Employee of the Week: Tyler Backus

Tyler Backus is the Maine Department of Education’s Employee of the Week this week. Get to know a little more about Tyler through this brief question and answer:

What are your roles with DOE?

I oversee the School Finance & Compliance teams. We ensure each of the school districts submit accurate information that informs the school funding formula. A major focus for my role is the financial information that is submitted each year. What that really means is I get to talk with business managers, accounting managers, superintendents, special education directors, and lots of other school staff to ensure they understand how the information they submit impacts the state’s funding formula. I also am the Military Family Liaison for the State of Maine, where I get to work with the School Liaison Officer at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, to help students of military personnel during their transition into and out of Maine schools.

What do you like best about your job?

I really enjoy interacting with the field. Maine’s school funding formula is considered one of the most equitable funding formulas in the country, but to achieve that equity it is an extremely complex formula. That means most people do not understand the formula. So I love explaining the funding formula to anybody who is willing to take the time to learn it. I also enjoy coming up with creative ways to explain the formula, even with the use of food.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I do not know that I necessarily decided on this career. After leaving the Army (driving M1A1 Abram tanks) I started at UMF for Secondary Education Math, and after a couple of changes in major and a deployment to Iraq, I ended up with Political Science degree. I worked for 18 months at Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices reviewing financial submissions for legislative candidates. I then was hired by Jan Breton to review the use of Individual of Disability Education Act funding. During that time I visited about 75 school districts, where I got to interact with business managers, special education directors, and superintendents. During the time in this role I got to learn parts of the funding formula and account coding for school departments. When a position opened up on the School Finance team I applied for the position.

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

Outside of work I mostly focus on my soon to be 6 year old son. I enjoy trying to get him excited about learning and trying different activities, some of which he still enjoys like soccer and swimming. I enjoy attempting to stay in shape (but I hate the gym) so I try different workout routines, running, bicycling, and playing soccer. I also enjoy trying to do my own work around the house including replacing the bathroom in our house, building a patio (including moving around 100 yards of material), pouring a 400 sq. ft concrete slab after building up the base, and this summer building a shed on the slab. Working in an office all day, I find it enjoyable to use as little mechanical assistance while doing these projects at home, and it also provide an opportunity for my son to help. We also get out camping as much as possible during the summer.

Employee of the Week: Jean Zimmerman

Health Education and Physical Education Consultant, Jean Zimmerman is the Maine Department of Education’s Employee of the Week this week. Get to know a little more about Jean through this brief question and answer:

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the Health Education and Physical Education Consultant and also am a co-chair of the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey(MIYHS). MIYHS is self-reported student behavior data that is essential for targeted policies and practices.

What do you like best about your job?

There is so much variety in job responsibilities. I also feel strongly about the importance of lifetime health literacy and physical literacy and encouraging teachers to take leadership roles in the field.

Jean and Oscar!

How or why did you decide on this career?

Ever since elementary school, I always wanted to be a teacher. There is something very powerful about making connections with students and providing positive experiences.

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

I have a black pug, Oscar, who loves to go for walks. I also enjoy playing golf and reading.

Employee of the Week: Michael Ashmore

Michael Ashmore, Program Development & Training Officer for the Maine Commission for Community Service is the Maine Department of Education’s Employee of the Week this week. Get to know a little more about Michael through this brief question and answer:

What is your role with the State of Maine?

I work for the Maine Commission for Community Service, a partner agency of the Maine DOE.  My role with the Commission is as the Program Development & Training Officer.  In this role I provide outreach to community agencies regarding the opportunities the Commission provides (grants, National Service support, training) and I am the trainer and technical assistance provider for Service Enterprise and for our grantees, among other things.

What do you like best about your job?

I love helping community agencies build their capacity to engage and utilize the skills of volunteers and to help them develop more volunteer opportunities here in the state.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I was a public educator for 2 decades and then moved into nonprofit management.  I became connected to the work of the Commission as a grant recipient and then moved to the Commission as grants Officer ten years ago.  I appreciate the value of service and the importance of volunteerism in keeping communities healthy, vibrant and resilient so it is rewarding work.

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

I love to hike and to read, to spend time with my three children; and cooking is a passion of mine.

Employee of the Week: Nate Menifield

Visual and Performing Arts Specialist, Nate Menifield is the Maine Department of Education’s Employee of the Week. Get to know a little more about Nate through this brief question and answer:

What are your roles with DOE?

