MEDIA RELEASE: Three New Maine State Board of Education Members Appointed by Governor Mills

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) and the Maine State Board of Education today announced the newest members of the Board and their committee assignments.

The Board consists of nine members appointed by the Governor along with two nonvoting student members also appointed by the Governor. Board members serve staggered, five-year terms and nonvoting student members serve staggered, two-year terms.

New Maine State Board of Education Members:

Mark Balfantz
Mark Balfantz of Portland was appointed to the State Board of Education in February of 2022.  He will fill seat 8 in the first congressional district.  Mr. Balfantz served in the United States Marine Corps for 10 years.  He is a Maine citizen who has served on his local school board in Portland for three years.  He is the Vice President, General Counsel and Lending Compliance Officer at Kennebunk Savings Bank.  Mr. Balfantz has years of experience as an attorney as well as a background in financial investment.  He understands policy and financing in addition to the comprehension of the Department of Education’s goals and challenges having served at the local level.  He holds a BS in Business Administration with focus on Finance and attended Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.  He has been a member of the Maine Bar Association since 2016.

Kristin Bishop
Kristin Bishop of Madison was appointed to the State Board of Education in April of 2022.  She will fill seat 4 in the second congressional district.  Ms. Bishop is not a stranger to serve on the State Board of Education as she served as a student member of the Board from 2012 to 2014.  Currently, she is the Program and Outreach Coordinator for Civic Engagement at Colby College.  Ms. Bishop holds a BA in Education and Government & Legal Studies from Bowdoin College.  She is currently pursuing her graduate studies at Thomas College in Waterville, Maine and expects to complete her MBA the summer of 2022.  Ms. Bishop holds a lifelong dedication to public service and community engagement and has been involved with numerous higher education service and civic organizations.
Committee appointments: Career and Technical Education

Thomas Keller
Thomas “Tom” Keller of Newcastle was appointed to the State Board of Education in March of 2022.  He will fill seat 6 in the first congressional district.  Mr. Keller is a retired educator and has been a classroom teacher, a school administrator, a Scientist and educational researcher.  He’s worked in education policy, and is the Founding President of STEM Education Strategies, LLC, an organization in which he works collaboratively with educators and institutions to streamline the system of science education.  He believes that there is value in interconnecting various sectors of education, that good assessment facilitates good instruction, that teacher competence breeds confidence, and that policies must support high-quality learning.  Dr. Keller has served as an Executive Director of the Maine STEM Council, he is a member of the University of Maine at Augusta Board of Visitors and serves in many other educationally formulated organizations.  Dr. Keller holds a BS in Zoology from Texas A&M University and his Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Committee appointments: Certification and Higher Education Committee

Fern Desjardins, Chair of the Maine State Board of Education, stated that the new members have brought knowledge and experiences that already benefit the work of the Board in carrying out its duties and responsibilities.

“Their energy and enthusiasm in getting appointed to the board’s committees and in being of service in any way needed to help the board accomplish its goals is greatly appreciated. Their contributions will help advance the work of the State Board in carrying out its policy-making, administrative and advisory functions,” said Desjardins.

For more information about the State Board of Education, visit their website https://www.maine.gov/doe/about/leadership/stateboard.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Adult Education Launches HiSET Completion Campaign

The Maine Department of Education’s Office of Adult Education launched a campaign today to encourage adult learners to complete the HiSET, Maine’s high school equivalency test. Those who complete the HiSET are eligible for two years of free community college in Maine. As part of the campaign, ‘It’s time for HiSET’ yard signs will be displayed throughout Maine and local programs will use social media with hashtag #HiSET4ME, mail postcards, and sponsor community events to promote HiSET completion.

Students who live in Maine, graduate high school or receive a HiSET between 2020 and 2023, and enroll in a Maine community college full time are eligible for two years of free community college.

The HiSET has been Maine’s high school equivalency test since 2014, when it took the place of the GED. Adult learners without a high school credential can receive a Maine High School Equivalency Diploma by successfully completing HiSET’s five subject tests in Language Arts Reading, Language Arts Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. There is no cost to Maine residents for HiSET testing or HiSET prep classes. In addition, past HiSET subject tests are still valid, and learners who have taken some of the HiSET subject tests in the past are encouraged to return to their local adult education program to complete their HiSET testing.

“We want adult learners to know that HiSET is a free, easily accessible pathway to get your high school credential, and that by completing your HiSET you can unlock the opportunity to attend two years of community college at no cost,” said Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “If you’ve taken one or more of the HiSET subject tests, but then life got in the way, now is the time to come back and complete your HiSET. If you’ve been thinking about HiSET, but just haven’t gotten around to making that appointment, now is the time to call your local adult education program. It’s time for HiSET!”

