Staff at the Burchard A. Dunn School in MSAD 15 Team Up to Improve Student Inclusion in Pre-K

Beginning last September, a team of twelve dedicated staff members from MSAD 15 in Gray – New Gloucester and Child Development Services in Cumberland County joined forces with the Maine Department of Education, Child Development Services (CDS), The University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies (CCIDS) and Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network (MRTQ PDN) to learn ways to improve their current inclusion practices within their three public Pre-K classrooms. “We’re doing this for the kids, everything we do is with their best interest in mind,” one preschool teacher noted when asked why they originally signed up for this professional learning opportunity.

Team members included district administration, special education staff, classroom teachers and their education technicians as well as an itinerant special education teacher from Child Development Services (CDS) Reach. The initiative included a continuum of professional development strategies from knowledge and skill building through individual and group training to guided reflective practice and application opportunities. School district team members started by completing a self-paced on-line training entitled Inclusive Environments in Public Pre-K. Next, the whole team participated in a one-day kick-off event hosted at Educare Central Maine in Waterville. This orientation session provided participants with a chance to meet the trainer and consultants, learn more about the education and support components and discuss the key indicators of high- quality indoor and outdoor classroom environments covered during the on-line training. After the orientation session, team members participated in the MRTQ PDN 30-hour Creating Inclusive Early Childhood Settings on-line training while also receiving onsite consultation visits and participating in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) lead by two CCIDS consultants.

In January, all partners convened at the school to discuss the process, tour the classrooms and present their learning. External evaluators from Early Childhood Associates in Massachusetts conducted focus groups to gain more specific feedback about the professional learning and its impact. Participants noted:

Working together with a specific early childhood focus strengthened our team and our work.”

“Having administrators involved was REALLY valuable!”

The teams were awarded $1,500 mini-grants for each pre-k classroom to enhance inclusivity. The funding came from a federally awarded Pre-K grant Maine received in 2019. The mini-grants were used to purchase sensory materials, equipment, furniture and other enhancements such as lighting, flooring and sinks!  Comments from participants demonstrate the impact of the professional learning:

“I am internally motivated to attend IEP meetings and say, yes, Dunn School has everything we need to service your child.”

My students seem happier, they’re excited, I feel comfortable meeting them where they’re at.”

“We didn’t know what we didn’t know!”

The Maine Department of Education in partnership with CDS, CCIDS and MRTQ PDN is considering ways to continue this project with other interested districts throughout Maine. As opportunities become available, notification will be provided to the field!

Dayton Consolidated School Participates in School Global Play Day

On Wednesday, February 5th, Dayton Consolidated School, which is a preK-5th grade school, participated in Global School Play Day.  On this day, schools from all over the globe were filled with students engaged in unstructured play.  On February 4, 2015, the first year of Global School Play Day, over 65,000 children participating in the first ever Global School Play day after only four weeks of social media promotion from six educators. Last year, on February 6, 2019, on what was the fifth annual Global School Play Day, over 535,000 children from 72 nations participated. “Unstructured play is a vital part of proper child development!”

In a kick off assembly, Dayton students were told of the upcoming day, which was met with a roaring round of applause. Students were each given an opportunity to bring an item from home to play with if they chose (no electronics!). The first such day for Dayton Consolidated School was a huge success. Students actively engaged with each other. There was almost no need for adult intervention as students worked together to figure out any issues that arose. The school also participated in a school wide recess.

This story was submitted by Kim Sampietro, Principal of Dayton Consolidated School as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. If you have an idea or a story, email it to Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

WCC Washington County Educator Profile: Mary Bryant

Meet Mary Bryant, Pre-K and Kindergarden Teacher at Ft. O’Brien School, aka, Wonderwoman.

I had already labeled Mary ‘Wonderwoman’ before we met for an interview at Ft. O’Brien Elementary School during an icy day in January. She achieved this status in my mind because she teaches Pre-K and Kindergarden in a single classroom, and I knew from my work that she somehow also found time to be a Teacher Leader in Guided Reading professional development. The maximum number of students in Pre-K and Kindergarden I could handle at one time is two, and that’s because they would occupy each other. Even if I ever tried to successfully teach both grades in a single classroom, I know I would bask in “me time” during all other hours, rather than dedicate time and exhaustive effort into sharing my learning and practices with others. After our interview, Mary was still ‘Wonderwoman’ to me, but for a simpler reason- because, I believe, she is simply wonderful.

I’m not alone in this belief. I interviewed Mary for a profile because the Ed Tech in her classroom, Kari Tremblay, reached out to me and advised me to do so. Kari shared:

“I am an Ed. Tech in Mary Bryant’s room at Fort O’Brien.  She is the most amazing teacher I have ever met. She has taught me patience, good will and honesty.  She has been my inspiration as she is an amazing teacher. She has a heart of gold and always wears her heart on her sleeve!  I love my job and I enjoy every day going in and working in her classroom! I feel especially this year she needs to be recognized! She goes beyond and above her job!  Her little’s love her and so do I!! Please recognize her for her soft heart, patience and determination as she will always be my hero and mentor! She is such an amazing teacher and deserves recognition!!”

Thank you, Kari, for your enthusiastic recommendation. And, ditto.

I shared Kari’s remarks with Mary and asked her why she believed Kari felt so strongly about her and her work. Mary got a little choked up and did what Mary would do, what educators all over this County would do. She told me how wonderful Kari is and how blessed she is to have her in her classroom. I interrupted Mary- “Can I just point out that I asked you why Kari feels this way about you, and you only told me about how great Kari is?” Mary deflected compliments and used them as opportunities to celebrate others. This is something I see or hear educators do often. I think it is sweet and I deeply appreciate it. It attests to Mary’s, and others’, selflessness and unwaivering belief that schools are communities and our colleagues help to sustain our work and support our students and collective progress. But I also want Mary, and other deflectors, to welcome opportunities to celebrate themselves. So I prodded Mary a little more: “But what makes you so amazing?”

