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Thankful for you!

November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving

Today, on Thanksgiving, I pause to THANK YOU for your contributions to education. Your positive impact is amazing! I know that it takes constant creativity, courage, resilience, persistence, experience, planning, a sense of humor, and so much more to make a difference in the lives of learners.

I AM GRATEFUL!

I was reminded over and over this month of how grateful I am to be engaged in education at this point in my life. It seems like the roles of teachers and schools are continually shifting; expanding to meet the many needs of children AND our society and at the same time being challenged by outside forces.

I am grateful

I am grateful to have helped in the planning of the conference that over 100 educators attended on a beautiful Saturday: Truth, Hope, and Creativity: How the Arts Can Deepen Any Curriculum at Thomas College. How fortunate we were to be together in person with other educators learning and exchanging ideas. We stretched our thinking around the importance of teaching Truth. The presenters answered questions and created many more, the learning continues beyond the day.

I am grateful to have visited a high school to learn about their Book Arts program taking place, not in the art room, but in social studies, science, and language arts classes. Sadly, it was a just a week after the active shooter hoax locked down 10 Maine schools. It was a horribly scary situation and sadly for some it didn’t last for only that one day. The students have been working on amazing books that demonstrate their learning of The Depression and The New Deal. (Watch for a future blog post with the details.)

I am grateful to be substituting and spending time with learners of all ages. So enjoyable to see students learning and laughing. Each one has a story and many are anxious to share.

I am grateful to live in a region of the state where theatre programs are thriving. There is no greater joy than to see students on stage. They bring their very best and many times surprise themselves by what they are capable of. Acting for an audience provides opportunities that sitting in a classroom can not. The pride, OH MY, the pride!

I am grateful to be on a committee planning the Sestercentennial (250 years) celebration for my community. Looking Back to Look Ahead will give people of all ages the chance to come together to celebrate our town while recognizing those who have come before us.

Giants

I know that I stand on the shoulders of giants and wouldn’t be who I am today without them. I invite you to think about who has influenced you and taught you. Whether those people are alive or passed away perhaps you’ll take the time to thank them on this Thanksgiving Day. I appreciate you your commitment to education and to show my appreciation I’m sending you flowers!

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Education Has Lost a Giant

November 15, 2022

So long Phil Brookhouse

For those of us who came in contact with Phil Brookhouse, we are all better for it. You may know Phil from his days with the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. He and Barbara Greenhouse played off of each other while providing professional developing with technology. They were quite a team. For many Maine educators this was their first introduction to technology in the classroom so it needed to be top notch. The delivering was excellent, the content was spot on, but more importantly Phil understood it was ‘all about the relationship’. He was gentle, kind, and knowledgeable, AND he understood how to communicate with teachers because he had teaching in his heart and soul. A teachers teacher!

Phil worked with the State of Maine to roll out and support one of the first “one to one” laptop programs in the country. Phil always had a pleasant look on his face and often he spoke with a ‘pirate accent’. In fact, he was the first ‘pirate’ I ever met. Phil loved music and performed in community theatre. He understood the value of arts education and took the opportunity to include the arts in the work he did. He was proud to be named an Ambassador to Jupiter through NASA. After leaving the state work, Phil returned to the classroom at Edward Little High School in Auburn working with the gifted and talented program before retiring. He will be missed but the seeds of learning he spread will live on. I am grateful for the work he did in Maine education! You can read his entire obituary at THIS LINK.

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November Gifts

November 12, 2022

Theatre – alive and well in Maine high schools

One of the best parts about November is that high schools across Maine provide opportunities for students to perform in theatre productions. The added benefits to our state are many! People of all ages can engage in stories, some old and classic, and some newer. The community including parents, children, seniors, retired folks and anyone who lives in the town where the school is located, as well as surrounding towns, have a chance to watch, listen and learn as teens take to the stage. There aren’t many opportunities during a school year for citizens to enter our school buildings. These performances can serve as advocacy for not only theatre programs but dance, music, and visual art since all of the arts are often utilized through the theatre production.

The skills and experiences gained through participation in theatre productions are not learned elsewhere!

CONGRATULATIONS…

…to all the high schoolers taking part in plays. I know that to give your best performance you have practiced for many days and weeks which amount to many hours while still keeping up with attending classes and doing homework. You’ve worked individually and with your peers practicing lines, your position on stage with how and where and when to move. You have collaborated with teachers, actors, light and sound students, costume and make up people. Your success relies on the commitment and cooperation of a huge number of people.