More than 60 adult education programs throughout Maine provide a range of instructional services to help adults develop the skills for further educational opportunities, job training, and better employment.

Brandon Codrey started his HiSET process in 2017, but work became a priority and he had to stop attending the program. After several years, he returned to his local adult education program and completed his HiSET in April. Brandon is now enrolled in an applied math class for the summer through On Course for College and looks to enroll in his local community college’s plumbing certification program in the fall. Blythe Gowen, a single mother, completed her HiSET in January and is now looking to enroll in college in the fall to study pharmacology. And Michael Sowards restarted his HiSET process after a several year pause and graduated last September. His local adult education program worked with him to enroll in a free computer applications college course, and this fall he will enter into an accounting program. They are just a handful of the 1,700 adult learners who have received their high school diploma through Maine adult education since 2020.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine’s 2022 County Teachers of the Year Announced

Governor Janet Mills, Education Commissioner Pender Makin, Education Leaders Honored the Teachers at the State Capitol

Augusta, ME—Sixteen Maine teachers were announced as 2022 County Teachers of the Year today at a ceremony in the Hall of Flags at the Maine State Capitol Building. Governor Janet Mills joined Education Commissioner Pender Makin, Educate Maine Executive Director Jason Judd, State Board of Education Chair Fern Desjardins, 2022 Maine Teacher of the Year Kelsey Stoyanova, and Maine County and State Teachers of the Year Association Co-President Shana Goodall to announce the new class of County Teachers of the Year.

As part of the Maine Teacher of the Year Program, hundreds of teachers across Maine are nominated by a member of their school community. Through a rigorous application process, one teacher from each county is selected as a County Teacher of the Year by a panel of teachers, principals, and business community members within the county.

“It is a privilege to congratulate Maine’s 2022 County Teachers of the Year,” said Governor Janet Mills. “As the daughter of a long-time public school teacher, I know how hard each of these teachers works every day to make sure our kids have the best shot at success. I am so grateful for all they do for our students, our communities, and our state, and I promise that my Administration will do all we can to support them.”

“It’s such an honor to celebrate these extraordinary teachers and elevate them as true ambassadors for all Maine teachers and the teaching profession,” said Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “These teachers were nominated by students, colleagues, and parents for the difference they make every day in the lives of their students, for their innovation and leadership, and for their commitment to their schools and communities. You are all true heroes, and the Maine Department of Education is so grateful for all you do.”

“We are so proud of the 2022 County Teacher of the Year cohort. They are truly remarkable teachers and we look forward to working with them throughout their year of recognition,” said Educate Maine Executive Director Jason Judd.

2022 County Teachers of the Year:

Maine County Teachers of the Year serve as ambassadors for teachers, students, and quality education state-wide throughout the year. The Maine County Teachers of the Year are available to make presentations to local and regional organizations. Throughout the summer, they will continue to participate in an intensive Maine State Teacher of the Year selection process.

The Maine Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year Program is administered through a collaborative partnership with Educate Maine. To learn more about the Teacher of the Year Program visit: https://www.mainetoy.org/. The event was also broadcast live on the Maine Department of Education’s YouTube page.

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MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Department of Education Releases Teach Maine Plan to Develop, Support, and Sustain a Robust Education Workforce

The Maine Department of Education released the Teach Maine Plan, a comprehensive roadmap to develop, support, and sustain a robust educator workforce in the state. Unveiled during Teacher Appreciation Week, the Teach Maine Plan and new website provide a set of strategies and actions to inspire a talented and diverse future educator workforce, and to support and develop Maine’s current educator workforce.

The Teach Maine Plan is organized around four key themes: incentivize recruitment and retention efforts; expand and diversify educator workforce efforts; support educator development, growth, and leadership; and elevate educators and the education profession. While the Teach Maine Plan has multiple themes, strategies, and actions, they are interdependent and not designed to be implemented in isolation.

“The Maine Department of Education is committed to developing, supporting, and sustaining a vibrant and diverse education workforce, and honoring the expertise and leadership of Maine’s education professionals,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “Maine’s educators give it their all each and every day to teach, inspire, and nurture their students, and the Teach Maine Plan provides the resources and supports they need to keep doing what they do best while also attracting more amazing educators into our schools. I want to thank the many educators and stakeholders who contributed to this effort and we look forward to collaborating on moving this plan into action.”

The report is the result of contributions by education stakeholders throughout Maine, who provided feedback via multiple channels, including regional Think Tanks, focus groups, surveys, organizational meetings, and informal conversations. Additionally, the Department of Education convened an Educator Talent Committee, a core group of internal and external stakeholders, to share their experiences, look at research and trends, and to make recommendations on how to address Maine’s educator shortage.

