MEDIA RELEASE: Piscataquis Community High School Teacher Named Maine 2019 Teacher of the Year

Guilford, Maine – In an all-school assembly today at Piscataquis Community High School, Maine Department of Education Commissioner Robert G. Hasson, Jr. named English teacher Joseph Hennessey Maine’s 2019 Teacher of the Year.

Hennessey was selected earlier this year as the 2018 Piscataquis County Teacher of the Year. He began his teaching career in 2012 and has held teaching positions as both an English teacher and a teacher for at-risk youth ever since. He specializes in English literature and composition and has taught speech and debate as well. In his current position at Piscataquis Community High School, Hennessey has implemented a college prep, literature based interdisciplinary course that focuses on students’ interests and aims to prepare them for life after graduation.

“Mr. Hennessey is a unique and highly effective teacher. His formal manner and personality combined with a dry sense of humor and setting high standards for his students, make him an icon of our school,” said Piscataquis Community High School Principal John Keane in a written statement nominating Hennessey for 2019 Teacher of the Year. “With only four years with us, he has become legendary amongst his students and their families. Watching him in class is truly watching a person who has honed his craft to perfection,” he added.

Hennessey was selected from more than 300 teachers who were nominated by a member of their community earlier this year. 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.

“Joe sees every student as a learner and an intellectual, and he truly strives to ensure that every student sees themselves that way too,” said Emily Gribben, Maine Department of Education Educator Effectiveness Coordinator and member of the 2019 Teacher of the Year Selection Panel. “I think it is also of note that not one student has failed his class and it is obviously not for lack of rigor,” she added.

As the 2019 Maine Teacher of the Year, Hennessey 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. He is 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


PRESS RELEASE: Maine DOE Awarded $5.5M Grant to Support Student Mental Health Initiative

The Maine Department of Education has been awarded a 5-year grant (1.1 million per year) from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The funding will go towards an initiative called Maine-AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) aimed at helping Maine develop a comprehensive framework and infrastructure to support student mental health through effective state and local collaboration between education and health providers.

The project is grounded in a belief that strong implementation of evidence based universal positive behavior and social emotional learning supports coupled with universal behavioral health screening can help schools and communities focus intensive resources on students and families with the greatest need. The project also aims at developing coordinated support services at the school level so that school clinical capacity is maximized and well-articulated with the community’s therapeutic resources.

The framework for building a statewide comprehensive approach to student mental health will be gained through the experiences of an initial implementation with three school administrative units (SAU) which will serve as pilot sites for the initiative: Calais School Department, RSU 10, and RSU 40. They were selected prior to the application submission and are representative of the challenges faced by Maine’s school districts. Factors considered in the selection were geographic location, rate of uninsured children, data from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (mental health and substance use), local employment of a licensed clinical social worker, and existing relationships with community mental health agencies.

The primary goals of Maine-AWARE are to:

1. Tier I: Ensure that all students have access to evidence-based social emotional learning (SEL) strategies, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and screening for behavioral health needs.

2. Tier II: Provide students and families identified as at increased risk of negative academic and behavioral outcomes with team-based school and community supports, targeted interventions, and indicated mental health screening.

3. Tier III: Provide targeted, evidence-based clinical interventions to youth and families experiencing serious mental or behavioral health disorders.

4. Systems Building: Implement a comprehensive workforce and infrastructure development plan to provide technical assistance on evidence-based behavioral and mental health interventions and an effective statewide implementation strategy.

The Maine Department of Education will be working in collaboration with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child and Family Services on the Maine-AWARE Initiative.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Kids Rock Program Expands to 22 Additional Schools

The Maine Department of Education is pleased to announce that 22 school districts have been awarded $5,000 worth of modern band instruments, per school, as part of an expansion of the Maine Kids Rock Initiative.

“The Maine Kids Rock initiative has been a huge success so far,” said Maine Department of Education Commissioner, Robert G. Hasson, Jr. “We are thrilled to be expanding it by an additional 22 schools in Maine that would not otherwise be able to afford the instruments and specialized training.”

Currently in its second year, the Maine Kids Rock initiative is a program developed between the Maine Department of Education and national nonprofit, Little Kids Rock. Selected schools receive all of the instruments and resources necessary to run modern band programs, and partner teachers will receive extensive, direct coaching through Little Kids Rock’s training course, Modern Band 102, this fall.

