New England FFA State Officers Gather in Vermont

Pictured: Maine FFA State Vice President and State President enjoy Lake Champlain Boat Tour during regional FFA training in Vermont.

On June 26-30, 2022, twenty-two student State Officers of the FFA—formerly known as “Future Farmers of America”—from the states of Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont gathered in Middlebury, Vermont to learn about workshop development and presentation techniques, as well as communication skills to implement during their upcoming year of service for their nearly 5,000 FFA members grades 7 to 12. Among these Officers were Nickie Deschaine, Maine FFA State President and Lane McCrum, Maine FFA State Vice President.

FFA members are students enrolled in classes/programs related to agriculture and natural resources at schools with registered FFA chapters. This training was supported by the sponsorship of the Northeast Agricultural Education Foundation, Farm Credit East, and the National FFA Organization. As the largest student-led organization in the country, with over 735,000 members, FFA relies on its State Officers to implement programs for local FFA members, raise FFA member awareness to opportunities in agriculture, natural resources and the FFA and represent their members at various in-state, regional and national events.

The Vermont training took place at the North Campus of the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury and was facilitated by past National FFA Officers David Lopez (California) and Paxton Dahmer (Missouri), with additional motivational sessions conducted by current National FFA Southern Region Vice President Erik Robinson (Georgia).

Guest presenters Ben Leduc, Loan Officer, and Courtney Bronson, Tax Associate, spoke on the work of Farm Credit East and potential job opportunities for students. FFA Officers participated in a number of highly engaging sessions, enjoyed some outings to local restaurants and locations of interest (such as Crown Point State Historic Site in New York).

Officers commenting on the workshop noted that the main highlight was the chance to return to an in-person opportunity to get to know their peers from other New England states. They left the training indicating significant gains in both their confidence levels and technical abilities associated with developing and implementing workshops. Officers praised the training efforts of both facilitators and the National FFA Officer. Accompanying students were 9 adults from the New England FFA community, including the State Advisors from each of the five participating state programs.

Maine DOE Thanks Maine Educators Serving on Multi-State Alternate Assessment Item Review Committee

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) wishes to thank the ten Maine educators who recently participated in the Multi-State Alternate Assessment (MSAA) Item Review Committee in Minneapolis, Minnesota!

MSAA is Maine’s alternate assessment is based on alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAAS) in ELA/literacy and mathematics, for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who have been found eligible by the IEP Team.  As a partner in the MSAA Consortium, Maine engages actively in the ongoing development cycle of this assessment throughout the year. As a result of this collaboration, Maine’s students with the most significant cognitive disabilities participate in state assessment that has been designed with input from the same dedicated and expert Maine educators who serve this population every day.

During the Item Review Committee, Maine educators served on panels to review proposed items for the Spring 2023 MSAA.  Items were reviewed for both alignment to content and potential bias and sensitivity issues. Panelists also provided critical feedback on the accessibility of items across diverse student populations.  During this experience, Maine participants collaborated with educators from across the MSAA Partner Entities: TN, AZ, MT, DC, the Bureau of Indian Education, the Department of Defense Schools, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The expertise of Maine educators is critical to the development of the state’s alternate assessments. Their engagement ensures that Maine continues to strive towards high standards and achievement for all Maine students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

Many thanks to the following panelists for sharing their time and expertise during this review!


Maine Students’ Software Design and Development Skills Showcased in Maine App Challenge

In a ceremony on June 18th, Tyler Technologies, Inc. announced the three winners of their 2022 Tyler Technologies Maine App Challenge. The contest provides students the opportunity to explore software design and development by using their creativity to design a mobile app. This year’s winners are Yuliya Buturlia of Scarborough High School, Frazier Dougherty of Yarmouth High School, and Ian Lajoie of Biddeford Regional Center for Technology. 

Buturlia’s first place app, ScheduleStorm, allows students to schedule meetings with their teachers, anytime and from anywhere. 

Dougherty’s second place app, Train ME 2, allows users to create customizable workouts or choose from a database of premade workouts. This inclusive workout app is for all activity levels and allows users to track progress and set individual goals. 

Lajoie’s third place app, Quick Work, helps users easily find videos and information from experts on how to troubleshoot problems with their vehicle.  

The winners received scholarships totaling $10,000, and the top 10 submissions receiving a guaranteed internship interview after their sophomore year of college. The first 50 submissions each year also receive a tablet, and the high school with the highest participation receives $500. 

More information about the Tyler Technologies Maine App Challenge and next years application can be found on the Tyler Technologies website. 

Bucksport Students Design Their Own Outdoor Classroom

On Wednesday, June 1, the students and teachers at Bucksport Middle School (BMS) celebrated a big achievement. Since August 2021, students have been prototyping, designing, and constructing elements of an outdoor experiential learning environment through team building and design thinking challenges. And now, after almost a year, their new outdoor classroom, which was made possible by a three-year $130,000 federal innovation grant, has been brought to life.

Art and STARS Teacher Hannah Bailey, Science and STARS Teacher Kent Burnham, and Special Education and STARS Teacher Katie True have been working to serve alternative education 6-8th grade students by facilitating as they built this new outdoor classroom. STARS (Students Taking Alternate Routes to Success) is an experiential advisory program that started in the summer of 2021. STARS aims to support students through hands-on learning, including designing and building a home base, while focusing on connecting student interests with community resources and providing extra opportunities to reconnect with each other, with their teachers, and with school.

