Maine Forest Collaborative Brings Together Rural Students for Resource-Based Educational Opportunity

Maine students from rural communities came to the Maine State Capitol last week as part of a unique learning opportunity offered by The Maine Forest Collaborative. The collaborative, created and administered by the Rural Aspirations Project, is a cooperative of rural schools embedded in forest industry communities in rural Maine, which aims to give students in rural communities the opportunity to develop deeper connections to their community through participating and contributing in ways that make it stronger.

In its first cohort, with around 30 students participating last week, there were students from Buckfield, Forest Hills, Jackman, and Greenville, and more on deck to start in the next semester. The learning opportunity provides students with a three-unit curriculum: Identifying Challenges, Rapid Prototyping Solutions, and Investigating Solutions. Grounded on the question, “How can we use natural resources to positively impact local communities,” the lesson invites students to work together to identify challenges that their community is facing, and then find solutions to those challenges by using resources available within the community.

The second unit, Rapid Prototyping Solutions, is what students were working on last week at the Maine State Capitol’s Fall of Flags. The location was chosen as a way to raise awareness about the project, but also to show participating students the impact they have on decision making at the State level, as they work among lawmakers and politicians who grapple with many of the same challenges and problem solving, whether they are rural and community-based or State level.

Students started the day by presenting the story of their community, with posters they made ahead of time. Their presentations included information about the geography of their community, the natural resources present, who they are, what is amazing about their community, their hopes and dreams, and questions they still have. After the presentations, they began working in groups to identify challenges, pick a challenge to work on, and brainstorm a solution to that challenge. Maine forest industry professionals were also present to help facilitate the group work and lend a helping-hand.  lending their years of work experience in Maine’s forest industry with Maine’s many natural resources.

Students left the State House last week with a deep appreciation for not only their own community, but for their rural neighbors was well. They also got to participate in an interdisciplinary, project-based learning experience that strengthens their connection to their own community and the State as a whole, and aims to tackle a community challenge that they care deeply about.

Following last week’s lesson, students will embark on unit three, which will identify the economic, environmental, and social impacts of the solution they came up with, and they will also make a plan to communicate the solution to the public.

For more information about the Maine Forest Collaborative, the curriculum, or how to participate in this unique learning opportunity, please contact the Rural Aspirations Project.

PRIORITY NOTICE: Seeking Public Comment on Health Education and Physical Education, Visual and Performing Arts, and World Languages Standards

As part of the scheduled periodic review of the Maine Learning Results, the Maine Department of Education is seeking public comments regarding the current health education and physical education, visual and performing arts, and world languages standards. Find links to each of the current standards below along with details for submitting comments.

Current Standards:

The standards review process opens with a public comment period and a public hearing, prior to the convening of steering committees who are charged with reviewing all submitted comments and with developing blueprints for the revision of the state standards in their assigned content area. Once the blueprints are created, writing teams, consisting of pk-12 teachers who represent Maine’s cultural and geographical diversity, will assemble to draft the standards revisions.

Anyone may speak at the public hearings, which will be live-streamed. People wishing to speak will be asked to sign in, and it will be helpful, but not mandatory, to provide a written copy of comments.

Public hearings will occur on October 23rd in room 103 at the Cross Building, 111 Sewell Street, Augusta, from 1-4pm. A link to the live-streamed hearings will be available prior to the public hearing.

Anyone unable to attend the public hearing may send written comments by 5 pm on November 8th, 2019. Written comments may be sent to Standards Review at sis.doe@maine.gov, or mailed to Beth Lambert, 23 SHS Station, Augusta, ME 04333.

Seeking Public Comment on Career and Technical Education Performance Indicators

In an effort to increase high quality CTE programs, Maine needs your input. The Maine Department of Education-Career and Technical Education Team has posted the proposed performance indicators for public comment as part of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act(Perkins V). The performance indicators,  referenced as Perkins V Accountability Measures, can be found on the DOE-CTE web site as well as a survey to allow for feedback.  These will be posted for 60 days to allow for public comment, after which recommendations will be reviewed by the CTE Team. For more information, contact Dwight Littlefield at dwight.littlefield@maine.gov.  

