Maine Music Educators Help Root Modern Band Curriculum into Maine Schools

Spencer Hale

Educators from across the state gathered at Orono High School recently for their Modern Band 102 lesson, a second professional learning opportunity available through the Maine Kids Rock Program. Delivered by Little Kids Rock Educator Spencer Hale, the class gave educators the opportunity to fine tune their technique, and to build upon what they had learned in the previous modern band lessons they’ve been participating. Through the Maine Kids Rock program, each of these educators accepted $5,000 worth of modern band instruments, along with resources and hands-on learning opportunities to help them run modern band programs in their schools, an opportunity they would otherwise not be able to give to their students.

There are currently 35 Maine schools offering modern band programs through the Maine Kids Rock program. To be eligible for participation, districts agreed to offer modern band – taught by a certified music teacher, with priority given to schools who serve 50% or more free or reduced meals to eligible students.

During introductions at Modern Band 102, educators in attendance shared their name, school, the age group they are teaching, and the music the kids are working on. Their students were learning a wide-range of modern music selections, of their choosing, like Lost Boy by Ruth B., Count on Me by Bruno Mars, Best Day of My Life by American Authors, Ho Hey by The Lumineers, and Happy People by Little Big Town, on a variety of modern band instruments provided through the Maine Kids Rock Program.

Orono High School Music Teacher and Band Director Jen Acosta, who has been hosting the modern band professional learning in her music room for the past 3 years as a central location in Maine, only recently joined the program and currently offers modern band programming and instruments to her students.

Jen Acosta and Jason Anderson

“This is revitalizing [music] programs,” said Acosta. “It gives people the opportunity to use whatever resources they have to get kids playing music,” she added. Acosta went on to explain that it also serves as a gateway to music education in general. Being able to play and sing the songs they are listening to on the radio and on TV gets so many more students interested in music education than otherwise would be. Once they learn how to play one instrument, they most likely will pick up another she explained.

“The approach is so open it gives teachers a lot of autonomy,” added Maine DOE Visual and Performing Arts Specialist Jason Anderson. New to the Department, Anderson recently came from his long-time position as Vocal Music Director at Houlton High School, one of the original 10 pilot schools awarded instruments and modern band resources when Maine Kids Rock was created.

Developed between the Maine Department of Education and national nonprofit Little Kids Rock in 2017, the Maine Kids Rock program is funded through a combination of Little Kids Rock donors and a portion of the State of Maine’s education budget, which is approved each year by the Maine State Legislature.

“I think the biggest standout – from top down – is that it represents the ‘do’ approach. Getting them [the kids] to do something,” said Acosta. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” She went on to explain that music education like this is going to change music culture. While students are still in the midst of learning modern band right now, they will eventually graduate and move on to post-secondary options and careers, having learned modern music at a much earlier age than students have been able to previously. This will more than likely result in new and innovative music creations and performances to come from our next generation of musicians.

Save the Date: Training Opportunity on Serving Highly Mobile Students (Homeless, Foster, Migrant, Military)

Join us for an interactive session on the educational provisions designed to promote the educational stability of highly mobile students. Please complete this survey to register and share with us what you would like to get out of the training. Thank you!

Intended Audience: McKinney Vento Homeless Liaisons and Foster Care Points of Contact (Please be sure your information is updated in NEO if you are the SAU contact).

Hosted by Maine Department of Education’s  Office of School and Student Support Team members, Gayle Erdheim and Amelia Lyons

Portland: March 9, 2020, at the Italian Heritage Center

Bangor: March 10, 2020, at United Technologies Center

Houlton: March 13, 2020, location TBD

Trauma Informed Readiness and Response Planning Workshop

As the most requested support topic from the field,  we at the Department of Education hear of the extensive impact that trauma, mental health and the opioid crisis are having on our schools. We are taking action to support educators in addressing the increased needs of our students through the use of trauma informed practices. To begin this partnership and support, we will be hosting an interactive conference on Trauma Informed Readiness and Response Planning.

When: Friday, January 24th, 2020

Time: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM (Lunch is provided)

Location: University of Maine, Wells Conference Center, Orono.

This is a grant funded opportunity for schools to receive guided support in the development of their individualized emergency plans for a trauma free and trauma responsive environment. Funding for this opportunity is available for up to 65 teams, and can include covering the costs of travel and substitutes for the day. An application and commitment to attend are required; these will be accepted until December 20th, 2019.

Application for Individual School Participation 

A preview of questions in the application is below:
Name of School:
School District:
Primary Contact (person with whom all communication and arrangements go through):
Contact Phone/Email/Address:
3 Team Members and their roles at the school (3 people are required for the activities planned):
Describe the top three areas of need for your school around this topic, and why work on a responsive plan will help you overcome these. 

A final agenda and confirmation for teams will be forthcoming after the closing of the application window. For questions, contact Jessica Nixon at


Professional Learning Opportunity: Early Mathematics Diagnostic Interview (EMDI), A Diagnostic Interview Tool

Registration: 8:00 am, Session 8:30 am – 3:15 pm

Who is invited?

This professional learning opportunity is specifically designed for Pre-K-5 mathematics educators, including classroom teachers, special education teachers, Title 1 teachers, math or instructional coaches, and math support staff.

Why participate?

  • Learn about and practice using a diagnostic interview tool for mathematics and how to plan for instruction based on results
  • Recognize the developmental progression of and misconceptions in mathematics learning
  • Strengthen your own pedagogical and content knowledge in mathematics
  • Compare assessment practices and ways to use assessment to improve student learning
  • Take away the EMDI tool, ideas, resources, and materials to use in your school and classrooms

What are our key goals?

The key goals are to provide you with experiences, information, and resources to guide you in the areas of diagnostic assessment, identifying students’ mathematical needs, and developing knowledge of instructional strategies that have an impact on students’ mathematical learning.

What is our approach to professional development?

  • Do the math: Using video and hands-on explorations, delve into key elementary mathematics concepts using multiple approaches, including identifying types of questions and responses and varying types of mathematical
  • Connect to research: Discuss readings that connect each topic to research and take away powerful research-based approaches, tools, and resources to use in your school and
  • Collaborate: Work together and share ideas with other Pre-K-5
  • Leading change: Set goals and generate a plan for ongoing mathematics improvement for your school and

Cost: $90.00 per person for the 3-day series (includes continental breakfast, lunch, and materials)

Contact hours: 24 hours


Locations: Dates (Must attend all dates): Registration Links:
Big Cat’s Events Center, Ellsworth 2/4/20; 2/5/20; 4/9/20

Storm Date: 2/25/20

Register for Ellsworth Event
Northeastland Hotel, Presque Isle 2/6/20; 2/7/20; 4/10/20

Storm Date: 2/11/20

Register for Presque Isle Event
The Green Ladle, Lewiston 3/10/20; 3/11/20; 4/29/20

Storm Date: 3/19/20

Register for Lewiston Event
Hampton Inn, Saco 3/12/20; 3/13/20; 4/30/20

Storm Date: 3/25/20

Register for Saco Event

Space is Limited! Register by January 10, 2020

Questions?  Please contact: Jen Robitaille, Elementary Mathematics Specialist: 624-6673,

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.