Four Maine Teachers Receive Presidential Excellence Awards in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering

FROM:  White House Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 15, 2019

Today, President Donald J. Trump announced the recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) and the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). 

Awardees come from schools in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools, and schools in the United States territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands. Nominations and awards are facilitated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science 

Foundation. The individuals and organizations announced today are 2017 and 2018 Awardees. 

Presidential award for K-12 teachers  

Established in 1983, PAEMST is the highest award given by the U.S. Government to kindergarten through 12th grade teachers of mathematics and science, including computer science. 

A panel of distinguished mathematicians, scientists, and educators at the State and national levels assess the applications before recommending nominees to OSTP. Teachers are selected based on their distinction in the classroom and dedication to improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. 

Recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching: 

Maine 

Heather Dorr, Ella Lewis School 

Kirsten Gould, Buxton Center Elementary School

Priya Natarajan, Casco Bay High School 

Alyson Saunders, Dexter Regional High School 


Heather Dorr Steuben, ME | K-6, Mathematics, 2018 

The official biography below was current at the time of the award. 

Heather Dorr has taught mathematics, language arts, social studies, and science to students in fourth through eighth grades over the past 19 years. For the past three years she has taught at the Ella Lewis School. Prior to that, she taught at Trenton Elementary School for 13 years and Dixon Elementary School in Sneads Ferry, NC for three years. Heather strives to meet students where they are and lift their learning to strengthen and deepen their understanding of mathematics concepts and skills. Her students engage in meaningful dialogue by explaining their reasoning, challenging ideas, and making connections between previous understandings and new concepts. To broaden the scope of her impact on student learning, Heather mentors beginning teachers and student teachers, eagerly supports and coaches her colleagues, and advocates for students and teachers, all while serving on focus groups and curriculum committees at the district level. Heather has earned a B.S. in elementary education and her M.Ed. in educational leadership for curriculum, both from the University of Maine. She is a certified teacher of kindergarten through eighth grade and is certified as a building administrator in the state of Maine. 

Kirsten Gould Buxton, ME | K-6, Science, 2018 

The official biography below was current at the time of the award. 

Kirsten Gould has 10 years of experience in education, serving for two years as a first-grade teacher at Miles Lane School and for four years at Hermon Elementary School. Since 2015, she has worked in the Bonny Eagle School District, teaching first grade at Buxton Center Elementary School then transitioning to District Coach in Assessment for Learning in 2019. Kirsten facilitates workshops on high-impact strategies and maintains classroom connections by instructing, modeling, and reflecting on the implementation of these strategies. Her work is featured in Teaching Strategies that Create Assessment-Literate Learners by J. Beaudry and A. Stewart-McCafferty, with whom she continues to work closely. Kirsten served five years with the Maine STEM Partnership which aims to improve STEM education. She is a certified consultant for the National Writing Project, a participant of the American Geosciences Institute—ExxonMobil Exploration Teacher Leadership Academies, and a recipient of the Presidential Academic Achievement Award. She presents locally, regionally, and nationally, including at the National Science Teachers Association’s National Conference and the Corwin Annual Visible Learning Conference. Certified to teach elementary school, Kirsten earned a B.S. in elementary education from the University of Maine and is currently completing a M.Ed. from the University of Southern Maine. 

Priya Natarajan Portland, ME | 7-12, Mathematics, 2017 

The official biography below was current at the time of the award. 

Priya Natarajan has taught mathematics at Casco Bay High School for the past five years. She currently teaches 10th-grade Precalculus and Algebra I and II. Previously, she taught for 12 years at Deering High School and spent four years as a founding teacher at the Boston Arts Academy. Priya has enjoyed working with colleagues all over the district in a variety of capacities, including curriculum and assessment development and the recent transition to proficiency-based instruction and assessment. She currently serves on the district-wide vertical team working on the K-12 mathematics curriculum. At Casco Bay, Priya serves as one of the 10th-grade team’s teacher leaders, facilitating the team’s work across disciplines and connecting teachers to the leadership team. She also coaches the mathematics team, works with the international Seeds of Peace program, and helps to foster collegiality and support for teachers as the school’s Faculty Wellness Coordinator. In addition, she serves as a Statistics and Calculus instructor at the University of Southern Maine. Priya earned a B.A. in mathematics from Ohio University and a M.Ed. in teaching and learning from Harvard University, in addition to graduate-level coursework at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University, and the University of Southern Maine. She is certified in secondary mathematics and has ELL endorsement. 

Alyson Saunders Dexter, ME | 7-12, Science, 2017 

The official biography below was current at the time of the award. 