Meet the First Cohort of Maine’s Leadership Development Program 

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) recently launched a new leadership program called Maine’s Leadership Development Program (Maine LDP). The initiative aims to build and strengthen instructional leadership skills among Maine’s educational leaders at schools, districts, and across the state.  

A group of 18 education leaders in Maine, including superintendents, assistant superintendents, curriculum and instructional leaders, regional education leaders, Maine DOE staff, and other school and district level staff are among the first cohort of candidates on track to become certified trainers and facilitators of future cohorts. The names, pictures, and biographies of the group of Fellows in the 1st cohort of the Maine LPD can be found here. 

The Maine LDP is a partnership among the Maine DOE and its successful Transformation Leaders’ Network, along with the National Institute for School Leaders (NISL) and their nationally recognized Executive Development Program (EDP). NISL experts are delivering the Maine LDP curriculum and will provide additional training for Maine LDP facilitators. The cohort has already begun its trainings with a session about strategic thinking within systems, and high quality aligned instructional systems in classrooms, schools, and at the state level. The program is a full year commitment. 

LDP Fellow Al Pfeiffer, Superintendent of Vassalboro School Department, had this to say about the training so far, “ Some of the richest, most robust and rewarding professional learning that I have experienced in recent memory. Powerful readings, case studies reinforced with video snapshots, and engaging conversations have left me eager for the next session and future sessions over the coming year.” 

Paul Knowles, an educational leadership lecturer at the University of Maine and the UMaine Liaison to the Maine DOE for this initiative added that, “The University of Maine and the Educational Leadership Department are pleased to partner with the Department of Education for this important work. Personally, I am impressed with the caliber, diversity, passion, and commitment of the leaders participating in Maine’s Leadership Development Program.” 

Maine’s LDP is delivered through a blended learning model and includes study, inquiry, and hands-on activities with practical applications that meet the rigorous expectations for today’s educational leaders. Some graduates from this cohort will deliver the Maine LDP curriculum to future cohorts regionally.  The Department will be releasing an application for those interested in applying to be in the 2nd cohort of the LDP in March of 2020.

ECET2 in Maine: Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching!

In her opening remarks to the York and Downeast convenings of Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2), Maine Education Association (MEA) president Grace Leavitt told those assembled, “teaching is not a profession you leave at the door when the bell rings, it is always on your mind.” For the teachers packed into the Pratt & Whitney Building at York County Community College on August 7, and the Science Building at the University of Maine at Machias on August 15, summertime professional learning was certainly alive and well!

This summer marked the fifth anniversary of ECET2 in Maine and the first summer of regional Maine ECET2 convenings. Karen MacDonald and Jennifer Dorman (2014 & 2015 Maine Teachers of the Year) hosted the first ECET2 for 150 teachers at Colby College in August of 2015.

two educators posing together smiling
Karen MacDonald and Jennifer Dorman

MacDonald and Dorman wrote grants, sought sponsors, and spent countless hours (!!) handling the numerous logistics involved in planning and hosting a free, overnight conference for 150 Maine teachers. Why? They wanted to share the professional learning, leadership, and respect they experienced during their national Teacher of the Year travels with teachers here in Maine. They also wanted to highlight the role teacher leaders can play in our state. Dorman and MacDonald’s efforts were enthusiastically embraced by Maine teachers not only during that first summer, but in each subsequent year.  As rave reviews of ECET2 spread, more teachers joined the planning process, including Diana Allen (Sanford Schools) as another co-chair, and the conference became so popular there was not only a waitlist for attendees, but the number of presentation proposals exceeded the available session slots! These factors led to ECET2 branching out to the regional convenings that took place this summer.

