WCC Washington County Educator Profile: Lynn Mitchell

Submitted by Sarah Woog from the The Washington County Consortium. 

Meet Lynn Mitchell, Passamaquoddy Culture and Language Teacher at Calais High School.

Have you ever considered learning Passamaquoddy? If you are not Native, does this question give you pause? Have you ever wondered if learning the Passamaquoddy language and culture is an endeavor you should or could have access to? According to Lynn Mitchell, yes and yes.

Lynn Mitchell is the Passamaquoddy Culture and Language teacher at Calais High School. She’s been teaching Passamaquoddy Culture and Language to Native and non-Native students at Calais for four years. Lynn believes her class bridges divides between Native and non-Native communities, creates a shared experience, and develops empathy and deepens ties between the communities. Lynn isn’t the only person at Calais High School who believes this. Her passion reverberates throughout the school.

Mary Anne Spearin, Principal at Calais High School, recommended I profile Lynn for this month’s newsletter. Mary Anne said, “Her love for all students became apparent during our Blue and White review when Lynn presented her academic awards. She became emotional when referring to the ever strengthening connection between the Calais High School students and staff and the Passamaquoddy culture, traditions, and language, stating it had been a long time coming.” In our divisive times, these connections are so important in our shared quest for a more kind and just world. And Lynn is building more connections, too.

Lynn recently visited a fifth grade classroom in Norridgewock, Maine. She arrived at 10:30 AM and spent the rest of the school day with the class. She taught the young people and teachers about her people, the First People, about their language and traditions, and their existence as people, not as caricatures or mascots. Lynn is clearly committed to creating bridges, and I admire the love with which she builds them.

Lynn teaches with love too. I asked her the best part of teaching and she didn’t miss a beat- the kids. She smiles when she talks about the games she uses to engage them, about the challenges of differentiation, about the student who told her he wanted to be a linguist because of her class. 

Lynn learns with love. She is finishing her coursework in Education at the University of Maine at Machias next year. She told me she’s grateful for the experience, is excited for the credential, but especially appreciates the knowledge and skills she is acquiring that supports her work in the classroom. She loved the coursework that taught her about unit design and lesson planning. Lynn has created the curriculum and content she is using in her classes. The frameworks and planning processes she’s learned have allowed her to offer a course that always has a waitlist.

Two more loves of Lynn: working at Maine Indian Education, and her husband, Dana Mitchell. Lynn is proud of her 32 years at Maine Indian Education. She and her husband were actually married at the Wabanaki Culture Center, where Maine Indian Education is located. Dana also works for Maine Indian Education, at Beatrice Rafferty School, and has his own illustrious career in service to Native students that would require another profile to do justice. Lynn loves that her husband “supports everything I do.” Knowing Dana and Lynn, his support of Lynn is unwavering, but it’s also worth noting that he supports the spirit of her work, and shares her passion for teaching, learning, and building community.

I’ll end here with a quote from Lynn: “It is a passion of mine to advocate for our beloved Passamaquoddy culture and language and to educate not only our children from the reservation, but all children.” Do you share Lynn’s passion for educating children? Do you want to provide your students with increased opportunities to authentically learn about  Passamaquoddy culture and language in your classroom? If so, reach out to Lynn (mrslynn.mitchell@gmail.com), and build another bridge together.

Student Written Song Brings Together Three Maine Communities

Submitted by Connie Carter, Operation Breaking Stereotypes.

Students from Indian Island School, Leonard Middle School, and Orono Middle School partnered with Operation Breaking Stereotypes to break stereotypes about the three communities and to work together to connect the towns in positive and productive ways. Their result was to write a song that connects the three communities and highlights positive aspects of each town. Their hope is that the song will inspire people to look beyond stereotypes to the power of working together.

Operation Breaking Stereotypes is a non-profit committed to facilitating the ongoing quest for knowledge and social justice through short-term exchanges between middle and high school students in Maine and New York City.