THANK YOU…

…to all the educators who give opening of their time after the normal school day to support the many students who participate in the theatre program. I know we have some Maine schools with theatre teachers who provide classes during the day that contribute to the production but most are doing this work after school. Your patience, kindness, and influence inspiring theatre students is amazing.

SUPPORT…

We know that it takes many people beyond the actors and teachers who help support the production in many different ways. Thank you to all of you lovers of the theatre and students who participate. I encourage everyone reading this blog post to attend a play going on at your local high school. Nothing like a full house to feel appreciated when performing!

The following are a few of the plays that are taking place in the next couple of weeks. If you are aware of others please email me at meartsed@gmail.com and I’d be glad to add them to this blog post. Thanks!

Thornton Academy, Saco presents The Odyssey. MORE INFORMATION!

Camden Hills Regional High School presents Mamma Mia! MORE INFORMATION!

Medomak Valley High School, Waldoboro presents Hello Dolly! MORE INFORMATION!

Waterville Senior High School presents Momma Mia! LEARN MORE!

Belfast High School present Grease. MORE INFORMATION!

Orono High School presents Mamma Mia! MORE INFORMATION!

Mount Desert Island High School presents Oliver! MORE INFORMATION!

Break a leg!

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Conference Lift-off

November 4, 2022

Teaching Truth, Hope, and Creativity: How the ARTS can deepen any curriculum

During the last 7 months a group of committed educators have been planning, writing grants, communicating with each other and many other educators to plan the conference being held tomorrow, November 4, at Thomas College. Those of you who have planned conferences know of the thousands of details that it takes to pull together a successful conference. Those of you who have attended education conferences know how critical they are to advancing teaching and learning.

The Teaching Truth, Hope, and Creativity conference is for all Maine educators and is supported by many organizations through funding and planning. We are fortunate to have Connie Carter, Education Director from Americans Who Tell the Truth AWTT, take the lead on many of the details. Connie is amazing and knowledgeable about what is needed to face the tough conversations in schools today. Karen MacDonald from the Maine County and State Teachers of the Year Association has been involved in planning several conferences since her retirement as a middle school Language Arts. She is great at taking on responsibilities and at asking the questions to continue moving forward in the planning. Chelsea Fay representing the Maine Math and Science Alliance has been a top notch planner and she along with her colleague at MMSA Emma Carey will be presenting a workshop at the conference. Iva Damon representing the Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership has wowed us with her technology skills setting up the Padlet and the jam board participants will use. Hope Lord representing Maine Art Education Association has been instrumental in many of the hundreds of details. Sooooo grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with this amazing group of educators!

The conference couldn’t happen without the cooperation and generous support of many organizations. Unum, Veterans for Peace, Farnsworth Art Museum, and Kane-Lewis Productions. Thomas College is a wonderful organization to work with and has a beautiful campus. Staff member Darren has been excellent every step of the way!

The conference is scheduled for 8:45-3:00, tomorrow, November 4. We have 130 registered. If you’re interested in attending we have a few spaces available. Register at the link below OR show up at the door with cash or a check for $25.00 made out to Americans Who Tell the Truth. Included in registration is light breakfast, full lunch, an AWTT book, a padlet filled with resources, amazing workshops presented by Maine educators, access to two films: Truth Tellers and Natasha Mayers: An Un-still Life, wonderful gifts, and contact hours. There will be the opportunity to purchase the film Truth Tellers at a special conference price. Briar Patch books will have books to purchase. The door prizes are amazing!

I’m looking forward to seeing old friends at the conference and making new ones. YAY!

REGISTRATION

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Remembering Jason Anderson

October 23, 2022

Maine has lost an arts education champion

We are fortunate in Maine to have had many arts education giants over the years. Some at the local level, leading conversations, at the regional level providing leadership and at the state level influencing conversations and policy. This week Maine arts educators lost a champion, an individual who had experience in all three arenas. Jason Anderson, age 41, passed away much too early. At the beginning of his career he taught music for 14 years in Vermont and Maine. His teaching experience plus his graduate degree in curriculum and instruction prepared him well for his employment at the Maine Department of Education (DOE). Jason started at the DOE not long before the outbreak of Covid and he rose to the challenges and provided multiple opportunities, clear communication and supported educators in every way possible. His ongoing work was done with enthusiasm and he was totally committed. Jason was greatly appreciated and will be missed!

Jason’s funeral is on Saturday, October 29, 10:00 a.m. at the Military St. Baptist Church, 308 Military St., Houlton. His obituary can be found at THIS LINK.

