Get to know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Debbie Violette

Maine DOE team member Debbie Violette is being highlighted this week as the part of a Get to know the DOE Team campaign! Learn a little more about Debbie in the brief question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE? 

My job is to greet the public with a smile and gratitude, provide customer service to the public, scan home school applications, collect daily education news clips for Department staff, answer the Department’s 4-line switchboard, and direct our customers to the specialists that will best answer their questions. I also receive shipping and deliveries, maintain conference rooms, and have served as MSECCA (Maine State Employee’s Combined Charitable Appeal) Team leader for the past 15 years.

What do you like best about your job?

Decorating our lobby to make it a warm and inviting place for our public and the best place to work in Maine.  I’m a people person and love the days that are super busy, learning more and more about myself and the confidence that I have when answering questions after being here almost 32 years.

How or why did you decide on this career?

My mom was an educator in the Augusta School Dept. for 25 years and taught 2nd grade.  She held a regular education degree, but taught several levels of reading to the individuals with disabilities, too. I was always in her classroom during school summer breaks helping her get ready for the next group of young children to enter her door. I never realized that I had chosen this career in my early years of high school when I took all 4 years of business classes for secretarial work.  So here I am doing what my high school prepared me for: an administrative assistant for the Maine DOE, the way learning should be.

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

I like gardening, decorating my home, camping, knitting, swimming, bowling, and cooking.  I like to take a recipe and make it my own and I like knitting for charity events such as the Alfond cancer center for chemo patients. I am also deacon and greeter of the Manchester Community Church.

WCC Washington County Educator Profile: Mary Anne Spearin

Submitted by Sarah Woog, Executive Director at Washington County Consortium.

Meet Mary Anne Spearin, Principal of Calais High School

I first met Mary Anne when we were Middle School teachers together at Indian Township School. We connected pretty quickly, and would often share our books, our ideas, our practices, and our struggles. It was clear the way Mary Anne engaged with me as her colleague was not accidental or incidental. Mary Anne, then and now, has professional habits learned and practiced over time. Life-long learning and commitment to personal and professional growth are essential values that define how she teaches, how she leads, and how she engages with colleagues. I asked Mary Anne if I could interview her for a profile because I wanted to understand how she developed these habits, and how they impacted her steep trek up the professional ladder, from Ed. Tech, to teacher, to principal. 

Mary Anne began her career in education as an Ed. Tech I at Charlotte Elementary School. She had previously substituted in schools and had about 2.5 to 3 years of coursework behind her. Once an Ed. Tech at Charlotte Elementary, she gained two invaluable mentors, who served to push her, help her expand her vision of what is possible, and to understand professional growth as a welcome and wonderful professional responsibility. These mentors, Principal Peggy White, and Teacher Ann Luginbuhl supported Mary Anne in deciding to go back to school and she began accessing coursework at the Washington County Community College. They also encouraged her to learn and grow outside of the coursework and fostered a supportive community of educators who learned and grew together. Mary Anne soon went from Ed Tech I to Ed Tech III and began to believe she could become a teacher. When a teacher was out for medical leave, Mary Anne stepped in as a long term substitute, and realized that not only could she be a teacher, but that she loved it too. She enrolled at the University of Maine at Machias and finished her Bachelor’s degree in 2007, ten years after she first stepped into the classroom as an Ed Tech.

Mary Anne caught the learning and growing bug. Charlotte Elementary Principal Peggy White tapped her to start a Master’s cohort together immediately after Mary Anne finished her Bachelor’s degree, which they completed two years later, in 2009. Soon thereafter, Mary Anne was at it again, and completed a Certificate in Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) from the University of New England. With this degree, Mary Anne also became a certified principal in 2011. She didn’t stop there, and she hasn’t stopped yet. Mary Anne participated in Educate Maine’s Education Leadership Experience Beta Class  in 2012/2013, and achieved her Superintendent’s certification in 2017. To this day, Mary Anne continues to engage in educational learning communities and still lends me books (and advice and support, too).

I admire Mary Anne. She is clearly admirable. I’m grateful she is my friend and colleague and I know a lot of other educators and students who are grateful for her too. She is a model of ambition and growth, collegiality and camaraderie. But Mary Anne’s career trajectory also imparts some important lessons we can all stand to gain from. I asked her what she attributes her trajectory and success to. First, she said, she attributes it to her colleagues, supervisors and administrators who supported her professional growth. Let’s be those colleagues. Second, she attributes it to the lesson she learned from Peggy and Ann, “that there is no finish line.” Let’s share that lesson with our students and in our professional communities. And, last, to an understanding she’s developed over time: “If we are going to work in education, we need to support education.” Let’s be those supporters. Let’s also take moments to express gratitude to those who have supported us along our paths, too. Thank you, Mary Anne, for giving me what others gave to you.

Hannaford Donates $1M to Support “Fuel Kids at School” Hunger Relief Efforts

Hannaford Supermarkets announced a $1 million donation as part of its new “Fuel Kids at School” initiative that is designed to directly address food insecurity and improve access to fresh and healthy food for children.