Why is ECET2 so popular?  Let’s start with the title—this conference is all about celebrating effective teaching and teachers—and it is, from start to finish, put on by teachers for teachers.  It was born out of a desire to provide a forum for exceptional teachers to learn from one another and to celebrate the teaching profession, and seeks to realize a teacher’s potential by ensuring each convening includes these six elements:

  • Nurtures trust among teachers
  • Focuses on each teacher’s potential for growth
  • Inspires both the intellect and the passion that drives teachers in their work
  • Provides time for collaboration and learning
  • Puts teachers in the lead
  • Recognizes teachers as talented professionals

Inspired from their own experiences at ECET2, Pamela Starkey (Marshwood Great Works School, 2016 Oxford County Teacher of the Year), and Devan Weber (Eliot Elementary School) co-chaired ECET2 York, and Marielle Edgecomb (Peninsula School, 2017 Hancock County Teacher of the Year) chaired ECET2 Downeast. Both convenings featured breakout sessions on best teaching practices in content areas, as well as sessions on social-emotional learning and mindfulness in the classroom. Teacher leadership and innovation were embedded throughout the gatherings. Keeping in mind the importance of collaboration, inspiration, and celebration, the convenings also included these components:

Cultivating the Calling:

These inspirational talks are given by teachers on why they chose to teach, or what inspires them to continue teaching. In York, Katie Toothaker, 2018 Androscoggin Teacher of the Year, told the audience, “each school year is a new beginning for you and your students.” Toothaker shared how her teachers demonstrated the ability of public educators to nurture self-worth in their students and the difference that made for her and how she pays that forward with her own students. Teresa Gaetjens, National Board Certified Teacher, shared the importance of growth mindset, contextualizing her topic around the passing of her young daughter. This heart-wrenching story underscored the importance of perseverance both in and out of the classroom. At ECET2 Downeast, Marielle Edgecomb shared the importance of professional learning –teacher to teacher—being brave enough to open our classroom doors and teaching practices for others to see, learn from, and celebrate. Marielle challenged educators to see their students and colleagues through “eyes of appreciation.”

Colleague Circles:

This is a dedicated time for teachers to collaborate on “problems of practice” and generate possible solutions. Topics this year included: teacher shortages, school improvement, mental and physical wellness, school safety, diversity, and culturally responsive teaching. In York, teachers recorded goals or action steps on a post card and gave them to the ECET2 organizers, with the understanding that they will receive them in the mail sometime this fall as a reminder/check-in on their summer work and goals.

Educator Shark Tank—a fabulous idea that was shared from another state’s ECET2!

Just like on TV—except the prize money, $1000 generously donated by the Maine Education Association, was awarded to two innovative education projects that will positively impact student learning. Educators at ECET2 Downeast submitted many compelling proposals to the Sharks, four of which made the final round. The four finalists had three minutes each to present their best “pitch” to the Sharks. After a lively round of presentations and lots of laugher, followed by clarifying questions from the Sharks, the two $500 cash awards went to the Rose Gaffney School for their proposal to use technology to increase community and collaboration, and the Brooklin School for their work on diversity and literacy. Congratulations to all who submitted proposals—the Sharks had a tough task choosing just two!

The verdict is in on the first summer of regional ECET2 convenings: resounding success! As with their central Maine ECET2 predecessors, the regional convenings provided a platform for optimistic and personal professional learning—and a true celebration of teachers and the teaching profession! As teachers were preparing to leave, many of their comments echoed Paula Bourque’s (Instructional Coach, NBCT, Augusta Schools) reflection of her ECET2 experience:

“Each of us left the conference feeling inspired, empowered, and connected.  We are charged with going out and sharing what we experienced and learned with our colleagues and cultivating the calling of teacher leadership. We left with a stronger network to lean on and collaborate with as we navigate the challenges of teaching. We are dedicated to promoting teacher leadership, positive school culture, and the advocacy for what is best for our students.”

ECET2: A perfect way for educators to recharge in preparation for a new school year!

ECET2 origin and resources: https://www.teacher2teacher.education/ecet2/