Alyson Saunders has taught science at Dexter Regional High School for a total of 10 years. She currently teaches 10th-grade Biology, 12th-grade Advanced Biology, and 9-12th-grade STEM. In addition, Alyson has taught chemistry, astronomy, and ecology. In June of 2012, Alyson worked for The Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance as an informal STEM educator. In that capacity, she leveraged out-of-school opportunities to connect youth with potential STEM pathways. Since her return to the classroom, she has used those skills to help students engage with things such as teen science cafes, and the Maine State Science Fair. By working with local government and nonprofits, Alyson connects learning to the community through projects involving stormwater management and ecosystem sampling. She has also partnered with The Jackson Laboratory on their Teaching the Genome Generation project, to bring modern biotechnology skills and genomics education to her small rural school. Alyson is on the school’s leadership team, is a department head, and has facilitated multiple high school and elementary school STEM-related activity nights. Alyson earned a B.S., summa cum laude, in biology from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and a B.S., summa cum laude, in secondary science education from the University of Maine Orono. She is certified in secondary life science. 

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MEDIA RELEASE: Gorham Middle School Teacher Named 2020 Teacher of the Year

Gorham, Maine – In an all-school assembly today at Gorham Middle School, the Maine Department of Education and Educate Maine named alternative education teacher Heather Whitaker Maine’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.

During her 18-year teaching career at Gorham Middle School, Heather has been a true advocate for combining learning opportunities with the needs of the community. She started her school’s garden, which donates over 800 pounds of produce for the local food pantry each year. She also was a founding member of the Gorham BackPack Program, which provides students in her community, experiencing chronic hunger, with food over the weekend. Her alternative education students are active volunteers for both programs. Just recently, this program was awarded a $25,000 State Farm Community Assist grant.

Heather is passionate about and experienced in using restorative practices and experiential learning. She believes in the power of relationships and that learning should be meaningful to students. Whenever possible, Heather takes students out of the classroom and has them engaged in the community.

Heather graduated from Boston College in 2000, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with Moderate Special Needs. She later earned her Master of Science in Literacy Education at the University of Southern Maine.

Heather’s biggest love is her family. Her husband, Marc, son Trent, and daughter Maeve inspire her daily. She loves hosting friends at her house, can be found in the mountains skiing during the winter, and is proud to be a “Maine-ah.”

She was nominated by her former principal, Robert Riley, who stated “because of her innovative, can-do nature, her refusal to give up on any student and her selfless contributions to our school community and to her students, I believe Heather is an excellent candidate to represent all that is good in our educational system.”

Heather was selected from a pool of more than 300 teachers who were nominated by a member of their community earlier this year, she was then named the 2019 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, and then later named one of three State finalists before being named the 2020 Teacher of the Year today.

The Teacher of the Year Program is a year-long process that involves educator portfolio and resume submissions, interviews, oral presentations, and classroom visits made by a selection panel comprised of State Board of Education members, school administrators, Maine Department of Education staff, former Teachers of the Year, and other Maine business partners.

As the 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year, Heather will travel throughout the state and country collaborating with other educators to support the efforts underway to prepare all students for college, work, and civic life. She will be Maine’s representative in the National Teacher of the Year program which includes a national forum with other State Teachers of the Year, a week at a NASA Space Camp, and a visit to the White House.

The Maine Teacher of the Year program is administered by Educate Maine, a business-led advocacy organization, in partnership with 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.

For more information about the Maine Teacher of the Year program, visit www.mainetoy.org.

MEDIA RELEASE: Three Maine Schools Receive National Blue Ribbon School Honors

The U.S. Department of Education today announced three Maine schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2019. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. The three schools are:

  • Cape Elizabeth High School, Cape Elizabeth Public Schools
  • Fruit Street School, Bangor School Department
  • Yarmouth High School, Yarmouth School Department

The National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.

Now in its 37th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed recognition on more than 9,000 schools. On November 14 and 15, the Secretary and the Department of Education will celebrate with 312 public and 50 non-public school honorees at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The Department recognizes all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, student subgroup scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.

Up to 420 schools may be nominated each year. The Department invites National Blue Ribbon School nominations from the top education official in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Bureau of Indian Education. Private schools are nominated by The Council for American Private Education (CAPE).

Photographs and brief descriptions of the 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools are available at https://www.ed.gov/nationalblueribbonschools.

For more information contact Kelli Deveaux (207) 624-6747 or kelli.deveaux@maine.gov

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE Seeks Students to Serve on First-ever Student Cabinet

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) today announced that it is launching its first-ever student cabinet, a group of students that will meet quarterly with Commissioner Pender Makin to discuss educational opportunities, improvements, and policy. The purpose of the Student Cabinet is to provide a forum for Maine students’ voices to be heard.

Cabinet meetings will allow students from different grade levels, backgrounds, and areas of Maine to share their opinions and offer advice about Maine’s education system with Maine’s Commissioner of Education and other leaders from the Maine Department of Education.

Students grades 4 – 12 and first year of college are invited to submit an application to be a member of the Student Cabinet. Members selected will serve for a term of 12 months starting on November 1, 2019.

Cabinet meetings will be held throughout the school year. Most meetings are expected to be held as video conferences which will require cabinet members to have access to a computer or device with an internet connection. There will be at least one in-person meeting, for which the Maine DOE will reimburse travel costs.