Jason Anderson
December 21, 1980 – October 19, 2022
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Upcoming Conference

October 13, 2022

Register by October 18 and receive complimentary book

REGISTRATION

We know this is planned on a Saturday. (Intentionally so you don’t have to stress about the availability of a substitute). We know you might be tired, (teaching is tiresome along with invigorating). BUT, the planners of this conference want you to have this experience that will inspire you (we all need inspiration periodically) — maybe for this year or even next year. 

Join colleagues from across the state (some that are so ready to connect with you). Come and experience the courage, the passion, and the energy Americans Who Tell The Truth (AWTT) portrait subjects (the portraits will come alive) and teachers (who have actually used the portraits in their classrooms) will share.

Use it, store it, ponder it — but most of all have an amazing experience — even on a Saturday! Teaching Truth, Hope, and Creativity: How the Arts Can Deepen Curriculum. You will received a complimentary copy of Portraits of Racial Justice or Portraits of Earth Justice, if you register by October 18! The frosting on the cake: 6 contact hours are included.

Maine Educator Professional Development Opportunity 

Thomas College, Waterville 

Saturday, Nov. 5, 8:45 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

REGISTRATION

In addition, you will have access to the film Truth Tellers (no cost) for 24 hours. If you’ve never seen the film or wish to see it again, this is a chance. Meet Maine artist Rob Shetterly who has created over 250 portraits. He will be unveiling his latest painting at the conference and the subject will be on a panel. The film has been created by Maine Film Maker, Kane Lewis Productions. Richard Kane will also be at the conference.

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Matthew Bernstein

October 12, 2022

2023 Maine Teacher of the Year

I’m feeling proud for our teaching profession as I reflect on the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year announcement ceremony held at Casco Bay High School in Portland. I’m sure if you have a chance to meet Matt you’ll feel proud as well, knowing that this young teacher will be representing Maine educators during 2023. The ceremony at the school announcing the teacher of the year is a formality that has barely changed and I am lucky to have attended all but a handful, since 1995. A similar scene is repeated year after year: the room gradually fills with administration, school and district staff, funders, representatives from the media, muckety-mucks, and out of town guests. The speakers are seated at the front near a podium with a microphone. The most important people file in last in a somewhat orderly fashion, students and their teachers. We know that high school teachers can blend in with students but on this day the teachers were recognizable because they dressed in blue shirts with ties partially knotted to honor one of their own colleagues, grade 9 humanities and social studies teacher Matt Bernstein. The energy level and the pride was evident throughout the room. Everyone was very attentive throughout the ceremony.

Two parts of the day brought me to tears. Matt was nominated for the award by a former student, Yusur Jasim. While a student of Matt’s he spent a lot of time in Matt’s classroom and decided to be a teacher because of the compassion and support he received. When Yusur spoke to describe Matt I could see the faces of the students understanding because he had impacted them in similar ways. The 2022 Maine Teacher of the Year, Kelsey Stoyanova who teaches at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden, gave an engaging speech that not only highlighted the honor and role Matt will have during his year as teacher of the year but pointed the light directly onto the students. She was on the teacher of the year visitation team and during a recent visit to Casco Bay she learned about Matt, his students, colleagues, and the school. Her shared observations and collections of words made it clear that Matt is a compassionate, caring teacher who provides a safe and nurturing true learner-centered classroom for every learner who walks through the doorway. In Kelsey’s words:

“Mr. Bernstein empowers you all to be teachers for yourselves and others. Mr. Bernstein empowers you to teach him because you are all worthy of being learned from. Mr. Bernstein would not be able to do that if he did not truly believe in each of you all individually to be the kind of humans you want to be, the kind of humans your school needs you to be, the kind of humans that contribute and add value to all the communities in which you reside – in and outside of the four walls of your classroom with Mr. Bernstein.

Not only in the words that Matt shared but his body language spoke volumes as he put his hands to his heart and formed a heart shape over and over. He shared that this recognition wouldn’t have been possible without his students and the teachers around him. Matt jokingly said that he steals a lot of ideas from his colleagues. Matt said: “When I come here, I feel like I’m home. I feel like I have family around me”.

Matt was named 2022 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year at the beginning of the year which automatically put him in the arena of being considered for the state teacher of the year. Unlike most other states, Maine’s program for recognizing teachers is a long and drawn out process lasting almost a year. It’s a process that has only slightly changed since 1995. The biggest differences are the recognition of county teachers, Educate Maine facilitating the program for the department of education, and the funders are plentiful. In reality, all supporting teachers.