“Children can’t be at their best if they’re hungry—or thinking about where their next meal will come from. It is our hope that Fuel Kids at School will take us one step further in nourishing our communities, one child at a time,” said Mike Vail, President of Hannaford. “We want access to food to be easy for kids. Locating food pantries where they are—at their schools should make a lasting and deep impact on child nutrition across our five states.”

Hannaford, in partnership with area hunger relief organizations, will establish over two years, 90 school food pantries across Maine and other northeast states. In Maine, Good Shepherd Food Bank received nearly $300,000 to establish school-based food pantries in 30 Head Start preschools throughout the state.

“The correlation between access to nutritious food and early childhood development and learning makes Head Start locations the ideal match for our next phase of school-based pantries,” said Kristen Maile, President of Good Shepherd Food Bank. “We know that expanding our pantry sites to serve pre-school-aged children and their families will play an important role in ensuring a bright future for Maine’s youngest citizens.”

Designed to serve as a vital and convenient resource to students and families in need while also increasing access to healthy and nutritious food, the in-school pantries are dedicated spaces where students can select food they enjoy according to preference and cooking abilities to provide nourishment both during the day and after the school day.

“The Fuel Kids at School funding, with its focus on Head Start programs, will enable us to make nutritious food readily available to more families at risk of hunger in the critical years before their children enter the public schools,” said Kathryn Sargent, Executive Director of the Locker Project.

The announcement took place in conjunction with a donation of $1,000 in school food pantry staples to the East End Children’s Workshop along with chef-prepared food for the parents and students at the local pre-school.

Hannaford Supermarkets has a longstanding commitment to supporting hunger relief in its communities. In 2018, Hannaford donated nearly 26 million pounds of food throughout the Northeast, including 5.3 million pounds in New York; and raised $1.1 million in partnership with its shoppers to feed individuals in need through the annual Hannaford Helps Fight Hunger program. Earlier this month, Hannaford announced that it has donated more than $1 million to non-profits throughout New York and New England as a result of its reusable bag program, a portion of which is dedicated to hunger relief organizations and has funded more than 1.8 million meals to date.

Maine School of Science and Mathematics Earns No. 8 Spot on List of 5,000 top STEM High Schools

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

Newsweek announced its ranking of the top 5,000 STEM high schools for 2019, honoring excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Maine School of Science and Mathematics was named number 8.

With its long history of reporting on scientific breakthroughs, technological revolutions, and societal challenges, Newsweek partnered with to rank America’s Best STEM High Schools. The list includes schools in every region of the country that offer skilled teachers who keep up with developments in these fields and who create dynamic learning environments to engage their students.

The top 5,000 schools were curated from Educational Research™ (SER) using a proprietary scoring logic that took into consideration a broad set of quantitative and qualitative data inputs collected from Q2 2015–Q3 2019. The purpose was to determine which primary/secondary institutions in America best offer students experiences in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)—as defined by the Congressional Research Service—while preparing them for post‐secondary outcomes. Additional factors, including affluence and median household income, were taken into consideration in compiling the rankings.

“Children don’t realize it, but they’re natural STEM students,” says Nancy Cooper, Newsweek Global Editor in Chief. “We need to make sure that innate drive, curiosity, and creativity aren’t lost along the way. These high schools are helping to ensure America’s future in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is in good hands.”

Newsweek’s November 15 special double issue is available on newsstands now and includes the top 500 STEM high schools. The full list of 5,000 top STEM high schools will be available on on November 8, National STEM Day.

About Newsweek

Newsweek is a premier news magazine and website that has been bringing high‐quality journalism to readers around the globe for over 85 years. Newsweek provides the latest news, in‐depth analysis, and ideas about international issues, technology, business, culture, and politics.

About Educational Research™ Educational Research™ is the longest continually operating, privately held STEM education research and credentialing organization in America, based in Southfield, Michigan.

Portland High School Students Begin Internships

Submitted by Andrea Levinsky, Extended Learning Opportunities Coordinator, Portland High School.

Portland High School students are beginning internships in the community. One student is interning at Planned Parenthood, working on their youth education programming and political advocacy. She said about her first day, “It was great, the environment is so positive and everyone there is so intelligent!! I’m very excited to be doing it.”

Another is interning with Little Chair Printing, learning about design, working with customers, and running a print shop. The Maine Medical Center Research Institute is hosting a student do help a researcher in his lab. A senior is interning at Lyseth Elementary School learning about teaching and working with children. Three juniors are sharpening their research skills interning with the New England History Association through teacher Gavin Glider. There is also a student interning at Portland Stage Company in their costume shop, learning about the world of professional theater. The Portland High School Athletic Trainer is working with an intern to learn about how to work with injured athletes.

If your student is interested in doing an internship or you know of a business or organization who would like to host an intern, please reach out to Andrea Levinsky, Extended Learning Opportunities Coordinator at