MACTE Conference Draws 400+ Educators Statewide, Honors CTE Teacher of the Year

Maine Administrators of Career and Technical Education (MACTE) held its annual conference last week at Lewiston Regional Technical Center (LRTC). The official organization for Maine’s network of 27 career and technical education (CTE) schools, MACTE plans the conference as a place for CTE educators to convene and share ideas, hear from industry professionals, and honor hard-working colleagues.

IMG_2343During the opening presentation of the conference, participants were welcomed by MACTE President and host Rob Callahan, who is also the Director of LRTC. Dr. Donald Cannan, Executive Director of MACTE also addressed the crowd remarking on the utmost importance of CTE educators in the training of Maine’s current and future workforce. Following the welcoming, Maine Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta presented the CTE Teacher of the Year award to Greg Cushman, an electrical instructor and SkillsUSA advisor at LRTC.

An alumnus and former educator of Westbrook Regional Vocational Center, Greg has a successful 25-year career in electrical trade under his belt. He has since returned to his roots in Career and Technical Education in a different capacity, to serve as an educator to the students in his community. Known for his outstanding student outcomes and many accomplishments, both in his professional career and in education, his nominators, LRTC Director Rob Callahan along with students and colleagues from LRTC, had this to say about Greg:

“Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Greg’s nomination for this award is the quality of his character. He is a highly approachable, thoughtful and genuine person who always looks for the good in any situation. He approaches his responsibilities as an educator, electrician and community member with utmost importance. He sets an example for those around him which is based on hard work, integrity and service to others.”

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After being named CTE Teacher of the year, Greg took the stage, while the excited crowd stood in applause and his family joined him to congratulate him for this well-deserved recognition. The CTE Teacher of the Year award is administered by MACTE as a way to recognize teachers who are providing outstanding career and technical education programs for youth and/or adults in their respective fields and communities.

After hearing from keynote speaker Shawn Moody, who spoke about the Blue Collar CTE scholarship opportunity, participants attended a morning filled with a variety of breakout sessions. In addition to sessions lead by Maine DOE Leaders who provided information about State level updates, data, and funding, there were also sessions led by CTE leaders and industry professionals about various topics including understanding and supporting LGBTQ+ individuals, early college opportunities through the Maine Bridge Academy program and the Community College System, as well as workforce and industry updates from Cianbro, Apple, Inc, and Maine Army National Guard to name a few.

Conference participants also had the opportunity to attend sessions led by Maine education colleagues such as Foster Tech’s Chris MeMarco and Jake Bogar who led a session about how to fit science into any CTE class, and Ruthanne Harrison, an Engineering Teacher from Bath Regional CTE, who led a session about design thinking and 3D Printing.

A delicious lunch was served at LRTC’s well-known Culinary Arts School, The Green Ladle followed by a final session that provided tech updates for CTE educators.

The annual conference came to a close with a positive response from participants, especially for the variety of breakout sessions that provided instructors with information about common best practices. MACTE Executive Director Donald Cannan says they “plan to continue this very successful practice” as they look toward planning future MACTE conferences and events.

RSU 34 Taps Retired Teacher to Train and Mentor New Educators

Submitted by Jeanna Tuell, Principal of Old Town Elementary School.

Retired teachers are a wealth of professional knowledge and wisdom. Although the days of retirement are exciting for our teachers, we have found a way to tap into our retired teachers and have them support the next generation of teachers.

In RSU 34, we are committed to our new teachers and their development by matching them with an experienced, outstanding retired teacher named Mary Bagley. Mary was a teacher in the district for 40 years and throughout her career was always on the cutting edge of instruction, curriculum, and assessment. When Mary thought it was time for her to step away from the classroom, we were not convinced and talked her into the position of professional support and coaching for our new teachers in our K-12 district.

It has been a match of support, professionalism, and chance for our new teachers to learn from a master teacher without the intensity of evaluation. We believe this model is an incredible connection between mentor and classroom teachers not experienced in many districts. The results have been phenomenal. Teachers feel supported in every aspect of their first years in the profession and have noted the tremendous support they have received with Mary coaching them through various instructional tangles.

Accomplished Bangor High School Alum Provides Interdiciplinary Art Lesson to Students

Submitted by Kathy Harris-Smedberg, Assistant Superintendent of Schools at Bangor School Department.

Bangor High School Teachers Emilie Throckmorton and Eva Wagner recently collaborated on a unit to connect students with nature. Both visual art and creative writing share a long history of artists being inspired by nature.  Wagner and Throckmorton are nature enthusiasts and have a connection with artist eco-artist Mariah Reading, a Bangor High School and Bowdoin College graduate. Their unit culminated with an adventure to Schoodic Point where Reading is the Artist in Residence. Wagner brought her Sculpture class and Throckmorton brought her Creative Writing class.

When Wagner and Throckmorton realized that Reading was chosen to be an artist in residence in Maine, they both thought about what a wonderful opportunity it would be for their students to learn from her.  Mariah is positive and energetic and her mere presence would be good for students to absorb. With help from grant writer, Cathleen Neslusan and the Friends of Acadia, the trip became possible.

