The 2019 County Teachers of the Year and the 2020 State Teacher of the Year met with the Legislative Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs last week. An annual event of the Maine State Teacher of the Year Program, the educators spent over an hour discussing relevant topics from their region with Maine legislators.
Pictured above: Senator Rebecca Millett, Representative David McCrea, Representative Jan Dodge, Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year Shawn Rice, Representative Victoria Kornfield, Piscataquis County Teacher of the Year Bobbi Tardiff, Aroostook County Teacher of the Year Kim Barnes (back), Washington County Teacher of the Year Jeanna Carver (front), 2020 Teacher of the Year Heather Whitaker, Franklin County Teacher of the Year Rob Taylor (back), Penobscot County Teacher of the Year Tracy Deschaine (front), Kennebec County Teacher of the Year Emily Bowen, Somerset County Teacher of the Year Kathy Bertini, York County Teacher of the Year Ethel Atkinson, Representative Henry Ingwersen, and Representative Dick Farnsworth.
Prior to meeting with Committee members, the teachers had the opportunity to meet briefly with Commissioner Makin, Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta, and other representatives from the Maine DOE for an informal conversation about issues and successes in each of their regions.
Piscataquis County Teacher of the Year Bobbi Tardiff, Maine DOE Teacher Effectiveness Coordinator Emily Doughty, Penobscot County Teacher of the Year Tracy Deschaine, Somerset County Teacher of the Year Kathy Bertini, Kennebec County Teacher of the Year Emily Bowen, Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year Shawn Rice, DOE Commissioner Pender Makin, 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year Heather Whitaker, Washington County Teacher of the Year Jeanna Carver, Aroostook County Teacher of the Year Kim Barnes, York County Teacher of the Year Ethel Atkinson, Franklin County Teacher of the Year Rob Taylor, Maine DOE Chief of Staff and Operations Jessica Nixon, Maine DOE Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta
Legislators began the meeting by expressing their gratitude to the teachers for the work they do and for making time to share their thoughts at the session. Representative Kornfeild told the teachers, “we have been anticipating this meeting all day!”
The first topic the committee members asked about is the teacher shortage that has impacted many areas of Maine, a topic that has also been widely discussed at the state level. The panel was ready and willing to share their take and provide advice on ways to recruit more educators, which included alternative certification pathways and early college options for students.
Topics discussed by the educators ranged from National Board Certification for educators to STEM opportunities, technology integration in the classroom, and earlier pathways to Career and Technical Education for students. By far the most talked about topic in the meeting was the need for more mental health supports for students at school.
The meeting ended with a group picture and much gratitude from both sides of the horseshoe for the opportunity to meet and talk about important education issues.
Some of the teachers shared their thoughts about the experience:
“Meeting with the Education & Cultural Affairs Committee allowed me the chance to share my hopes for attracting talented graduates into the profession of Maine educators. This powerful experience allowed me to be ‘heard’ and advocate for what’s best for our Maine students and those in the teaching profession.” – Kathy Bertini, Somerset County Teacher of the Year and Science Teacher at Madison Junior High School.
“One of the best parts of the journey as a County Teacher of the Year are the opportunities to speak up and advocate for our profession, for our colleagues, and for our students. Meeting with the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee provided an opportunity to use our teacher voices, to learn more about the influential leaders in our state, and personally thank them for advocating change in our educational system and the support they offer teachers in inspiring Maine’s future generations.” – Tracy Deschaine, Penobscot County Teacher of the Year and Orono Middle School Math and Science Teacher.
“The experience was inspiring and affirmed for me the power and importance of
educational advocacy at the state level. It also illustrated the fact that many of what we might see as our specific local needs echo concerns shared in communities across the state. While our experience represents an annual invitation for CTOYs to share our stories, the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee made an impassioned plea to encourage all educators to extend our advocacy beyond our own districts in order to advocate for all Maine students; Maine teachers have authentic voices that can positively
impact educational policy and benefit our students.” – Shawn Rice, 2019 Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year and Dept Head, Fine Arts at Edward Little High School
“A critical and empowering component of the Maine Teacher of the Year and Maine County Teacher of the Year program is mentoring and providing teacher leaders in the state of Maine with opportunities to advocate on behalf of public education. Over the past two weeks, the 2019 County Teacher of the Year cohort had the incredible opportunity to speak with both Senator King’s Senior Education Staff and the Maine Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. The collective experience and wisdom in this group is inspiring!” – Heather Whitaker, 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year, 2019 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, and Gorham Middle School Alternative Education Teacher.