“Teach Maine provides a blueprint that will help to develop, attract, and retain quality educators that the children in Maine deserve. The future of Maine’s economy is grounded in providing our students with a diverse and rigorous educational experience. Teach Maine will provide the foundation to ensure that Maine students graduate with the passion, knowledge, and skills to be productive members of the world they will lead,” said Maine School Superintendents Association Executive Director Eileen King.

“The themes of the Teach Maine Plan hit upon key issues to ensure that our system of public education in Maine will continue to be strong. Recognizing, respecting, and rewarding our educators for the vital work they do every day is critical to providing the education our students deserve,” said Maine Education Association President Grace Leavitt.

“We are very excited to see the impact that Teach Maine will have on our profession. By having a stronger emphasis on recruitment, and then providing mentoring and ongoing support that educators and educational leaders need, will only help keep high quality professionals in education. This is what our students deserve,” said Maine Principals’ Association Executive Director Dr. Holly Blair.  

“Teachers are the most important element in ensuring Maine has a well-educated citizenry that is essential for our future workforce and democracy. These strategies will help strengthen the teaching profession in Maine,” said Educator Talent Committee member and University of Southern Maine Chair and Associate Professor of Teacher Education Dr. Flynn Ross. 

The first theme of the Teach Maine Plan, incentivize recruitment and retention efforts, focuses on compensating educators competitively; providing financial incentives for high-needs subjects and locations; providing financial incentives for teacher expertise and teacher leadership; encouraging alternative compensation strategies, including housing, transportation, childcare, creative use of time, and sabbaticals; increasing scholarship and loan forgiveness programs; expanding service loan forgiveness and tax incentive programs; and increasing awareness of funding sources.

Research shows that low salary scales continue to negatively impact the educator pipeline, as well as the retention of practicing teachers. Compared to college-educated professionals in other fields, beginning teachers earn about 20 percent less, with the gap widening to 30 percent by mid-career. While the Mills administration made a significant step in addressing overall teacher compensation to guarantee a minimum salary of $40,000, more must be done to make working in education a financially sustainable career.

The second theme, diversify and expand educator workforce efforts, includes strategies to recruit, prepare, and hire racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse educators; retain diverse educators by addressing the policies and practices of structural racism; increase educator recruitment efforts; reduce costs; increase marketing for active recruitment of educators; increase high retention pathways into teaching such as teacher residencies, grow your own, and education career pathways starting in high school; promote teacher residencies for high-need School Administrative Units (SAUs) and content areas; promote additional dual certification programs for high-needs content areas; grow your own education technician and community college partnerships; and education career pathways in high school/CTE schools.

Building an educator workforce that reflects the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of the student population has been shown to have positive impacts on student achievement. Research has shown that matching teacher racial identity with student identity can improve academic achievement, high school graduation rates, and college enrollment rates. And all students who have had teachers of diverse races or cultural backgrounds are better prepared for success in a global world.

The report finds that to make progress towards recruitment and retention initiatives, Maine needs a comprehensive and transparent data collection and management system. The strategy to expand data systems includes actions to characterize the current educator population in greater detail; determine educator needs geographically in Maine; create a statewide job board; and collect SAU-level data such as exit interviews and surveys.

Theme three, support educator development, growth, and leadership, includes strategies to expand induction and mentoring for new educators; strengthen state and SAU supports for mentoring and induction; scaffolded induction with time to learn, including not just orientation and access to mentors but also access to coaches, common planning time with mentors, and resource allocation to support success; establish a network of new educators for peer support; strengthen ongoing professional support through professional learning opportunities at the school, SAU, regional, and state level; develop and support high-quality teacher leadership; and develop and support well-qualified school and SAU leaders.

The support that new educators are given throughout their pre-service career and first few years of teaching has a direct impact on their retention as career educators. Key elements of high-quality induction strongly associated with reduced rates of teacher turnover include assigning mentors from the same field, common planning time and opportunities to collaborate with teachers in the same subject area, and being part of an external network of teachers.

Theme four, elevate educators and the education profession, includes strategies and actions to promote the positive public perception of public education and the education workforce, and expand and diversify educator recognition programs. To recruit and retain a vibrant educator workforce and make teaching an attractive profession also requires strengthening public perception and confidence in Maine schools and demonstrating appreciation for educators not just during teacher appreciation week, but every week of the year.

