Get to Know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Michael Mikrut

Maine DOE team member Michael Mikrut is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Team Campaign. Learn a little more about Michael in the question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I serve as one of our Helpdesk Analysts on the Maine DOE Data Team. Our role is working directly with Maine school staff to complete our numerous data collection and reporting requirements to meet state and federal law. Collections run throughout the year so we’re always busy looking ahead to the next collection, whether it’s attendance data, special education, or assessment rosters. A lot of time and effort goes into ensuring the data stored in a local school information system are accurately reported to us at the State. Odds are if you look at any reported student data from a Maine public school, the Helpdesk staff made it happen so there are accurate and complete data sets to see!

What do you like best about your job?

I know it’s a cliché at this point but I mean it: The best part of my job is working with the extraordinary DOE Data Team in my daily work. Everyone I work with are wonderful people that really take pride in their work and want to continue to push for positive change in all that we do. So many organizations fall prey to, “Well that’s the way we’ve always done it, so why change it?” It’s refreshing to work with a Team that challenges that biased thinking regularly.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I came into this role almost 3 years ago now from a private for-profit software company where I did customer service. Private-sector work really was burning me out with their relentless pursuit of the bottom line, so when the opening for a public-sector job appeared that fit my skill set, I jumped on it. I originally lost out on the job offer to another applicant, but as fate would have it they wouldn’t be a good fit so I got a call back. One year later and my position was converted to a W2 position from Contracted, and another 2 years after that I can proudly say our Helpdesk is perhaps the best it’s ever been.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

I have a pretty eclectic assortment of hobbies that includes woodworking, playing guitar, kayaking, playing video games, oil painting, hiking, disc golf, and anything I can DIY (like our new house we bought last fall)!

Get to know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Barbara Pineau

Maine DOE team member Barbara (Barb) Pineau is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to know the Maine DOE Team Campaign. Learn a little more about Barb in the question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the Special Education Director for the State’s Unorganized Territories.  In my position, I work directly with 86 schools that we tuition students to across the State of Maine and 3 “State Schools,” which are our own.  I cover the entire state and we encompass 53% of the State!  In a non Covid year, I travel to all of these schools to attend IEP Team meetings, averaging about 35,000 miles a school year.  There are currently 206 kids from PreK – 12 either in special education or with a 504 plan who live in the Unorganized Territories and my role is to work collaboratively with the school’s staff to ensure each of these kids have appropriate programs while being fiscally responsible to the EUT tax payers.   I also am the 504 coordinator, the Homeless Liaison, the Title 1 Coordinator and the Federal Grant Coordinator.  I manage programs for all students with 504 plans as well as those who are homeless.  I write the grants for ESEA and all COVID related monies.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy working with the professionals at the schools in Maine.  Each time I visit a school district I feel I come away with new information, at times having left them with new information and always a renewed respect for the role schools are expected to play in the lives of children above and beyond educating them.  We have some phenomenal educators in Maine!

How or why did you decide on this career?

I don’t think I decided on a career in Special Education…. It decided on me. My first degree is in Parks and Recreation Management.  In the position as a recreation director, I realized how many kids with disabilities were left out of sports and how I could help to change that.  From there, I went back to school to get my degree in teaching and became a special education teacher.  As a teacher, I felt like I could not always get my point across to the general education population, teachers and students alike.  So, I was encouraged by my mentor, Roland Caron, to earn my Masters in Special Education and become a director; which I did.  I found it allowed me to not only share information that would support kids with disabilities, but to provide in service opportunities to all staff as to what the best practices were to include them in all areas of their education; academically and functionally.  I feel good about that and will always be a child advocate first and foremost.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

When I’m not at work you can find me spending time in the woods with my family.  I am a Master Maine Recreation Guide since 1989 and guide family trips on the Allagash River.  I enjoy canoe camping, fishing, camper camping in Bar Harbor, hiking (I’m actually doing the 100 Mile Wilderness this summer with my daughter Grace), snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and spending every spare moment I have with my grandkids sharing all of my adventures.

 

Get to Know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Regina Lewis

Maine DOE team member Regina Lewis is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Team Campaign. Learn a little more about Regina in this question and answer.

What are your roles with DOE?

