Employee of the Week: Mary Becker

Mary Becker, Secretary Associate for the Maine State Board of Education is being highlighted this week as the Maine DOE’s Employee of the Week! Learn a little more about Mary in this brief question and answer:

What are your roles?

I provide administrative and executive support to the eleven-member State Board of Education. On any given day my duties can range from providing liaison with the Commissioner’s Office, the Legislature’s Education & Cultural Affairs Committee, and the National Association of State Boards of Education, to handling inquiries from the public, managing accounts, processing appeals, updating the Board’s strategic plan, and generally keeping the business of the State Board’s twenty-three mandated duties and responsibilities moving forward in a timely and efficient manner.

What do you like best about your job?

I like the day to day challenges of various responsibilities.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I came to the Department of Education, Commissioner’s Office, as temporary staff filling in for an individual out on medical leave.  After two years here, enjoying working with such a wonderful group of people at the DOE, I took a position with the State Board of Education.  I have such a love for children of all ages and this position gives me the opportunity to see up front what wonderful things the State Board Members and the DOE staff do every day for the kids throughout the State of Maine.

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

I enjoy reading, walking, listening to music, attending concerts, any theater production, travel, and I am always up for a good road trip!  Most of all, I enjoy spending time with my family, especially my grandchildren!

Maine School of Science and Mathematics Sends Two Robotics Teams to World Championship Competition in Louisville, Kentucky

Submitted by Ryan McDonald, Summer Programs Director and Public Relations Coordinator at Maine School of Science and Mathematics.

Maine School of Science and Mathematics (MSSM) is pleased to announce two teams have qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championship sponsored by the Northrop Grumman Foundation in Louisville, Ky., April 24 – April 27. The teams, 4393Z led by Ethan Kelley (a junior from Yarmouth) and 4393S led by Madison McCarthy (a sophomore from Cape Elizabeth), secured spots at the world’s largest robotics competition through their success at the VEX Robotics Maine State Championship, where they received the Robot Skills Challenge Champion award (4393Z) and the Robot Design Award (4394S).

The State Championship, held in South Portland, attracted 50 teams with students from middle and high schools competing. The VEX Robotics World Championships 2019 will be held at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky and 584 teams from around the world will attend.

MSSM’s VEX Robotics’ School Team Number is 4393 and each team chooses a letter. Team 4393S consists of Madison McCarthy; Wesley Chalmers, a sophomore from Scarborough; and Chandler Pike, a freshman from Jay. Team 4393Z is composed of Ethan Kelley; James Lau, a junior from Buxton; Ryan Oh, a junior from the Republic of Korea; Harrison Ma, a senior from the People’s Republic of China; Alex Nikanov, a junior from Ukraine; and Federico Galbiati, a junior from Italy.

When asked about being a VEX team captain, Madison McCarty said it, “allows me to learn what it’s like to apply robotics in the real world. Building the robot is only a small part of the larger design process. I have to keep track of what all of the team members are doing in a detailed engineer notebook and I’m also responsible for making sure they stay on track with our goals and deadlines for the robot. Being a captain is not an easy job and I have learned a lot of leadership skills as well as patience and organization skills.”

Windham Students Participate in Interdisciplinary Crime Scene Investigation Unit

(pictured: Windham High School math teacher, John Ziegler and alternative education teacher, Adrianne Shetenhelm)

Windham High School students had the unique opportunity of working with the Windham Police Department last week to investigate a mock crime scene as part of an interdisciplinary activity integrated into their regular classes. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors came out of their math, science, English, law, and journalism classes for a hands-on activity where they played either a police detective, forensic analyst, journalist, or lawyer to help solve the mystery in a mock hit and run crime scene that took place in two locations on the Windham Raymond School District campus.

Collaboratively planned by high school math teacher, John Ziegler, alternative education teacher, Adrianne Shetenhelm, and School Resource Officer Seth Fournier, the Crime Scene Investigation Unit is in its second year running and has more than doubled in student participation. The unit integrates multiple course topics into one real-life, hands-on activity that gives students an opportunity to try out potential career options, and gets them out of the classroom and working together.

Windham senior, Kendall Mesoin described the activity as fun and different. She loves the fact that the activity is hands-on and is not in the classroom. When asked what she is learning, she replied that she felt as though she was learning a lot about problem-solving with a team, and the importance of communicating about what you are seeing and doing in order to “put two and two together” to help solve the mystery.