Employee of the Week: Trevor Burns

Student Data Coordinator, Trevor Burns is being highlighted this week as the Maine DOE’s Employee of the Week! Learn a little more about Trevor in this brief question and answer:

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the Student Data Coordinator. I maintain student enrollment information to make sure there are no data anomalies within the system as well as to ensure all is accurate and correct. I also handle some reports done by the field throughout the year. Some of those reports include Graduation reporting, Quarterly Attendance reporting, October EPS reporting and Adult Education EF-M-39.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy seeing and learning more about the school system I grew up in myself. I am learning lots of things about schools and districts that I had only heard about growing up through my district of RSU 57. I actually didn’t know where most districts were even located in the state prior to starting at the MDOE.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I had just graduated from the University of Farmington with a degree in Actuarial Science. Looking for an internship; I had signed up for the Margaret Chase Smith Internship program, where they had selected me for a Data Analyst role. After spending some time in the internship, I had learned that I really enjoyed working with Data. Actuaries are known to work with and around data similar to data analysts, but the data analyst role focuses more primarily on the things I like; Data.


Updated Maine DOE Home Instruction Portal Release  

In March of this year, the Department of Education (DOE) released the online Home Instruction Portal. Since then, home instruction parents all over the state have begun to utilize the new portal, and have reported that the new process is less burdensome than the former paper-only process, which required double-reporting and greater expense and time due to mailing and requesting proof of receipt.

Many have also provided valuable feedback about what was confusing, or concerning, from a parent perspective. As a result, the DOE revisited the online forms to make some technical improvements, and has released an updated Home Instruction Portal as of July 9, 2019. If you submitted your Notice for 2019-2020 prior to this date, please be assured that it is still properly filed, and there is no need to repeat the submission.

If you have not yet filed your Notice, please check out the updated online portal. Other ways to file include submitting the revised Notice of Intent to Provide Home Instruction, or other form or letter, to either the Superintendent of Schools in the public school administrative unit where you reside, or to the DOE. You no longer need to file paperwork in both places. You may provide Notice in a different format, provided it contains all required information:

  • Applicable School Year
  • Parent/Guardian Full Name
  • Physical Address, City, Zip Code; and Mailing Address (if different)
  • Child’s Full Name
  • Child’s Date of Birth
  • Indicate First or Subsequent Year of Home Instruction
  • Date Home Instruction Will Begin (if First Year)
  • Assurance (if First Year): FIRST YEAR HOME INSTRUCTION PARENT ASSURANCE :  The home instruction program will provide at least 175 days annually of instruction and will provide instruction in the following subject areas: English and language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education, health education, library skills, fine arts and, in at least one grade from grade 6 to 12, Maine studies. At one grade level from grade 7 to 12, the student will demonstrate proficiency in the use of computers. The home instruction program will include an annual assessment of the student’s academic progress that includes at least one of the forms of assessment described in 20-A M.R.S. § 5001-A (3)(A)(4)(b).
  • Prior Year Assessment (if Subsequent Year)
  • Statement of Intent to Continue Providing Home Instruction (if Subsequent Year): SUBSEQUENT YEAR HOME INSTRUCTION PARENT STATEMENT: I intend to continue providing home instruction and enclose the prior year annual assessment of the student’s academic progress as outlined in 20-A M.R.S. 5001-A(3)(A)(4)(b).
  • Signature
  • Date of Signature
  • A valid email address if parent would like an acknowledgment

As a reminder, the updated process will allow parents to provide first/subsequent year notice “simultaneously to the school officials of the administrative unit in which the student resides and to the commissioner” in one of three ways:

  1. Enter information once annually directly on the new Home Instruction Portal, uploading any required prior year assessment information;
  2. Complete the form or letter on paper once annually and take it, with any required prior year assessments, to the resident superintendent’s office; or
  3. Complete the paper form or other form/letter once annually and mail it with any required prior year assessments to the Department of Education or to the Superintendent’s Office.

Submission using any of the methods described will result in the automatic generation of an acknowledgment to the parent/guardian via email, provided a valid email address is provided.

More information is available at https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/schoolops/homeinstruction.

Please direct any questions or concerns to Pamela Ford-Taylor at pamela.ford-taylor@maine.gov or 207-624-6617.

Casco Bay High School Students Named BOA Student Leaders

Submitted by Tess Nacelewicz, Communications Coordinator, Portland Public Schools.