To be eligible for participation in this initiative, districts must agree to offer modern band – taught by a certified music teacher – during the 2018-2019 school year. Priority is given to schools who serve 50% or more free or reduced eligible students.

The 22 additional schools join the initiative’s 10 pilot schools, which will continue in the program and receive frequent, targeted professional development. Partner teachers in the second-year cohort will attend a series of virtual professional learning sessions – offered monthly and covering a range of topics from hip-hop to singing in modern band – taught by expert staff from the Little Kids Rock organization. Additionally, all teachers receive free, unlimited access to the newest resources in Little Kids Rock’s online hub, Jam Zone. Next spring, new partner schools will be featured in a public performance at the second annual “Concert at the Capitol.”

The 22 members of this year’s cohort are:

Andover Elementary School (Andover School Department), Dr. Levesque Elementary School (MSAD 33), Easton High School (Easton School District), Glenburn School, Greenville Consolidated School, Hall-Dale High School (RSU 2), Leavitt Area High School (MSAD 52), Lee Elementary School (MSAD 30), Monmouth Middle School, Mattanawcook Junior High School (RSU 67), Miles Lane Elementary School (RSU 25), Molly Ockett Middle School (MSAD 72), Searsport Middle/High School (RSU 20), Sebasticook Valley Middle School (RSU 19), Sherwood Heights (Auburn School Department), Spruce Mountain Middle School (RSU 73), Walker Elementary School (RSU 3), Walton Elementary School (Auburn School Department), Washington Academy, Winslow Elementary School (AOS 92), Winslow Junior High School (AOS 92), and Woodland Consolidated School.

The 10 returning schools are:

Central Community Elementary School (RSU 64), Crescent Park and Woodstock Elementary Schools (RSU 44), East End Community School (Portland Public Schools), Hitchborn Middle School and Penobscot Valley High School (RSU 31), Houlton Middle/High School (RSU 29), Katahdin Elementary, Middle, and High Schools (RSU 50), Medway Middle School (Medway School Department), Meroby and Rumford Elementary Schools (RSU 10), Troy Howard Middle School (RSU 71), and Waterville Senior High School (AOS 92).

Rachel Paling, Maine DOE Director of Communication at

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

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today recognized three Maine schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2018. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

“I’m pleased to celebrate with you as your school is named a National Blue Ribbon School,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a video message to the honorees.  “We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives. Congratulations on your students’ accomplishments and for your extraordinary commitment to meeting their unique needs.”

“Congratulations to the students, educators and school leaders at Dr. Levesque Elementary School, Falmouth High School, and Yarmouth Elementary School for their unwaivering commitment to education and student achievement,” said Maine Department of Education Commissioner Robert G. Hasson, Jr.

The coveted 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 36th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed recognition on more than 8,800 schools. On November 7 and 8, the Secretary and the Department of Education will celebrate with all honorees at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

All schools are honored in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student 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 subgroups and all students over the past five years.

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 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools are available at

School Name and City

  • Dr. Levesque Elementary School, Frenchville
  • Falmouth High School, Falmouth
  • Yarmouth Elementary School, Yarmouth


MEDIA RELEASE: State Finalists Announced for 2019 Maine Teacher of the Year

Three Maine teachers have been announced as State finalists for the 2019 Maine Teacher of the Year. The finalists were chosen from the 2018 Maine County Teachers of the Year honored earlier this year.

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.

State Finalists:

JosephHennesseyJoseph Hennessey
2018 Piscataquis County Teacher of the Year, Joseph Hennessey teaches American, World, AP Literature and Composition, and Camden Conference Seminar for grades 11-12 at Piscataquis Community High School (RSU 80/MSAD 4). He has been teaching for 6 years.

ShanaGoodallShana Goodall
2018 Penobscot County Teacher of the Year, Shana Goodall teaches Social Studies, World Civilizations, AP Human Geography, and AP World History for grades 9-12 at Orono High School (RSU 26). She has been teaching for 15 years.

ConnieRussellConnie Russell
2018 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, Connie Russell is a 2nd grade teacher at Mabel I. Wilson School in Cumberland, North Yarmouth (MSAD 51) and has been teaching for 27 years.

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.

The three teachers are in the running for 2019 Maine Teacher of the Year, an honor awarded each year to one teacher in Maine. In October, Maine’s 2019 Teacher of the Year will be selected 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 the Maine DOE Website.