The students took part in the Crime Scene Investigation Unit in class-sized groups for one hour at a time throughout the day while their teachers accompanied them. At each location students had the opportunity to learn from detectives about the various tasks, approaches to investigation including collecting evidence as a team. For example, students from Mr. Wirtz’s Chemistry class talked with Windham Detective Sergeant Andrews about the potential impact of cross contamination on a forensic investigation while they worked together to collect evidence from the scene.

The day was considered an enormous success by teachers and students alike. They continue to refine the unit and hope to expand the opportunity to students again next year.

Enter a From the Windham Police Department, (L to R) Detective Gene Gallant, Sergeant Jason Burke, School Resource Officer Seth Founier.


Great Salt Bay Community School Choir Honors Fellow Student with Album, “Sail On Silver Girl”

Submitted by Anne-Marie D’Amico, choir teacher at Great Salt Bay (GSB) Community School in AOS 93. The article was written as part of the Lincoln County Artsbeat of the Lincoln County News. Photo credit: Lincoln County News.

Great Salt Bay (GSB) Community School choir recently completed a project directed by teacher Anne-Marie D’Amico titled “Sail On Silver Girl,” and consists of a choral album and a documentary film about the project.

The project was named “Sail On Silver Girl” to honor the late Isabelle Manahan, D’Amico said. Manahan, who had been a member of GSB’s advanced chorus before going on to Lincoln Academy, passed away in June of last year at age 15.

“We named it after her passing to keep her memory alive,” said D’Amico. “It was another extension of our community reflection, especially because Izzy was so active in all the programs at GSB.”

The “Sail On Silver Girl” project, begun in September 2017, features “last year’s eighth graders and seventh graders and this year’s eighth graders” in the GSB advanced chorus, D’Amico said. Some of those involved are now freshmen at Lincoln Academy.

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” said D’Amico of the ambitious project that also features local musicians Sean Fleming on piano/keyboard, Dave Martin on guitar, John Cannon on bass, Michael Sevon on drums, and Curt Boot on trumpet. Cannon and Sevon both work at GSB.

John Morrison, of Auburn, was the project’s sound engineer and Jared Morneau, of Brunswick, was the video engineer.

Members of local community chorus Common Threads also took part in the project, D’Amico said.

GSB’s advanced chorus “got to do something professional,” D’Amico observed.

It was the first time that GSB choral students had been involved in a musical project of such magnitude and seriousness, from the very beginning of learning all the songs through to listening to raw recorded tracks and later to mixed tracks, which “made their faces light up,” D’Amico said.

For more information and to watch the video visit their website at sailonproject.wordpress.com.


Maine DOE Announces 4th Annual Read to Ride Summer Reading Challenge

Summer vacation is a welcome break from the daily school routine for children and parents alike, but the summer months can be detrimental to students’ learning if young minds do not remain active. Summer learning loss is a well-documented phenomenon, particularly with respect to reading achievement.  Students can lose up to three months of reading progress during the summer if they don’t keep reading.  When combined across a child’s PK-8 school career, this can result in 1-2 years of lost reading progress.

Fortunately, the summer slide can be prevented or greatly reduced when students continue to read on a regular basis. By encouraging children to read for enjoyment from a variety of resources and to explore topics of interest, they continue to practice applying the skills they have learned, build their vocabulary, and widen their knowledge of the world.  For students who are not yet reading independently, or just beginning to read, reading to and with parents is equally beneficial.

Once again this year, the Maine Department of Education is collaborating with the Freemasons of Maine to sponsor the Read to Ride Summer Reading Challenge for students in grades PK-8.  The Maine Freemasons have generously donated 48 bikes with helmets as prizes for the Read to Ride Summer Reading Challenge.  During the first three years of this initiative, thousands of Maine children completed the challenge of reading 500 minutes during the summer vacation.  Maine DOE hopes to see this number grow even higher during the summer of 2019.

Any school with students in the PK-8 grade span may register to participate. Participating schools will collect documentation from students who have completed the challenge. They will hold school level drawings to select two students (one boy and one girl) whose names will be entered into the state level drawing to be held on September 25, 2019.   Schools are encouraged to participate in this challenge, to coordinate it with any other summer reading challenges/programs they offer, and to consider soliciting their own local level prizes for students who complete the challenge.  Find details and the link to register your school at the Read to Ride Challenge website.

Questions may be directed to Maine DOE’s Elementary Literacy Specialist, Danielle Saucier at danielle.m.saucier@maine.gov.