Student Cabinet members will be selected based on representation of Maine’s geography, with a goal of two students from each county in Maine, based on the pool of applications submitted, and inclusive of the diverse cultural and economic backgrounds of students throughout Maine.

Selected students will be expected to attend scheduled meetings, prepare for each meeting as needed, work in a collaborative manner with each other and with Department staff as needed; and express views and opinions openly, constructively, and respectfully.

By becoming a member on the Maine DOE Student Cabinet, students will benefit by:

  • Having a direct role in improving education for students in Maine;
  • Gain important leadership, public speaking, decision making, and team building skills;
  • Develop a network of support and mentors through exposure to leaders across the state, and;
  • Have a great addition to their resume and applications for secondary opportunities.

Instructions for applying:
Students interested in serving on the Maine DOE Student Cabinet will need to submit the electronic application, with consent from a parent or guardian, by Tuesday, October 15, 2019 at 5 pmApplications can be submitted electronically here.

For more information contact Kelli Deveaux (207) 624-6747 or kelli.deveaux@maine.gov.

Media Release: State Finalists Announced for 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year

Three Maine teachers have been announced as State finalists for the 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year. The finalists were chosen from the 2019 Maine County Teachers of the Year honored earlier this year at the Hall of Flags.

The Maine Teacher of the Year program honors outstanding teachers who represent the thousands of excellent educators in Maine. Maine’s Teacher of the Year serves as an advocate for the teaching profession, education and students, and represents Maine in the National Teacher of the Year program.

Each educator was nominated by a member of their community for their exemplary service in education and dedication to their students. They were selected by a distinguished panel of teachers, principals, and business community members from a pool of hundreds of other nominated teachers in their communities.

State Finalists:

Heather WhitakerHeather Whitaker

Heather Whitaker is the alternative education teacher at Gorham Middle School and earlier this year she was named 2019 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year.

Passionate about combining learning opportunities with the needs of the community, she started her school’s garden, which donates over 800 pounds of produce for the local food pantry each year. She also was a founding member of the Gorham BackPack Program, which provides students in her community, experiencing chronic hunger, with food over the weekend. Her alternative education students are active volunteers for both programs.

Whitaker is an advocate for and experienced in using restorative practices and experiential learning. She believes in the power of relationships and that learning should be meaningful to students. Whenever possible, Whitaker takes students out of the classroom on educational field trips and gets them involved in community volunteering.

Whitaker holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Boston College and a Master of Science in Literacy from University of Southern Maine and has been teaching for 18 years.

Rob TaylorRob Taylor

Rob Taylor started teaching in 1989.  He has spent his entire 30 year career in Maine Regional School Unit 73, teaching secondary math and science, Advanced Placement Environmental Science and also served as district Gifted and Talented Coordinator. He recently transferred to a middle school science position at Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay and earlier this year was named the 2019 Franklin County Teacher of the Year.  He is an educational leader, working to implement standards via the district curriculum committee and address Maine’s teacher shortfall through participation in the Maine Math and Science Teaching Excellence Collaborative.

Taylor believes that students need to “get outside and connect to nature’. His Envirothon teams have won nine Maine Envirothon championships and were 1st in Aquatics and 6th overall at the 2018 International Envirothon.  His current school projects include greenhouse and aquaculture systems that provide produce for local pantries, participation in an American Chestnut Foundation restoration project, a drinking water monitoring program, and school renewable energy solar panel and wind turbine projects.

Taylor received a Bachelor of Science in Biology/Secondary Education from the University of Maine at Farmington and a Master of Education degree from the University of Maine.

Tom GrayTom Gray

2019 Knox County Teacher of the Year, Tom teaches Social Studies, English, and Gifted and Talented at Camden Hills Regional High School (Five Town CSD).  He has been teaching for 21 years.

As the coordinator of the school’s Intercultural Program, he has developed direct connections with educators in partner schools around the world, from China, to France, to Morocco. These school-to-school partnerships offer opportunities for students to interact and collaborate with peers in other cultures to investigate real-world problems. By leveraging technology to transcend physical limitations he prepares his students to thrive as global citizens. Gray believes in the “transformational power of adventure” for students as a way to build into education an opportunity for kids to cope with the unknown so they can discover their own agency.

In the 2019-2020 school year, Tom will pioneer a new, district-wide initiative in Innovation Engineering, in partnership with the University of Maine.

Tom is a National Board Certified Teacher.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts from University of Delaware; Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Arts in History from the University of Maine; Graduate Certificate in Gifted and Talented Education at the University of Maine at Farmington; and is currently enrolled in the St. Joseph’s College Master of Science in Educational Leadership program.

One of these three teachers will be named the 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year, an honor awarded each year to one teacher in Maine. The announcement will be in October after a school site visit and final interview.

Maine Teacher of the Year is a program of the Maine Department of Education, administered by Educate Maine. For more information, visit http://www.mainetoy.org.