Maine Educators Embark on North Star Journey: FableVision Learning & Maine DOE Launch Year-Long Initiative to Foster Creativity with Educators and Students

Maine’s Department of Education’s State Agency Program Team set sail on a creativity journey to transform teaching practice and classroom outcomes through a unique partnership with Boston-based educational company FableVision Learning, founded by Peter H. Reynolds.

“We were eager to provide equitable access to quality instruction to Maine’s vulnerable youth in therapeutic education settings to enhance special education programming after the difficult times caused by the pandemic, when emotional and social issues have been heightened,” explained Dr. Mary Adley, Coordinator of State Agency Programs. “We wanted to provide staff and students a sense of excitement and creativity to view their world with optimism and we knew FableVision Learning would help us achieve that.”

Adley and her team provide oversight to educational programming for state wards and state agency clients. This includes the General Supervision System of Monitoring for Maine’s approved Special Purpose Private Schools. Her team also offers special education technical assistance, professional development, and support to Maine educators, students, and families for Maine children in the care or custody of the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Corrections, educated in all settings, both in public and private settings and within Maine and placed in out of state settings.

“Our team is delighted that FableVision is embedding the Department’s Maine MOOSE (Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education) modules as curricular/content to guide educators in developing creative and specially designed instruction needed to meet each student’s Individual Education Program,” shared Dr. Tracy Whitlock, Coordinator for Special Projects.

This multi-level program of support integrates evidence-based instructional strategies, such as elements of  Dr. John Medina’s “Brain Rules,” with intentional focus on social-emotional welfare for both staff and students. Every month, educators from 9 agencies representing 25 schools meet virtually for the Creative Maine workshop and the FableVision Learning team guides discussions and activities around creative instructional design and inspiration to enhance teaching practice. A community of practice is provided on FableVision’s collaborative learning platform The Creativity Circle.

“We are exploring with teachers ways to expand the pathways for students to demonstrate their knowledge and to engage in deep and creative thinking,” explained Sara Smith, FableVision Learning’s creative curriculum developer. “Creativity in the classroom empowers both teachers and students to maximize their talents and make meaning.”

In addition to student projects highlighted in the Creative Maine course, educators are utilizing the FableVision Learning’s The North Star Program to further develop student voice and creativity.

“The essential outcome of education is for students to know who they are and what they can give to the world,” Jane Reynolds, president of FableVision Learning said. “The classroom is where they should be able to explore their strengths, learn resilience, and discover their power to create in a safe and supportive environment.”

Based on the themes in the book “The North Star,” by FableVision founder and New York Times bestselling-author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, The North Star Program is a guide to creating a classroom where students uncover their true potential.

“I have found The North Star Program to be very adaptable. I can integrate it with the existing social skills curriculum as well as adjust lessons to fit the variety of learning levels in my classroom,” explained Teresa Dickson, participating educator from NFI Sidney River Bend.

The program includes best practices for setting up the classroom and establishing a positive, creative climate as well as 18+ weeks of activities and projects that help students develop their strengths, values, and goals that will start laying the path to the future selves they want to be. Activities include teamwork challenges, problem solving projects, social-emotional games and experiences, literature exploration and discussions, and personal reflection writing pieces.

“Since I have begun using The North Star Program, I have watched my students become more confident in their learning and more accepting of themselves and others,” Dickson said. “The lessons can be taught in sequence or be pulled out to target a specific concept or skill. I was able to easily integrate The North Star Program with the Common Core Standards. The North Star Program hits many content areas such as music, art, writing, reading, and poetry.”

In 2022, Maine Department of Education’s State Agency Programs and FableVision Learning will continue the Creative Maine journey as educators continue to explore creative problem solving and creative classroom management.

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About FableVision Learning

FableVision Learning is a Boston-based company founded by Peter H. Reynolds, New York Times best-selling author/Illustrator who has been inspiring teachers for over three decades with his message books for all ages, animated films and creativity software. FableVision Learning’s tools, curricula and programs are informed by the philosophy in Reynolds’ books, which encourages teachers to create bravely on their own creative journeys as they lead the way for their students. Along with its award-winning suite of research-backed learning games and animation software, FableVision Learning also develops custom, in-class/hybrid remote programs for educator/leader PD, after school, CTE, and summer learning, with a focus on storytelling, creativity and SEL.

About Maine Department of Education Office of Special Services

The Maine Department of Education – Office of Special Education is dedicated to improving results for students with disabilities by providing leadership, support and oversight to local education agencies. The Office of Special Services is committed to ensuring the provision of a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for children with disabilities (ages 3 to 22) as well as early intervention services to infants and toddlers (birth through age 2). Our work is accomplished through collaboration with families, school districts, public and private agencies, and other programs.