Husson OT Graduate Student Creates Sensory Path for Students at W.G. Mallett Elementary School in RSU 9

Submitted by Courtney Ross, Occupational Therapy Graduate Student at Husson University.

I recently finished my last clinical fieldwork rotation for my master’s degree, in Mt. Blue School District, RSU 9. I have always thoroughly enjoyed all of my pediatric fieldwork placements especially since my goal is to one day be a certified pediatric occupational therapist, but this one was especially rewarding for me. Prior to going into the school system, I believed that school based OT focused more on daily living skills and basic fine motor components, however I recent found that it is so much more. I was able to learn and implement reflex integration activities, visual processing, and emotional regulation activities, as well as fine motor adaptations and programs, all to increase performance and allow for a student to be successful in the classroom.

A majority of my time throughout the week was spent at W.G. Mallett Elementary School, in downtown Farmington, which educates pre-k through 2nd grade. About half-way through my time there, my clinical instructor, Christine Libby and I were approached by literacy teacher Vicki Foster, Principal Tracy Williams, and all the Kindergarten teachers about an idea for a sensory path in the hallway. Sensory paths have become very prevalent recently, however they can be extremely pricey – in some cases estimated at $2,500. A price like that can be extremely difficult for schools to afford, especially rural Maine schools. However, I knew that we could do it at a much lower cost using resources of my own and contributions from Principal Tracy Williams. Teachers from the school came up with theme they wanted; a Maine theme. We began the work from there, incorporating how the activities can target specific OT-related tasks, and still seem fun for the students.

Collectively the project took about 30 hours total designing the project on my design program, preparing the materials, and then Christine, my instructor and I installing the path in a 38 foot long hallway, down and back for a total of 76 feet of path. I was able to integrate not only my OT knowledge that I have spent the past 5 years gaining, but also my hobby of crafting and creating things which made this project so rewarding for me. I am so grateful for the support that my supervisor provided throughout this project, giving insight on how certain activities not only target gross motor or sensory input, but also reflexes, because not all students have their primitive reflexes fully integrated which can cause a decrease in school performance and so many other aspects of their education process.

The following explains what the activities in the path target and how overall it can assist a student who is experiencing a period of disregulation within 3-5 minutes:

The design of this path was created to include crossing midline and preparing the visual system via the lazy eight and lobster backwards high fives. It incorporated learning the alphabet, shapes, numbers, and left to right body awareness skills. The vestibular system was engaged through hopping/spinning and the balance beam designed to encourage heel to toe walking. Coordination and motor planning were utilized as well, via the side stepping apples and hopscotch which also has been known to help dyslexia. Wall push ups throughout the path as well as the animal crawling were used for arm and shoulder strengthening, reflex integration skills, as well as deep proprioceptive input for the joints and muscles. The path ends with Yoga poses and belly breathing which are movements to help children re-organize and come back to class with a calm body.

I was able to observe and teach students how to use it during my last week in the school district, and it was amazing how well students responded and engaged to the pathway. My clinical instructor reported it is working really well at W.G. Mallett Elementary School and the students continue to use it every day between their classes or during their OT time throughout the week!

Below are more pictures of the sensory path:


Meet Emily Fitzsimmons, Culinary Arts Instructor at Coastal Washington County Institute of Technology.

Washington County Educator profile submitted by Sarah Woog from the The Washington County Consortium.

Emily is on the left, with a group of her students at a Culinary Arts competition in Portland over February break.

Emily and I had the opportunity over February break to sit down at Helen’s Restaurant in Machias to talk about her work, life, and all things in between. Thank you, Emily, for sharing a meal with me, and for all you do for Washington County students and communities.

Everyone should know Emily Fitzsimmons. Most of you probably already do. I realized this when we met for lunch at Helen’s and she personally greeted almost everyone we came across. And the restaurant was full.

Emily is currently the Culinary Instructor at the Coastal Washington County Institute of Technology, based out of Machias Memorial High School. She grew up in Jonesboro, graduated from Washington Academy, and has cooked in restaurants from Cutler to Jonesboro, beginning when she was 14 years old. She’s catered events all over the County, too, from weddings and baby showers, to professional development sessions throughout the year, and for Harvest of Ideas. Emily was also the food service director at Washington Academy, where she discovered her love for teaching her love, Culinary Arts.

