Lincoln Academy Takes New Approach to Vaping

Submitted by Jake Abbott, Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life, Lincoln Academy. Link to original article.

Vaping among teens has been called an epidemic by the US Surgeon General. Lincoln Academy’s new policies respond with education rather than just punishment.

E-cigarette use among teens has skyrocketed nationwide over the last two years. In December of 2018 US Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared it an “epidemic” and the 2018 Monitoring the Future study funded by the National Institute of Health found the 2017-18 e-cigarette use increase to be the “largest ever single-year increase in the use of a substance.”

In response to the epidemic in teen e-cigarette use, also known as vaping, high schools have scrambled to keep policies current with student habits.

Lincoln Academy has made several policy changes in 2019 to address the use of e-cigarettes in school. The new policy has shifted from a punishment model to one focused on education, according to LA Dean of Students and Director of Resident Life Jake Abbott. After their first vaping violation, students are now assigned a “learning detention” where they research the health effects and risks of vaping as well as the truth behind deceptive e-cigarette marketing. After their research is complete, students write a letter about what they have learned to a parent, a teacher, or a local newspaper.

“The focus of this work is to educate and spread information to both the student and the broader community,” said Abbott. “So far students have taken this research to heart… the policy seems to make a difference in how students feel about vaping.”

One student wrote in an essay written during detention, “Learning about the propensity toward addiction that Juuling [Juul is a popular brand of e-cigarettes marketed to teens] and other vaping products bring to the table has completely and utterly disgusted me. I have no desire to consume any products similar to Juul ever again. Knowing the amount of people, minors included, that have become addicted to nicotine is terrifying, especially since a recent census has shown that ‘10.7 million youth aged 12-17 are at risk for using e-cigarettes.’”

Another essay reads, “going forward, I plan to completely cut vaping out of my life. Not only will I stop doing it myself, but I will also try to educate my friends on the dangers of Juul and other vaping products. I never want to vape again. These reports have driven me into utter hatred for the companies behind the propaganda and brainwash of young children and teens.”

A third student wrote, “I do not want to cause myself health problems later in life that are easily avoidable. I do not want to lose the respect of adults and my peers for such an idiotic move. I think when I really put my mind to something I have very strong will power, and I think the combination of knowing I want to quit, and avoiding associating with people I know use nicotine can help me quit. I do not want to be a slave to nicotines grasp any longer and I am ready to quit.”

“The vaping epidemic took us by surprise,” said Abbott. “The adults didn’t have enough information, and the products are marketed directly to young people. They came on the market as smoking cessation devices, but instead of helping people quit smoking, they caused students who previously didn’t smoke cigarettes to get addicted. Often when students start using these devices they believe they contain only flavoring, but most e-cigarettes actually contain high doses of nicotine–one of the most addictive substances we know of.

“We hope our new policy will not just punish a behavior, but help students stop and think about the harm that vaping causes to themselves and others. This restorative philosophy works well for other offenses, and we are hoping it will make a difference with vaping, too.”

“It is impossible to know with certainty whether this consequence actually deters vaping over time, but at least we know students are learning something; are educating themselves about the real consequences,” said Abbott. “We are fighting an information war: the corporations that produce these devices are telling teens they are harmless. At least our policy can help students and their parents learn the facts so they can make informed choices in the future.”


Lewiston Adult Education Graduate Shares Story of Perseverance

(Pictured: Nasra Houssein, who served as the student speaker on Tuesday night, pauses after receiving her diploma.)

Submitted by Mike Reagan, Education and Marketing Coordinator, Lewiston Adult Education.

Nasra Houssein praised the people who convinced her to return to her studies during Lewiston Adult Education’s graduation on Tuesday night in the Lewiston High School gymnasium.

The native of Djibouti dropped out of her classes last year because she could not fit them in with her work schedule. She credited Lewiston Adult Education teachers Don Roux and Amy Hatch for their encouragement along with coworkers at Trinity Jubilee Center in Lewiston.

She returned to her classes after a three-month absence. On Tuesday, served as the student speaker at graduation.

“Without all your help, it would have been difficult for me or anybody else. So thank you all for giving us your time to help us succeed,” Houssein said.

The 30 Lewiston Adult Education graduates at the ceremony received their high school credential by taking the High School Equivalency Test. The HiSET exam has replaced the GED for high school equivalency.

Beth Derenberger received the Lifelong Learner Award for her commitment as a teacher and for exemplifying the sharing of knowledge at Lewiston Adult Education. She learned rug braiding from an adult education course in Oxford Hills. After a few years of practice, Derenberger ended up teaching in Oxford Hills and at Lewiston Adult Education.

She taught rug braiding at Lewiston since 2004 and retired at the end of the Winter-Spring 2019 semester.

“I have made so many friends from my teaching. It’s awesome. Students come because they want to come. People come because they’re interested. And that’s half the battle,” she said before the ceremony.

Adult Ed Graduate and Teacher
Student speaker Nasra Houssein celebrates after the graduation with Barabara McAllister of the Lewiston Adult Education’s Adult Learning Center on Tuesday night.

Outgoing Superintendent of Schools Bill Webster served as the keynote speaker at graduation and received a round of applause for his support of adult education. Lewiston Adult Education Director Bill Grant gave retiring teacher Diane Whiting a bouquet of flowers during the ceremony to thank her for her service of more than 25 years.

