Mid-winter Boost:  2020 Maine School Winter Wellness Summit, Life is Good, Wellness Makes It Better!

Taking care of the health and well-being of staff and students has become more and more critical given the many stresses of the world in which we all live. Register today for the Maine School Winter Wellness Summit, Life is Good, Wellness Makes It Better! being held January 30 & 31, 2020 at The Samoset Resort, Rockport, to bolster your school wellness program. Attendees will learn strategies and be exposed to tools and resources available from state and national sources that address the six dimensions of wellness: mental, emotional, physical, social, spiritual and​ occupational health. However, this year there will be a special emphasis on Mental Wellness for all! The Summit will include inspiring, interactive keynote presentations each day, engaging workshops on personal wellness practices, creating positive school environments, healthy school culture and climate for staff and students, leadership skills, emerging health issues and action planning for wellness!


grey haired man, laughingMurray Banks is a motivational speaker and world champion athlete with roots in teaching school. He lives life with a passion for health and well-being every day. This year he will focus his message on the importance of positivity on one’s overall health using hilarious images, imaginative videos, and poignant classroom and personal stories that will inspire all of us.


Salt and pepper haired man with moustache and glasses, smilingJanuary 31st OPENING KEYNOTE:  George Manning returns to the Wellness Summit with more tools, resources and insights focused on life, work and the pursuit of balance. He will engage the audience with his enchanting personality and stories that come from more than 40 years of experience teaching psychology at the collegiate level and traveling the country helping organizations and businesses develop healthy and productive work environments.

The goal of the Summit is to prepare and empower participants to create healthy, positive and safe schools for all school personnel and students by promoting policies and environmental practices that support healthier schools, improve personal health and well-being, and enhance academic achievement.  Click here for up-to-date details, draft agenda and session information on the 2020 Maine School Winter Wellness Summit and follow The Samoset Resort link to reserve rooms at the special group rate.

Individuals and teams interested in Schoolsite Health Promotion and wellness are encourage to attend. One low cost for two-days, meals included. Early registration is open through December 27 for $125/person and regular registration after December 28 is $145/person.

Join us for the first fully engaging and educational Winter Wellness Summit, a component of the Maine Department of Education’s Schoolsite Health Promotion Program.

Maine Educators Celebrated at Annual Teacher of the Year Gala

The Teacher of the Year Program hosted its annual Gala this past weekend on Saturday, November 16th at Portland Sheraton at Sable Oaks. The event honors Maine educators that have been named County Teacher of the Year and Teacher of the Year with a banquet, reception, and awards ceremony.

IMG_3222The event featured remarks from 2019 Teacher of the Year Joseph Hennessey, an English Teacher at Piscataquis Community High School who is finishing his year-long designation as the 2019 Teacher of the Year. Commissioner Makin received a standing ovation as she urged all present to elevate the status of educators in Maine, as their work is the single most important assurance of a thriving democracy.  Incoming 2020 Teacher of the Year Heather Whitaker also addressed the audience, reminding the audience that the foundation of learning is built on relationships of trust and compassion. Ms. Whitaker was presented with a custom Maine licence plate from Maine’s Secretary of State, Mathew Dunlap, a tradition each year.

During the Awards ceremony, County Teachers of the Year were each provided with a crystal apple award, a County Teacher of the Year banner, totes filled with Maine products donated by Maine businesses (sponsored by Live and Work in Maine), in addition to free registration to the annual ACTEM Conference (provided by ACTEM). 

In addition to the above awards, Semi Finalists, State Finalists, and the Teacher of the Year each received a hand thrown pottery bowl with their names on it (sponsored by Maine TOY Association and Maine State Board of Education). The Teacher of the Year was also given an IPad (provided by ACTEM).

2019 County Teachers of the YearAndroscoggin County, Shawn Rice; Aroostook County, Kim Barnes; Cumberland County, Heather Whitaker; Franklin County, Robert Taylor; Hancock County, Nell Herrmann; Kennebec County: Emily Bowen; Knox County, Thomas Gray; Oxford County, Linda Andrews; Penobscot County, Tracy Deschaine; Piscataquis County, Bobbi Tardif; Sagadahoc County, Charles Bingham; Somerset County, Katherine Bertini; Waldo County, Ashley Reynolds; Washington County, Jeanna Carver; York County, Ethel Atkinson.