Pictured (from left) are Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana; Casco Bay High School students and BOA Student Leaders Imti Hassan and Gabriel Gomez; BOA representatives Rose Parsons and Bill Williamson; and Portland Board of Public Education Chair Roberto Rodriquez.

Two students from Casco Bay High School have been named 2019 Bank of America (BOA) Student Leaders: Gabriel Gomez and Imti Hassan. The BOA Student Leaders program helps connect community-minded high school students to jobs, skills development, and service.

The students were honored by the Portland Board of Public Education and Superintendent Xavier Botana at the Board’s June 18 meeting.

The Bank of America Student Leaders Program is a paid eight-week Internship and leadership Conference program fully funded by Bank of America. In 2019, BOA has increased the hourly pay from $10 to $15 per hour.

BOA Student Leaders participate in paid internships at a local nonprofit organization where they learn firsthand about the needs of the community and the critical role nonprofits play. BOA Student Leaders learn valuable civic, social and business leadership skills. In addition to the paid internship, each BOA Student Leader will attend the Student Leader Summit held in Washington, D.C. where they will explore how government,business and the nonprofit sectors work to address critical community needs.

Gabriel Gomez, who will be a senior at CBHS this fall, will intern this summer at United Way of Greater Portland.

CBHS Principal Derek Pierce described Gabe as “an excellent student and an equally impressive human being. Gabe’s self-effacing wit and impish grin are immediately charming, but his intelligence and integrity are what hold your respect. Academically, Gabe is one of our top students. He was in the first cohort of students to earn a Seal of Biliteracy, and he has achieved with honors in every discipline from art to math. He has earned an “A” in a college math class, and completed an internship in a music studio. Music has become a deep passion of Gabe’s in recent years. True to character, Gabe excels whether he’s playing solo or supporting others in an ensemble. Gabe is well regarded by adults and peers and will be a bridge-builder in any group.” Imti Hassan graduated from CBHS in June and will intern this summer at the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Maine.

Principal Pierce said, “Last summer, Imti Hassan was given the position of “Paradigm Shifter” at the renowned Seeds of Peace Camp. She is one of few 17-year-olds worthy of this daunting label. There is not a program (or community) on earth that would not benefit deeply from her exceptional, buoyant, inclusive and, yes, paradigm-shifting leadership. Imti’s experience as a leader is as deep as it is wide. Her relentless, affable positivity is matched by profound skills in facilitation, listening, making connections and problem solving. Imti was the first chairperson of CBHS cabinet and was voted as one of her class speakers at graduation. She will be attending Bates College this fall.”

Every year, through the Student Leaders program, BOA helps connect more than 200 community-minded high school juniors and seniors to employment, skills development and service.

This year, Bank of America will connect 280 community-minded high school juniors and seniors from 80 of their markets throughout the country to employment, skills development and service. This promising group will convene in Washington DC for a week for the Student Leader Summit built around three themes: Serve. Inspire. Change. As part of this, Bank of America is providing more than $4 million in funding this year to support nearly 3,000 summer jobs for youth and young adults through the Student Leaders program, as well as summer internships for young people from underrepresented communities across the country.

Student Leaders is part of BOA’s ongoing commitment to preparing young people for a brighter future. BOA looks for the next generation of community leaders – those with a passion for improving their community, and turning that passion into action.

At the Board’s meeting, Botana noted that “last year – for the first time ever – the Portland, Maine Market was designated a Student Leaders site. Bill Williamson, BOA Market President for Maine, is to be credited for advocating for this opportunity for Maine students.”

Botana continued, “All public and private schools in Portland are eligible to apply – and I’m thrilled that both last year and this year the honor and opportunity has been given to students from the Portland Public Schools! This is a tribute to our amazing students, but also to their schools – counselors, teachers and principals, for preparing them and supporting them in their applications.”

Also present at the meeting were Gabe’s parents, Carlos Gomez & Melissa McStay; Imti’s mother and father, Sadia Abdirahman and Mohmamed Hassan; Bill Williamson, BOA Market President for Maine, Senior Vice President, Senior Client Manager, Commercial Banking; and Rose Parsons, BOA Vice President, Market Manager, Maine.