Students looking at rocks on the beach

The day started with a talk with the artist who discussed the reason behind her eco-centered art making. Reading finds trash found in national parks and other protected places and paints bold, colorful realistic landscapes onto them.  She then photographs them in front of the landscape so they blend in seamlessly with the environment. Reading has always been inspired by nature but she realized when she was in college that her work was often creating more waste which led to more degradation of the environment.  She decided to do something about it and then collected trash and used it as a substrate for her work. Her artwork was so striking and unique that it commanded more and more attention as she shared it on social media. Eventually with 7000 plus followers the art world started paying attention and Mariah got sponsorships.

After Reading’s inspiring and informative talk, the students headed out with their paints, and writing prompts in hand and found a beach to create on.  Some students painted, some wrote and others collaborated on an Andy Goldsworthy inspired sculpture. The students seemed awestruck by the thunderous waves and rocky shores.  Many had never been to Schoodic Point and some students had never visited the ocean before.

The students responded to the environment, worked together and learned from a contemporary artist that art can make a difference. What was especially important for these students was that Reading had also been a student at Bangor High School, it made her successes seem that much more attainable.  A great day was had by all and Throckmorton and Wagner are convinced that students will remember this day for a long time.

paintings on the rocks at the beach

Carrie Ricker Elementary School Integrates Culture into the Curriculum

As a new addition to the community and to the school, Principal Dani Finn noticed that the students at Carrie Ricker Elementary were curious about her and her background. Being a native of the Hawaiian Islands, she was eager to share her culture and experiences outside of Maine with the students, and has found that they were just as eager to learn.

Principal Finn has since begun a “Cultural Competencies Series” which brings speakers with a wide variety of cultural backgrounds to the school to talk with students about where they are from and how that is both similar and different from the traditions found here in Maine and in the United States.

Drawing from the diverse pool of backgrounds of the various people who live right here in Maine, in the communities surrounding the Litchfield area and beyond, Principal Finn is able to welcome many folks to her school, presenting new and rich learning opportunities to the students.

Hawo Abdille, Lewiston Public Schools English Language Learner (ELL) Intake Coordinator and Dani Finn, Principal of Carrie Ricker Elementary School
Left to right: Hawo Abdille, Lewiston Public Schools English Language Learner (ELL) Intake Coordinator and Dani Finn, Principal of Carrie Ricker Elementary School

On September 26th, Hawo Abdille, Lewiston Public Schools English Language Learner (ELL) Intake Coordinator visited Carrie Ricker Elementary School to talk with 3rd graders and share her knowledge, upbringing, culture, and experiences as a native of Somalia.

As up-beat music played through the loud speakers, about seventy-five 3rd graders filed into the multi-purpose room, greeted by a wide-smiling Howa, bopping to the music and saying hello to each of the students as they took their seats. Howa was playing a video of people doing a traditional dance at a Somali wedding. She started by introducing herself and where she was from, providing a little bit of background about herself and how she moved from Somalia to the United States at the age of nine, eventually settling into the Lewiston area with her family.

First showing the students where Somalia is located on a map, Howa also shared that, like here in the U.S., people in Somalia celebrate many different holidays both religious and cultural, and have other unique customs that they treasure and look forward to. She covered a broad range of topics, everything from the way people dress to what they eat, a popular topic among the students! Students were excitedly raising their hands to ask her more and more questions.

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“Does it snow in Somalia?” One student inquired. “Do you celebrate New Year’s Eve in Somalia?” Another student asked.

The patient and experienced Howa answered as many questions as she could while also carrying on with her presentation. Howa is an alumna of Lewiston Public Schools, and now proudly serves the students and families who move to the Lewiston area as they transition into the community and enroll their children in school.

Students raising their hands in the crowdAs the 30-minute presentation came to a close, the students didn’t seem to fall short of yet more questions for Howa. Principal Finn asked them, “Do we want to invite Howa to come back again?” A question to which the students replied with a resounding, “YES!”  Happy to oblige their invitation, Howa promised to bring Somalian food next time she comes.

In talking with Principal Finn briefly after the presentation and before she had to rush off to dismiss students for the day, she excitedly shared her success with the Cultural Competencies Series, adding that she was lucky to have the full support of her Superintendent Andrew Carlton and has been collaborating with RSU 4 Director of Curriculum, Assessment, & Instruction Kathy Martin to help integrate further cultural learning opportunities into the curriculum in multiple content areas. The series is meant to provide students with a starting point to a world of culture, knowledge, and experiences beyond their classroom walls.

Principal Finn has plans to bring a broad range of cultural speakers in to talk with all grade levels, all year long and going forward for as long as she can keep students engaged and find speakers willing to participate.

In seeing how incredibly interested and excited the students were to meet Howa, it seems like the Cultural Competencies Series could be the start of a long-standing tradition at Carrie Ricker Elementary School.

This article was written by Maine DOE staff member Rachel Paling in collaboration with Carrie Ricker Elementary School. If you would like to invite the Department to your school to write an article, or if you would like to send along a good news item for the Maine DOE Newsroom email Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Old Town Elementary School Celebrates School Garden

Information for this article was submitted by Jeanna Tuell, Principal of Old Town Elementary School.

Old Town Elementary School has developed a beautiful and effective school gardens that students and teachers alike can use as a space to learn, grow, and experience the outdoors.

Described as an outdoor learning classroom, for several years the students have planted and harvested food to give to their school community. In addition, the students have the benefit of using the space as an outdoor environment to explore and experience a variety of other topics.

In September, the School hosted a garden party for their students and families. Families were able to take a tour of the garden, harvest some of the vegetables, and have a wonderful Saturday pressing apples and tasting new recipes.