To start this project, students took a trip to Troy Howard Middle School to check out their outdoor classroom, outdoor kitchen, and garden to gain some inspiration. While the students were there, they drew pictures of Troy Howard’s facilities, to take back as blueprints for the models they were about to make. Next, Hammond Lumber supplied a model of the outdoor classroom, which students used in conjunction with their drawings to create prototypes out of cardboards. Once the prototypes were finished and refined, students met with Orcutt Builders, Hammond Lumber, and the RSU 25 maintenance crew to review and finalize their plans.

As Orcutt Builders got to work on constructing the exterior of the classroom, BMS STARS students got to work designing the interior of their classroom. Their first task was to create chairs that could hold their weight out of cardboard. Next, they started doing skill building to learn how to use their new tools by constructing birdhouses. Once the birdhouses were completed, students learned how to construct tables and chairs from a furniture maker and, using feedback from teachers, began to prototype their own. As Orcutt Builders began to put the exterior of the building up in early October, students learned how to wood burn, creating signage for their soon-to-be hub.

As the classroom began to take shape, students began to assist in its construction, helping to build the knee walls and even painting it the light blue color they had voted on. Then, as Orcutt Builders finished up the construction of the exterior of the classroom, students turned the prototypes of their tables into reality – constructing, sanding, and painting them themselves. In addition to an outdoor classroom aimed to engage increased school attendance and hands-on learning, the students have also built 12 benches and 6 tables for the classroom and are currently in the process of building 12 garden boxes to have outside of the classroom to grow their own flowers and vegetables.

The STARS students say they enjoyed the entire process and are excited for next year. One student shared that she had fun this school year. While she loved getting to put her hands in the wet cement of the classroom and growing closer to her classmates, her favorite part of the classroom is the garden boxes. Another student said his favorite part was getting to meet and interact with different teachers, students, and experts.

The school also plans to construct an applied learning laboratory next to the outdoor classroom, set to open in June 2023. The space will include a 4-season greenhouse, kitchen, makerspace, and aquaponics system, among other features, and is being funded through a $250,000 federal grant through the Maine Department of Education’s Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures program.

Early College High School Student First to Earn Required Credits for University of Maine at Augusta Degree while Attending High School

Amber-Rae Pesek, a senior graduating from Ellsworth High School in June of 2022, is the first student ever to complete the necessary credits to earn an Associate’s degree from the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) while simultaneously completing her high school career. Pesek, who marched in the May 14th UMA Commencement Ceremony, will be officially awarded her degree in Liberal Studies in Summer 2022 following the completion of her high school career.

Pesek earned 74 credits college credits as a high school student in the UMA Early College Program and as a Bridge Academy of Maine student through Hancock County Technical Center. Credits were accumulated across the University of Maine System campuses with the majority of her credits earned through UMA. She also transferred credits for her UMA degree requirements from Eastern Maine Community College.

Christine Knight, UMA’s Director of Early College said, “(Amber-) Rae is one of the most extraordinarily driven students I have ever had the pleasure of working with in this program.  She put in countless hours in the coursework itself, while also being actively involved in the Bridge Academy of Maine Program as well as student life at Ellsworth High School.”

Sarah White, Ellsworth High School Counselor, said Pesek took full advantage of Early College opportunities. “She did this on top of balancing a regular high school course load, as well as co-curricular activities and athletics. Her diligence and perseverance paid off in spades and we are so proud of her! We are so excited to see what her future holds!”

Hancock County Technical Center Student Services Coordinator, Hope High, and Director, Amy Boles, also recognized Pesek’s efforts. “As a student in our Biomedical Sciences program and a member of our Bridge Academy, Amber-Rae has shown immense leadership and taken advantage of every opportunity she has been given.  We are so proud of her efforts in earning the necessary credits for her Associates Degree from the University of Maine at Augusta while also taking a full academic course load and being an active high school citizen.”

Mason Brewer, Program Director for Bridge Academy of Maine, agreed. “Especially during these unique and challenging times, she displayed an impressive ability to maintain a substantial course load. She is a shining example of what is possible with strong personal drive, advocacy, and planning. We are excited to follow where Rae goes from here!”

At the University of Maine System (UMS), Early College (or dual enrollment) refers to all programs in which high school students enroll in college courses. Students earn both college and high school credit when they successfully complete the course. High school students who enroll in early college courses are more likely to enroll in college, have higher grades, and have a better chance of earning a college degree. Courses are free (or at significantly reduced costs) to high school students.

The most recent data from the UMS Institutional Research and Planning Office (Spring 2022) reveals the outlook for all Early College programs is strong, with 457 high school students enrolled this spring just within UMA (2,501 system wide). This represents an 81% increase from 2018 for UMA, and a 55% increase overall for all seven institutions. Fall enrollments are typically stronger across all demographics, and data for Early College support that. The Fall 2021 statistics show that more than 3,600 students across Maine’s public universities were enrolled in Early College, with 1,056 enrolling in UMA courses.

Like her colleagues, UMA’s Knight is also very optimistic of Pesek’s future as she took advantage of Early College, and also recognized how much family support contributes to student success. “Rae is a remarkable student, and she had unending support and guidance from her family. I know she will go on to do incredible things. Once again, Rae demonstrates that with Early College, high school students can be not only college ready, but college proven!” Pesek is already exploring options for the fall at UMA and several other Maine public universities.

UMA transforms the lives of students of every age and background across the State of Maine and beyond through access to high-quality distance and on-site education, excellence in student support, civic engagement, and professional and liberal arts programs.  For more information, please visit For information about UMA’s Early College Program, visit