeper understanding of how to promote inclusion in the classroom.
  • Consultation to expand on the training content and use the materials to personalize learning within your own setting.
  • A facilitated professional learning community (PLC) with other peers as “thinking partners” to share and explore topics and application strategies.
  • A suite of resources and tools to support this work.

Benefits of Participation for Maine Schools

Opportunities for administrators, teachers, educational technicians and CDS staff to:

  • Devote dedicated time as a team to focus on preschool pedagogy.
  • Develop a shared understanding of the components of high quality inclusive preschool classrooms.
  • Identify, plan and work toward a common goal to continue to support equity and excellence.
  • Gain access to other early care and education professional development opportunities.
  • Enhance teacher recruitment, retention and quality.
  • Receive certificates of contact hours which support certification renewal and/or local professional development requirements.

Please visit here to hear from past participants about their experiences in this initiative.

An informational lunch and learn meeting is scheduled for Monday May 17, 2021 at 11:15-12:15. Pre-registration is required and available here. A recording of this session will be made available for future viewing here.

Districts are asked to apply by June 4, 2021 to take advantage of this exciting professional development opportunity.  Notifications of acceptance will be provided by June 10, 2021.The tentative timeline of project requirements is outlined in the table below.

The project requirements include: Projected timeline:
Completing the On-demand training: Inclusive Environments in Public Pre-K. By August 18, 2021.
Participate in a half-day virtual orientation session. Mid-August 2021
Completing an 18 hour online training: Creating Inclusive Preschool Settings Classrooms. September-November 2021
Participate in 2 PLC’s scheduled as follow-up support during the online training. October 2021
Participate in consultation*
It may be necessary to align class coverage on the days of consultation for some period of time.*

  • 2 (1-2 hour) classroom based consultations (onsite or technology-based).
  • 2 (1-2 hour) administrative consultation (onsite or technology based)
October-November 2021
Participate in a wrap up meeting hosted by the DOE to evaluate the project and short district team presentations to showcase your learning. December 2021

The complete application is available at this link.

You may access this PDF version to preview the application prior to completing.

For more information, view the FAQ  or contact

Nicole Madore at Nicole.madore@maine.gov or

Marcy Whitcomb at Marcy.r.whitcomb@maine.gov

Thoughts from a Virtual Session with 2020 National Teacher of the Year Tabatha Rosproy

On Wednesday, December 2, 2020, the Maine Department of Education welcomed 2020 National Teacher of the Year Tabatha Rosproy for a virtual question and answer session with Maine educators. Joining from her home in Kansas, Tabatha introduced herself and greeted a group of early childhood educators from the public, private, and special education sectors in Maine and beyond.

Ms. Rosproy spent the one-hour session discussing early childhood topics of interest in Maine, as well as responding to questions from participants. Tabatha’s honesty and passion for the field was evident through her down-to-earth and personable demeanor with session participants. By the end of the hour, it was apparent that Maine and Kansas aren’t all that different. And, although early childhood education has gained some traction nationally, there is still room for growth.

Key takeaways from the session included the value in making connections with colleagues and families, promoting classroom inclusion, and growing school leadership. Tabatha also emphasized the importance of early childhood educators “bring(ing) their seats to the table.” She encouraged each educator to, “Be an advocate for your students and get involved in your classroom, school, district and state.” She went on to inspire educators to think of leadership as an “activity, not a position.” Tabatha suggested it takes courage to do the right thing but that educators should feel empowered to be advocates, not reliant on individuals in positions of power. She also reminded participants that early childhood is not just the early grades of public school, but birth through eight years old. This time in a child’s development is critical and special. and they need a whole system of supporters, not just teachers.

When interacting with families, Tabatha shared that engagement and communication are crucial to building positive relationships and learning atmospheres. “Think of it like a bank account, you make deposits and withdrawals. The deposits are those positive daily comments about each child. The withdrawals are the occasional conversations of concern and goals for growth. Let’s make regular deposits!”

By the end of the hour, participants were thankful for Tabatha’s insights. While Tabatha has many doors open for her now, she shared she “has a hard time not seeing herself in the Pre-K classroom.” When asked what final advice she has for early childhood educators, she responded, “Keep speaking up! In some way, keep using your voice.”

For more information about Tabatha Rosproy and CCSSO’s National of Teacher of the Year Program, visit https://ntoy.ccsso.org/. You can also follow Tabatha on social media at: @NTOY20 on Facebook, @NTOY2020 on Instagram, and @TabathaRosproy on Twitter.

Any questions or comments about this opportunity can be directed to Nicole.madore@maine.gov.