Maine Adult Education Programs Featured on PBS News Hour

Maine and its Adult Education programs, including Spruce Mountain Adult Education, Portland Adult Education, and Turner Adult Education have been featured on PBS News Hour for a story about adult education programming and why it is so important.

Click the link or image below to view the 8 minute story.

Why 36 million American adults can’t read enough to work — and how to help them

PBS News Hour Screen Shot

Saco’s Young School Loves to Walk

Submitted by Peter Harrison, Principal at Young School, Saco Schools. Text Written by Ken Studtmann, Wokka Wokka Coordinator. Photos by Dr. Peter Harrison and Ken Studtmann.

For several years the Young School students have participated in a much beloved walking program during their Wednesday’s lunch time recess. The students fondly named it “Walking Wednesday”.

Appalachian Trail Comparison Map
Appalachian Trail Comparison

During Walking Wednesday, the students walk, skip, hop or move in creative movements 1/8-mile laps around the school while parent and adult volunteers track and tally the number of laps each student completes. The number of laps completed are recorded for individual students and collectively tallied for  classroom, and the entire school. For every 2.5 miles the student walks they receive an incentivizing award of a “toe token”. At the end of the year, the classroom from each grade level with the highest number of laps receives an extra recess.

Geography Lesson

For the past two years, a lesson in geography has been integrated into the program. Last year, the laps walked by the students represented a unit of distance along the Appalachian Trail. The students successfully completed 1,378 miles of the Appalachian Trail; Maine to Virginia. The student’s progress was tracked on a large map displayed in the school’s front entry hallway for students, teachers and staff, and visitors to watch the progress. This year the laps represented the number of times the students crossed the Penobscot bridge; 3,541 times and growing.


As a means to further enhance the program, a language component was introduced in the beginning of this current school year with the reading of “HOW DO YOU WOKKA-WOKKA”, c 2009 by Elizabeth Bluemle, art by Randy Cecil. The book was a great inspiration to the students, staff, and adult volunteers of the program. The book’s premise of finding your own walking style was embraced by the students with lots of styles emerging. The students even changed the program’s name into “Wokka Wokka Wednesday”. The Wokka Wokka Wednesday is a much-loved program at Young School.

Fun Fact #1: The Appalachian Trail is among the longest continuously marked trails through 14 states; Maine to Georgia. The trail is marked with approximately 165,000 white blazes along the trail guiding hikers all 2,186 miles.

Penobscot bridge
Penobscot bridge

Fun Fact #2: The Penobscot bridge spans 2,120 feet from the east shore to the west shore of the Penobscot river. The design of the bridge’s two towers was inspired by the Washington Monument.

Fun Fact #3: Young School Students love to Walk! Last year, the Young School students collectively walked fictitiously from Maine to Virginia on the Appalachian Trail and this year they walked 3,541 times across the Penobscot the bridge.

For additional information to learn how to implement a walking program at your school, please contact Dr. Peter Harrison, Young School Principal.

Julie Meltzer Named 2019 Curriculum Leader of the Year

Submitted by Heidi McGinley, Executive Director, Maine Curriculum Leaders’ Association.

Julie Meltzer, Director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction for the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (AOS #91) is Maine’s 2019 Curriculum Leader of the Year. “I’m truly honored to join the group of curriculum leaders recognized in Maine. I’m honored to have them as my colleagues. I don’t know another group of people so focused on teaching and learning practices,” Julie said.

Julie is a passionate advocate for the learning and development of all students, leading the development of common standards the staff will “go to the mat” for across the district. She has developed community partnerships, found necessary resources, and introduced evidence-based instructional practices. But she credits widespread staff engagement in decision making for what superintendent Marc Gousse calls “marked improvement in learning and achievement and increased student success” across the district.

When she joined the district six years ago, Julie wanted all staff to have a voice in decision making and be engaged in professional learning opportunities so they would have the tools they needed to “do the best job they can for kids”. She wanted to maintain the strengths and uniqueness of each school and honor the professional autonomy of teachers while increasing student learning. The innovative professional learning and decision making structures she created made a difference.

“I’m proud of how everyone is starting to play a similar rhythm,” Julie says, “although the melodies are different, as they should be.” This year, 110 teachers and education technicians voluntarily served on a “collaboratory” – a temporary task force formed around a problem of practice, working to identify solutions, make decisions, and develop all the learning, strategies and tools needed to implement those solutions. In the process, staff and administrators became partners in professional development both in and outside the district. 100 teachers, education technicians and administrators led internal professional development sessions and 30 presented their work at state or national conferences. “Good things are happening for kids,” she said. “We’re getting to the ground of student learning and walking the talk in more ways.”

Julie’s journey to Mt. Desert began when her work at the Regional Laboratory led to a three-year content literacy consulting project in Washington County. She fell in love with Maine and with Acadia, eventually buying an old farmhouse in the area, which she and her husband started renovating on weekends. Her consulting work took her all over the country, so she ended up with two homes — a Portland rental to be closer to the jetport and a close-to-Acadia farmhouse. Her daughter started high school at Mount Desert and encouraged her to apply when the curriculum position opened. “I was lucky to be hired,” Julie said, “and I’ve been honored to have this position. I’ve learned much more in the last six years than I did earning my doctorate.”