As the Visual and Performing Arts Specialist, I primarily support teachers of music, visual art, theatre, and dance in Maine’s Pre-K-12 public schools in a variety of ways ranging from designing professional learning opportunities to managing arts-related initiatives. Additionally, I serve as the Regional Education Representative for Cumberland County; a valuable chance to meet with that region’s superintendents and curriculum coordinators once each month.

 What do you like best about your job?

Anyone who knows me well knows that I find the most joy  – at work and elsewhere – in my relationships with the people around me. Since joining the DOE last July, I’ve quickly grown to appreciate and admire the dedication and expertise of my incredible colleagues, each of whom contributes something uniquely valuable to the collective work that we do. Beyond the office, I’ve discovered that I feel most energized by my direct interactions with our state’s educators and young artists. There are amazing levels of support, creativity, and passion being fostered in arts classrooms all over Maine. If you want to be inspired, go observe a rehearsal or attend an art exhibit – you won’t regret it!

 How or Why did you decide on this career?

I’ve long maintained the belief that, for me, educating others is more a personality trait than a career choice. Throw in the fact that I’ve always been “artsy,” and my tenure in arts education only makes sense! From my days as a young musician in Aroostook County to the nine years I spent teaching music to high school students in Southern Maine, I’ve had a rare and extended opportunity to witness the unique joys and the challenges facing arts education throughout our state. Over the years, though, one thing that’s remained clearly evident and remarkably consistent is that Maine arts educators are among the most dedicated, talented individuals you could ever hope to meet. So, when the opportunity to support them from the state level presented itself, I was both honored and humbled by the chance to give something meaningful back to the many educators who have given so much to me and many other generations of students.

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

I’m a classically trained singer, so a lot of my time outside of cubicle #56 is spent rehearsing, performing, and occasionally guest conducting choirs. Other things to know? I also love traveling, am a big foodie, have enjoyed baking since I was a kid, and am dad to a rambunctious but adorable black lab mix named Toby. Stop by and share your interests any time!


Employee of the Week: Mary Adley

Mary Adley, Coordinator of State Agency Programs and Special Projects, is the Maine Department of Education’s Employee of the Week. Get to know a little more about Mary.

Q: What are your roles with DOE?

A: I am the Coordinator of State Agency Programs and Special Projects. My team provides oversight to educational programming for State Wards and State Agency Clients, which includes the General Supervision System of Monitoring for Maine’s approved Special Purpose Private Schools. My team also offers special education technical assistance, professional development, and support to Maine educators, students, and families. My team coordinates the Surrogate Parent program for State Wards. I work collaboratively with the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate services for Maine’s children in their departments care or custody. The coordination of special projects is new to me and my team, effective the last week in March, when Tracy Whitlock begins at DOE as the Education Specialist III, to manage the projects. We look forward to continuing the facilitation of the Math4ME and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports projects.

I serve as Maine’s Co-Lead on the Results-Based Accountability cohort, along with Roberta Lucas, working with the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) regarding tiered monitoring with development and movement towards implementation based on integrating Maine’s data in the current primarily compliance monitoring system.

I serve as a Co-Chair, along with John Coyne from the Department of Corrections, on the Project IMPACT Board. Project IMPACT staff coordinate the provision of special education services to students who are detained with their schools of residence and facilitate the educational transitions of youth in the juvenile justice system back to their communities. I also work collaboratively with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, as the Governor appointed Department of Education Representative on the State Rehabilitation Council.

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: I love that I continue to work with the incredible educators that serve Maine’s most vulnerable youth, and that I am able to be part of collaborative conversations and transformational work that improves special education and related services for Maine’s children. In addition, I like the variety of situations I encounter within my roles and responsibilities – no two days (or scenarios) are the same; so there is never a chance for boredom to set in.

Q: How or Why did you decide on this career?

A: I worked as an educator in Maine for three decades, as a special educator and an administrator in both the public and the private sector, prior to joining the Department. I was the Education Director at Spurwink’s Chelsea Day Treatment Program for two and a half years before I came to work at DOE. Having been through the audit process with glowing reviews in both of my times working at Special Purpose Private Schools (1996-2002 and 2014-2017), it seemed like a natural progression to pursue when I was informed of my predecessor’s retirement. I love that I am able to impact the education of Maine children in a larger scope than my previous positions afforded.

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

A: When I am not working, I love to spend time making memories with family members and friends – travel, spend time outside soaking up the sunshine, hike, read, and attend concerts and theater productions.