Semi Finalists: Jeanna Carver, Tracy Deschaine, Thomas Gray, Ashley Reynolds, Shawn Rice, Bobbi Tardif, Robert Taylor, Heather Whitaker

State finalists: Thomas GrayRobert Taylor, Heather Whitaker

2020 Teacher of the Year: Heather Whitaker

The event also includes keynote remarks and honors for many of the program’s partners and sponsors including Educate Maine, who administers the program, the Maine Department of Education, and the Maine State Board of Education. Funding for the program is generously provided by Bangor Savings Bank, Dead River, Geiger, Hannaford, Maine Lottery, and Pratt and Whitney.

The Teacher of the Year Program is a year-long process that, each year, through a rigorous selection process, names an educator from each county as County Teacher of the Year, and names one educator as Maine Teacher of the Year. Any educator can be nominated by a member of their community for the Teacher of the Year Program. The nomination process begins in January each year.

Locally Grown STEAM Showcase Begins Maine Tour at Brewer Community School

Maine Educators and brothers Keith and Kern Kelley from RSU 19 are heading up a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) Showcase this school year, that aims to fill the workforce gap in Maine by bringing more STEAM opportunities to Maine students and teachers.

This past summer, 14 educators from across Maine participated in a 3 credit Introduction to Experiential Teaching through Technology offered by EMMC and UTC, and taught by the Kelley brothers. The idea of the training is to bring the experiential teaching philosophy to Maine classrooms, offering more than traditional makerspaces and shop classes. In a train the trainer method, the course came with a STEAMroller cart full of equipment and tools that educators can take back to the school to share with colleagues, and also comes with the opportunity for a visit from the STEAM Showcase.

STEAM Showcase Bus (Photo credit: Riley Bridges, media studies student at RSU 19)

The Showcase, which has officially begun its tour in Brewer, is a refurbished bus full of equipment and tools that goes on the road, literally, to bring STEAM breakout sessions to Maine students and teachers. The sessions feature coding with drones, virtual reality programming, 3D design and printing, and an escape room challenge that takes place inside the bus.

At the Brewer Community School Showcase this week, four classes of 7th graders and their teachers participated in a day full of breakout sessions hosted by high school students known as Tech Sherpas. The Tech Sherpas are a group of students from RSU 19 who are interested in technology and integrating it into education. They are students of Kern Kelley, and are known to accompany him to speaking engagements on the topic of STEAM and technology integration, in addition to presenting themselves both nationally and internationally.

Brewer Community School 7th grade teacher Rob Dominic took the EMMC course this past summer and has been using the STEAMroller cart so far this year. He said he was originally interested in the course because he wanted to help “start and build a culture” within his 7th grade team and at his school that integrates STEAM into their lessons to provide students with experiential learning opportunities that engage them in new ways. He said that already that day, his colleagues were having conversations about how they could use the day’s experience to improve future learning opportunities. For example, one teacher came up with the idea of using virtual reality to do character analysis in English Language Arts lessons.  Dominic says the STEAMroller cart and the experiential learning opportunities were a welcome addition to his team and that his colleagues were eager to learn more and start using the tools.

From here the STEAM Showcase will go on to visit the schools of other educators that took the course, in hopes of engaging yet more teachers and students in this train the trainer method of bringing experiential and STEAM learning opportunities to Maine classrooms.

This article was written by Maine DOE Staff Rachel Paling in collaboration with Brewer Community School, RSU 19, and UTC. Many of the photos used for this article were taken by Riley Bridges, media studies student at RSU 19. The article is part of the Maine DOE’s Maine Schools Sharing Success campaign. If you have an idea or submission for the campaign, email Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

The Windham Eagle Lifestyles: Manchester school students celebrate National Farm to School Movement

This article was written by Maine student Joe McNerney.

Hands were washed and chef hats were on as fourth and fifth grade students entered the cafeteria. In the middle of many tables, freshly grown carrots were set and ready to be used. This is what the scene looked like on Monday, November 4 at Manchester School. In a recent press release, it was announced that the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry and the Maine Department of Education teamed up with the Manchester School to promote the growing farm-to-school movement in Maine.