Matt has a Bachelor of Arts in History with a European History concentration from Bowdoin College, where he was also a Bowdoin Teacher-Scholar. His pedagogy is centered around student voices and student activism. He believes that the purpose of education is to help students find their way of contributing to a more equitable world. Matt is also passionate about creating opportunities for students to experience joy and belonging at school daily, and, to that end, he believes in cultivating meaningful relationships with students, often through his work as a 9th grade crew advisor, that are grounded in deep listening and holistic support. Matt has served in many leadership capacities at Casco Bay and the Portland district and takes opportunities to deepen his knowledge and teaching practice. A teacher for 10 years, I’m certain that his future in education will continue to be filled with learning and teaching opportunities.

Along with Educate Maine and the Maine DOE, the other partners and funders include: Maine County Teachers of the Year, State Board of Education, Geiger, Hannaford, Bangor Savings Bank, Dead River Company, unum, Silvernail Family, and Maine Lottery.

If you’d like to learn more about the program please go to the Educate Maine website at https://www.mainetoy.org.

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Teaching Truth, Hope, and Creativity: How the Arts Can Deepen Curriculum

September 18, 2022

Learning Opportunity for Maine Teachers

Maine Educator Professional Development Opportunity

Thomas College, Waterville

Saturday, Nov. 5, 8:45 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

REGISTRATION

You’re invited to join us to explore ways to use the arts to connect curriculum silos and make challenging content accessible. This will be a unique opportunity to learn with and from Maine artists and educators. Robert Shetterly, a Maine artist and activist, will inspire us as he unveils his portrait of Representative Rachel Talbot Ross. Educators will have the opportunity to engage with a panel of Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) portrait subjects as they discuss the issues that inspire their life’s courageous work, activism, and imagination. Teachers who have used the curriculum lessons from AWTT in their classes, or are familiar with other ways to integrate social justice into curriculum, will offer interactive workshops. In addition, there will be time to share ideas and build your network with Maine educators.

For those who have not seen the documentary Truth Tellers or wish to see it a second time, the documentary film chronicling the lives of courageous Americans fighting for racial equity, climate justice and indigenous rights through the eyes of Robert Shetterly, a long time activist and artist, will be shown on Sat.,Nov. 5, at 8 a.m, before the official start of the conference. All of those registered for the conference will also receive a link to view the film the night before the conference if they choose. Those who register for the conference by October 18 will receive a free copy of either Portraits of Racial Justice or Portraits of Earth Justice at the event, the latest books from Americans Who Tell the Truth. 

REGISTRATION

For any questions, email macdok235@gmail.com

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9/11

September 11, 2022

Let us pause and remember

A few evil people acted that day, 21 years ago, but millions acted out of bravery and kindness and showed the world that goodness can overpower evil. I was in my art classroom the morning of 9/11 when the news came through. I was horrified and was reminded that not all of us do what is right for other human beings.

I watch this video each year on this date to remind me of the importance of compassion and not to be so only when there is a tragedy but everyday. The challenges that people experience throughout our world must be combatted with a little kindness to each other.

There were many stories of bravery that day but I am forever moved by the community of boat owners and captains who put others first and their acts made a difference! Everyone who participated in the search and rescue operation on 9/11 and the days following is a true hero. Never Forget the lives lost on this tragic day or the heroes that emerged from it.

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Teachers Representatives

August 25, 2022

Finalists for Maine Teacher of the Year

Four Maine teachers were announced today as the State Finalists for the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year program. Eighth grade social studies and English Language Arts teacher Heather Anderson from Aroostook County, ninth grade humanities and social studies teacher Matthew Bernstein from Cumberland County, fourth grade math, writing, and science teacher Ashley Bryant from Oxford County, and high school social studies teacher Emily Albee from Penobscot County were all selected to move forward in the Teacher of the Year process and were chosen from the 2022 Maine County Teachers of the Year.

These teachers are representatives of all that is ‘right’ with education these days. They’re not ‘the best’ teachers but instead they are teachers who represent all teachers. If you’re fortunate enough to be a teacher you can be proud that their voices are strong and articulate. I had the opportunity in July to be at UMaine when the eight semi-finalists made presentations. They spoke with clarity while sharing their beliefs and passion for teaching.

We’re fortunate in Maine that the process for determining the teacher of the year is well thought out and has changed over the years to select a teacher who best represents all Maine teachers. When I look back I am impressed with how the program has evolved. In the present environment of education I’m sure that we can all agree that the program needs to change in order to represent the education profession.

County teachers of the year who were considered for the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year who teach one of the arts: from Androscoggin County visual art teacher Kelsey Boucher, from Hancock County music teacher Rebecca Edmondson, and from Somerset County theatre teacher Debra Susi.

Maine’s Teacher of the Year is a program of Educate Maine. You can learn more at their website at https://www.mainetoy.org. The program has many sponsors.

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