“I’m a perfectionist and very hard on myself, and I’m just always doing. If something doesn’t go as planned, I beat myself up about it. We constantly reflect; every other sentence I’m reflecting on what I am saying. I should recognize that’s something I’m good at. I reflect often.”

My goodness, Mary, you still had to say “we.” But Mary was right. She told me about how Ft. O’Brien Elementary School is structured to encourage and support collective reflection and action, and how this began when they were labeled a “priority school.” Ft. O’Brien School has built in a rotating substitute every Monday, which enables every staff member to be on the Leadership Team. How wonderful it is that the folks at Ft. Obrien have designed, implemented and sustained a structure that recognizes and supports all as leaders. Because, at our core as educators, isn’t that who we are- leaders? 

But this is about Mary, as hard as she worked to make it about others. And, I’ll admit, she wasn’t wrong when she wanted me to know, too, about her school and the people that support her success. They certainly should be celebrated. I hope I’ve done them justice. 

As I run out of room for this profile, I’m just going to tell you why Mary is wonderful. I think you’ll find wonder/see your own wonderfulness in her history and work, too: “I’m starting my Masters in the Spring… I just love school. It’s not for the money, I love to learn, collaborate with other people, learn about what others are doing.” Mary grew up in Lubec, went to Lubec High School, has an Associates Degree in Business from Husson University. She worked for 15 years for Whitney Corporation, went back to school at the University of Maine at Machias (UMM), and got her teaching degree in Elementary Education. She substitute taught and student taught for two years in AOS 96 and then was a long term substitute at Ft. Obrien. The Pre-K/K position at Ft. O’Brien opened and she was asked to consider it. Mary remarked, “I was a little scared of Pre-K/K, but now I’ve been doing it for 5 years! Lower Elementary is where my heart is. I love this school, the family feel.”

Mary, I am still scared of Pre-K/K, but am so grateful you now are not. I smile with wonder and awe at your path, success, and humility and I appreciate that you aren’t done yet. I also smile to think of all the other Wonderwomen/men out there in Washington County, whose paths at some point intersect with yours, or are currently at one point on a similar path. Mary, and the Leadership Team at Ft. O’Brien, please make sure you celebrate what makes you amazing. And to all you Wonderwomen/men reading this, take time to consider what I asked Mary: “What makes you so amazing?” (And reach out and tell me so I may write a profile about you too. wcc@maine.edu)

This story was submitted by Sarah Woog, Executive Director of the Washington County Consortium as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Saco’s Young School Students “Making News”

Several great things came together as Mrs. Erin Rudy’s first grade students wrapped up their nonfiction reading and writing units*. They had been learning how to read informational books “like an expert”, while researching and crafting nonfiction pieces of writing. Erin teamed with the Technology Instructional Coach, Wendy Cannon, to help students celebrate their efforts by creating a green screen “news” video of themselves reading their work.

Together, students created success criteria for what it looks and sounds like to read like an expert. They used Seesaw to practice recording themselves and check against their criteria. By using Seesaw, students were able to focus on their volume, fluency and “professional voice” for the final version, rather than being nervous about seeing themselves on the screen. These first grade students were extremely thoughtful in evaluating their performance, some re-recording several times before being satisfied. When students were ready, they worked with the technology coach to record in front of a green screen. Students then used safe search sites like Pixabay.com and PhotosforClass.com to find background images, and some took photos of their own artwork. Using the DoInk app, students created their news report and shared with families through Seesaw.

To bring the idea of “reading like an expert” to the forefront during this project, Mr. Irwin Gratz of Maine Public Radio was invited to visit and talk with students about how he does this every day on the radio. Prior to his visit, Mrs. Rudy showed students video snippets of him working at the radio station and generated questions to ask. Mr. Gratz explained how he writes a script and, using inflection and feeling in his voice, reads it slowly, smoothly, and carefully in order to connect with his audience. Irwin Gratz mentioned just about all the same criteria for reading like an expert that students had included in their checklist! He made the point that to become an expert, he had to practice, practice, practice. “You get better the more you do it!” This hit home for the students, since they had done just that!!

It was rewarding for all to have Irwin Gratz visit Erin’s class. He said his “favorite part of the job is talking to people about what I know…When I was your age, it seemed like it was the only reason I learned stuff so that I could turn around and tell other people what I learned. For me that is the fun part.” This goes to the heart of this project, as students are sharing their new knowledge and skills with others. The methods and ideas he presented will follow students into the future. Next time an opportunity arises to record themselves, undoubtedly, they will remember what they learned and experienced throughout this project. Mr Gratz concluded that this was “a great way to spend part of the afternoon. I’ve really enjoyed myself.” One student wrote that bringing Mr. Gratz was “the best!” The children were clearly proud of the videos they created.

This story was submitted by Wendy Cannon, Technology Coach, Saco PreK-2 Schools as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. If you have a story or an idea, email it to Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

MSAD1 School Nurses Among 1st to Complete Vision Certification Course

The Prevent Blindness Children’s Vision Screening Certification Course provides participants with a 3-year, nationally recognized certificate based on current national guidelines and best practices on evidence-based vision screening tools and procedures for school- and preschool-aged children.

The MSAD 1 school nurses are among the first cohort in the State of Maine to participate. The Maine Department of Education is providing access to this course for 125 nurses in 2019-20 school year and will do the same in 2020-21 with the goal of ensuring high quality vision screening for our children in Maine.