“The students participated in a day of activities to celebrate growing, harvesting and eating local food. The event was designed to raise awareness about the importance of local food, school gardens and the relationship schools are developing with local farms to provide fresh, quality fruits, vegetables and produce to Maine schools,” stated the press release.

Stacey Sanborn, fourth grade teacher, explained how the food is grown by the students. “We tend to the hoop house all school year,” she said. “Students help maintain and pick vegetables and sometimes we are able to send the food home that has been produced by the student for students in need.”

Briefly, a hoop house is a form of greenhouse that consist of a series of large hoops or bows—made of metal, plastic pipe or wood covered by heavy plastic. It is heated by the sun and cooled by the wind. Although winter is coming, and some students may be less than thrilled to trudge through snow, they will none the less keep up on the hoop house.

Ryan Roderick, head chef and nutrition coordinator for and Jeanne Reilly, director of school nutrition,
led the educational sessions with the students. During the class, students from fourth and fifth grades made fresh curried carrot soup and carrot muffins.

Students had the opportunity to wash, peel, chop carrots and onions as well as sauté the vegetables. For the muffins, students grated carrots, measured and mixed the ingredients and portioned them into muffin cups. At the end of the class, students and teachers all were able to try the soup and muffins made with carrots from their school garden and fully experience what the farm-to-school experience is all about.

“It was refreshing to see young faces so excited about cooking,” stated Pam Lanz who had worked with the school for 21 years as a guidance counselor prior to taking up her post as garden leader. “Many of the students are hesitant to try most of the vegetables. However, when peers try, they are more likely to give it a chance.”

Once the ingredients were ready, some students prepared muffins while the others prepared the carrot curry soup. Which was garnished with Greek yogurt and chives.

Students all agreed and said with pride after eating the food they had prepared, “The food tasted better because we cooked it.”
Teaching kids at a young age that there is value to growing and making your own food is outstanding. It teaches the art of horticulture and self-sustainability. “Many of our students tale home what they learn,” Sanborn said. “They share it with parents and hopefully they in turn will start gardening more.”

Lanz quickly agreed, “We want to make backyard farmers out of them all.”
The Manchester School is one of the more than 400 Maine schools that participate in a farm-to-school program. The event was designed to raise awareness about the importance of local food, school gardens and the relationship schools are developing with local farms to provide fresh, quality fruits, vegetables and produce to Maine schools.

Portland High School Partner Spotlight: Tyler Karu

Submitted by Andrea Levinsky, Extended Learning Opportunities Coordinator, Portland High School. Each month we will feature a community partner. We are excited to open this series with Tyler Karu!

Tyler Karu of Tyler Karu Design and Interiors has been an incredible partner of Portland High’s Extended Learning Opportunities since November of 2016. She has participated in every possible opportunity including hosting students for job shadow day and internships in addition to serving on career panels and doing mock interviews for 9th graders.

Tyler was inspired to start working with Portland High because she wanted to set an example of a strong woman in business. She says, “I wanted to be example of someone who can make a mark in my own little community…[I wanted to show that] women have a seat at the table and can do anything we want.” 

She has continued to work with Portland High School over the years because she is inspired by the students. She finds that the student body is interested and engaged. She says, “There aren’t a lot of high schools that prepare students for real life. I think Portland High just does such a good job with that and it makes kids more interested in job and professional life and learning about careers and future directions. I think Portland High is preparing the students for life skills.”

To other businesses that want to get involved, she says that, “It is our responsibility as business owners and professional people to reach back out into the community and offer help and support. What better group to reach out to than high schoolers who are thinking about the next step in their lives?”

Through Extended Learning Opportunities, Tyler is able to “make a difference on a fundamental and pragmatic level,” she says. “there’s nothing more valuable.”

Business partners make a profound impact in students as well. In her internship with Tyler, Gloria Sanchez was able to solidify her passion for her chosen career path of interior design. She gained experience in creating designs and working with clients. Gloria was even hired by the company for a summer job following her internship!

We are so grateful for Tyler’s continued partnership and her leadership in supporting our students. If you are interested in getting involved with Portland High School’s Extended Learning Opportunities program through job shadows, mock interviews, internships, or career panels. Please contact Andrea Levinsky, Extended Learning Opportunities Coordinator at levina@portlandschools.org