I serve in the role of Coordinator of the NAEP and International Assessments for the Maine DOE as member of the Office of Learning Systems and the Assessment Team or “A-Team” as we frequently refer to ourselves.  In short, I am a liaison for the Maine Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which is part of the US Department of Education.  It’s my responsibility to coordinate the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and international assessments such as, the Trends in Math and Science Study (TIMSS), Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) as well as other special projects under the responsibility of NCES. My responsibilities include range from those that improve the collection of high quality data, to analyzing and reporting the data, and promoting the understanding about each assessment and its comparative relationship to NAEP and the respective state assessment. Participation in NAEP assessment is mandatory in order for districts to receive Title I funds according to ESSA.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy working with a network of colleagues across the country from my desk at home in Gardiner, Maine on one the most respected and highest quality assessments with a trendline that spans decades (Despite the belief of some, the assessment has changed over time).  I also enjoy the support of the members of the Assessment Team and others from the various teams within the department.  I love data collection and analysis for the purpose of improving the quality and equity of education for Maine’s students and students across the nation.  Through the support of the NAEP partnership organizations and the Maine Department of education, I continue to learn about high quality assessments and their advancements.  Pre-COVID, I enjoyed the occasional travel that provided networking and collaboration with those who share my passion for learning about assessments.  After all, where and how else can you become a fan of Andrew Ho (Go ahead and look him up. You will find him at Harvard), get a preview of the next step in assessment items and technology, and use assessment data to promote positive social change.  I believe that Assessment Systems are like military intelligence. Some assessments give you a satellite view and others provide more closely examined levels down to the formative assessments with the nitty gritty detail. We need them all to have the complete picture.

How or why did you decide on this career?

It was a long road of transitions, including multiple degrees and additional coursework from many of Maine’s universities that lead me to a career at Maine DOE. While teaching mathematics at RSU #4, I earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Walden University.  Walden’s focus on using your talents and education to create positive social change led me to apply for this position.   While working my dissertation, I developed a great admiration for the NAEP and the International Assessments.  During my down time, I searched for a position that would provide a mechanism to use my knowledge and education for the purpose of improving education in Maine and the United States.  When I saw the vacancy at Maine DOE, I applied, was offered the position, and accepted.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

In my free time, enjoy hunting, fishing, wood working, sewing, gardening, and sailing with my husband. You might find me at the wheel of a two-seater convertible or a tractor. My husband and I are currently rehabbing a sailboat for future use. I love spending time with my grandchildren, supporting my husband in his duties as a Roman Catholic Deacon, and caring for our pets. I have 2 Labradors, laying hens, and meat birds including chickens and turkeys. As you just read, I love learning, but not just from books and/or educational organizations, the world is our lifelong classroom.

Get to Know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Michele Mailhot

Maine DOE team member Michele Mailhot is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Team Campaign. Learn a little more about Michele in the question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the Penquis Regional Representative and Secondary Mathematics Specialist on the Secondary Education Integrated Instruction (SEII) Team which is part of the Standards and Instructional Support (SIS)  Team in the Office of Learning Systems.

What do you like best about your job?

I love the variety of work I am able to engage in here at DOE which includes offering professional learning, technical support, and teacher leader development. I work closely with classroom teachers, administrators, superintendents, and various other stakeholders involving mathematics education. I also collaborate across multiple teams at DOE providing assistance with the state assessment, supporting identified schools, and identifying connections with Career and Technical Education (CTE). I enjoy honoring excellent mathematics teachers by co-coordinating the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching program for Maine.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I knew by the time I was in middle school myself that I wanted to be a mathematics teacher. Math has opened so many doors for me, including opportunities to work with NASA, that I wanted to share this with others so doors could open for them as well! So when the opportunity came to work at the state level, I knew it was time to leave the classroom and reach a larger audience and share all the great things the mathematics can do.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

I enjoy spending my time visiting with my kids and grandkids, as well as working in my gardens!

Get to Know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Sarah Ferguson

Maine DOE team member Sarah Ferguson is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Team Campaign. Learn a little more about Sarah in the question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I am an Education Specialist III in the Office of Special Services.  I work on the State Agency team. We work with all aspects of the state agency client program – for students placed both in state and out of state, support districts and private schools, and coordinate educational surrogate parents, who support children without parents for their IEPs.

What do you like best about your job?

Knowing that, although I am not longer working directly with students, I am in the background supporting those who are.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I knew I wanted to be a teacher since junior high. I loved being a baby sitter, church school teacher, and camp counselor. In college, I thought I would work regular ed.  Then I volunteered at Spurwink School, where my cousin was a student, and special education stole my heart. My first teaching job was at Spurwink. After having a home daycare affiliated with HeadStart and a stint as a parent educator for Maine Parent Federation,  I then moved to special education in public schools.  And now working at DOE with special educators throughout Maine.  It is very fulfilling to support students as they jump their hurdles and realize that they can (fill in the blank).

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

Outside of work, when it is warm out, I love to be outside in nature – walking, beekeeping, gardening, finding waterfalls in Maine and other states.  When it is colder, I knit and catch up on TV shows, movies, and books.  All year, I still subscribe to the printed KJ so I can work the puzzles.  Of course visiting with family and friends is always a priority – and in person visits are on the horizon!