Emily has a degree in Culinary Arts from Eastern Maine Community College and has commuted to Orono the past four years to become a certified culinary instructor. She recently completed her Praxis and her final class, joining the cadre of Washington County educators who have balanced work, family (Emily is married with five kids), long commutes, and longer hours of studying, to gain the knowledge and skills critical to providing opportunities for kids.

Emily talks about her program and students with infectious pride and enthusiasm: “To have a kid want to do what you’re passionate about is so refreshing … and for them to make a batch of cookies, eat, be proud their accomplishment, it’s awesome.” Emily also appreciates how Culinary Arts gives students opportunities to succeed. “It gives them a way to express themselves, to compete on a non-athletic level,” Emily noted.

Emily recently brought a group of students to a culinary competition in Portland, which I had the opportunity to check out. I admired the students’ organizational and time management skills, their precision, and their diligence. It occurred to me these are the habits of mind I had hoped to instill in my math students when I was in the classroom. I think it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate how Emily’s teaching, and vocational programming in general, can support students’ development and teach lessons that can feel so elusive in more traditional settings.

Emily and her work are wonderful examples of the impact vocational programming can have on students and their communities. Her love for her craft is infectious, and you can see her students have caught the bug. She’s also a lot of fun to be around. Just ask anyone at Helen’s.


Employee of the Week: Courtney Baehr

Maine DOE Certification Specialist Courtney Baehr is this week’s Employee of the Week! Learn a little bit more about Courtney in this brief question and answer:

What are your roles with DOE?

I work in the Certification office and ensure that all educators are properly credentialed. My main focus is to review the background checks of all applicants to ensure it falls within state and federal policies. I have performed all jobs in the certification office and continue to assist the office regarding rule changes, implementing policies and procedures, and assisting to create the new credentialing system that will help the field in processing their credentials.

What do you like best about your job?

Knowing that I am protecting students and helping the educators obtain their credentials. The certification process can be confusing at times, and I love to help the educators walk through the process and explain the rules and laws that are involved with obtaining their credentials. I feel like I’ve done my job for the day if I am able to help an educator understand the process and leave them with a better understanding of how the laws work for each endorsement we offer. I always like to hear the “Ah ha!” moment when an educator finally understands the process. It makes it a good day.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I kind of fell into the Department initially when I transferred from Maine Revenue Services in 2008. I started working in Certification as an office associate and worked my way up to my current position. I have a customer service and military background with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology from USM. Having spent 8 years in the US Coast Guard doing search and rescue and previous to that working in hotels for almost 10 years, my unique background not only helps me in my research performing background checks but also allows me to give the utmost customer service to the field. I’ve stayed in the office for so long because I truly believe in the effectiveness of the office and love that every day there is something new to learn.  As we’ve said for years, “there is never a dull moment in Certification”.

Maine Connections Academy Students Create Student Magazine

Magazine Cover for Maine Connections AcademySubmitted by John Spritz on behalf of Maine Connections Academy (MCA). 

Students who work with Mr. Chris Hoskins (a secondary English teacher) have published the school’s first student-written/student-designed magazine. It’s online of course, it’s called The Connector, and you can see it here.

The Connector has lots of links built into it, where students can access games, puzzles, study tips, movie reviews, and much more. It’s got articles on Maine ski destinations, study prep hints, favorite pets, and a lot more. For a school where students are in all 16 counties, where they see each other only on field trips and at graduation, The Connector is a brilliant way to bring people together and allow them to contribute and engage — online. And the fact that it’s student-built is what makes it all the better.

Monthly School Safety and Security Bulletin- April 2019

Throughout the 2018- 2019 school year, the Maine Department of Education, State Fire Marshal’s Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Maine State Police, Maine Sheriffs Association, Maine Chiefs of Police Association, and the Maine Emergency Management Agency will provide tips and resource information to Maine schools to help provide some guidance for identifying signs and preventing school violence.

School Safety and Security Bulletin  – March 2019

Further questions and inquiries can be send to Pat Hinckley, Maine DOE Transportation and Facilities Administrator at207-624-6886 or