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!

MASL Webinars Begin for Maine’s School Librarians

MASL Webinars Begin for Maine’s School Librarians

The Maine Association of School Libraries (MASL) is pleased to announce it will be providing a webinar series for school librarians over the coming months.  Jon Graham, Maine DOE’s Elementary Digital Learning Specialist, will be assisting with the development of the series. The webinars will include topics like Overdrive e-books and audiobooks, classroom management in the school library, and their first topic, Makerspaces in the Elementary School Library.  This webinar will be available live on Monday March 2 from 7pm to 8pm.

After the success of the 2019 Spring Symposium, and after receiving feedback from many librarians supporting a webinar format, the Board for the Maine Association of Libraries (MASL) has decided to take a one-year hiatus from hosting conferences to instead focus on providing high quality professional development for their members via technology.  They also intend to resume their annual Spring Symposium conference beginning in 2021, which will be their only annual conference moving forward.

Makerspaces: In the Elementary School Library

The maker movement hit libraries in a big way. But how can an elementary library with little hands, limited budgets, and tight schedules embrace it? MASL Webinars is tackling that topic in a panel discussion with a group of educators taking different paths to the common goal of helping our learners become the creators and innovators of the next century. One contact hour will be awarded to participants.

This free webinar will be recorded and made available to MASL Members.  Membership is $25/year. Registration for the webinar is available at: http://maslibraries.org/event-3713260

Facilitators:

  • Jen Stanbro – Skillin Elementary School, MASL President-Elect
  • Jon Graham – DOE Elementary Digital Learning Specialist

Panelists: 

  • Meg Blakemore – UMaine Faculty, MASL Treasurer
  • Courtney Graffius – Scarborough School Technology Integrator
  • Rosie Lenehan – Scarborough Schools Librarian
  • Regan Parker – Buxton Center Elementary School, MASL At-Large Board Member
  • Karly Wilkins – Spruce Mountain Elementary School Library Ed. Tech.

For additional information, you can contact Jon Graham at the Maine Department of Education at jonathan.m.graham@maine.gov.

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.

Get to know the DOE Team: Meet Gayle Erdheim

Maine DOE Team member Gayle Erdheim is being highlighted this week as part of the get to know the DOE Team campaign. Learn a little bit about Gayle in the brief question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the Integrated Student Supports Team Leader in the DOE’s new Office of School and Student Supports.  My own work on that team includes serving as Maine’s coordinator for homeless education, truancy and dropout prevention, alternative education, bullying prevention, and restraints and seclusion monitoring.  Other members of my team coordinate initiatives in migrant foster care education, family engagement, social emotional learning, restorative practices, and cultural responsiveness.

What do you like best about your job?

I am fortunate to be in a role where I hear every day from schools, parents, human service providers, and concerned community members who are trying to find solutions to complex challenges that impact student success and well-being.  That keeps me connected to the reality of how our work plays out on the ground where it really matters.  I like being a partner in that kind of problem solving and appreciate the perspective it provides.

How or why did you decide on this career?

Hard to say.  After teaching math and science for many years, I fell into a position helping to create a university extension program in a maximum security prison.  That experience rocked my understanding of what I was supposed to be doing as an educator, and my current work here seems like a natural extension of the path I’ve been traveling ever since.

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

I moved to Maine 3 years ago because it is the most beautiful place in the world! So I spend as much time as possible out of doors, hiking, gardening, canoeing, and keeping my dumb ducks out of trouble.

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.