Archive for June, 2022


Art Teacher Extraordinaire Retiring

June 28, 2022

Congratulations, Ms. Snider, and thank you!


While reading Janie Snider’s reflections below you will understand who she is and the impact she has had, not only on her elementary and middle school students, but the adults in her life also. Janie is a gem whom I’m certain will be missed in her daily teaching role. I’m confident that she will continue to make a difference in this world through her interactions with others as she enjoys her retirement. Thank you Janie for your service to the field of education! I know the blog readers join me in wishing you the very best in your retirement.

Last week of school, Hancock Grammar School


I have been teaching for 30 years. My first ten years teaching were in SAD#37 including Columbia Falls, Millbridge, Cherryfield, Harrington, and Addison. I started as a long-term art substitute, then as a kindergarten teacher and the following year as the art teacher. In 2002 I started teaching at Hancock Grammar School, where I spent the last 20 years. As a result of consolidation, I also taught art at Lamoine Consolidated for four years from 2011-2015. I received a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education, K-8 from University of Maine, Machias and K-12 Visual Arts Certification.

My favorite part of teaching is building the most wonderful relationships with students that revolve around art making! Painting is my favorite discipline. Guiding students through color exploration and expression is so rewarding.

Cherryfield School – notice all the art styles included?

It has been quite the journey from when I was a young itinerant art teacher. I remember being so overwhelmed in my early years; five schools, 600 students and all the different challenges. In year three I was considering giving it up. I was feeling isolated and unsure of my impact on students. Then one day as I was introducing landscape to third graders I learned that I was! As I explained the horizon line, a little boy who normally didn’t participate suddenly started waving his hand, so I called on him. He was so excited to have made this connection, he said, “I saw it this weekend when I was on the lobster boat with my Dad, there it was and I knew it had something to do with art!!!” From that moment on, I never questioned my ability to connect students with the wonders of art in their world. It was my inspirational moment. Nature is my inspiration for my own work and it easily found it’s way into my lessons!

I have seen many changes in education and art education over the years. I truly believe that being included in the “Maine Learning Results” gave validity to arts education. However, it was challenging to keep up with the interpretation of standards that serve as guidance in developing strong arts programming. I was fortunate to have been an active part of this process, a member of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI, now MAEPL), a local leader, and advocate for arts education. All of which helped me tremendously with meeting students needs! As a result of my work, I was recognized as the 2014 Maine Middle School Art Teacher by the Maine Art Education Association. This was a very important time in affirming my career. Representing Maine and attending the National Art Education Association conference in New Orleans was a definite highlight!

Another huge change is how technology has developed and changed the art curriculum, this boggles my mind. I started my career without using any technology and in 2020 developed an online art curriculum for remote learning.

Three things that are really key to a successful art program are:

  • KNOW your students, develop a relationship with them!! Listen to them!!
  • SHOW your passion for your profession!! Be creative in your approach!!
  • GO WITH THE FLOW, be flexible, be current with best practices and meet students where they are!
Janie in her classroom at Hancock Grammar School

I am most proud of my ability to guide students and help them understand and appreciate art in education and the world. I recently received a message from a former student who was in Washington DC at the National Gallery and was thinking back to the many lessons she learned in my classes. She thanked me for that. I have many young adults that have reconnected with me and shared their fond memories in art! 

Looking into my crystals ball….My advice to teachers is “LOVE WHAT YOU DO AND NEVER STOP LEARNING ABOUT WAYS YOU CAN ENGAGE STUDENTS!” 

K-8 mural, D.W. Merritt Elementary School, Addison. Kindergarten students started at the bottom and the mural grew as each grade contributed.

Stay curious, involved and be a life long learner. Take classes and reach out to others in your area of expertise, they are a gift!

I have come to realize that I was supposed to be an art teacher. So I guess the innate ability to teach was there, I just needed to become aware of it. I knew early on I had some artistic talent and wanted to be an artist. However, life happened and that dream had to be on hold. So I learned a lot of teaching skills over the years that helped me in my work! I’m still learning more about my work through my reflection. I am hopeful that during retirement I will rediscover that innate “art-self” that will bring my life-long dream into being.

Hancock Grammar School

I plan to make time for me and my art! I plan to take art classes, garden, read, travel with my honey and spend time with family and friends. I have grandkids that I am excited to have more time with!❤️ I know me and I am always busy, so my goal is to slow down just a bit and smell the roses!!

If I was given $500,000….definitely, buy a camper to continue my trips to the national parks. Contribute to my grandkids education fund and invest in my community arts programming! 

I hope to be 94 and looking back!! My mom made it to 93 and we had a conversation about regrets before she passed. No regrets here, I have lived a good life, learned many lessons to carry me into the present! I have listened to my intuition and followed my heart, which is full of love!!❤️

Janie painting, home studio

Music Teacher Extraordinaire Retiring

June 21, 2022

Congratulations, Mrs. Murphy and thank you!

I love helping students find their voices.

Kim Murphy has been teaching music for the last 34 years and is retiring this month. She’s one of those teachers who I thought would never retire since she has a ton of energy and is totally engaged in every aspect of teaching. She has high expectations for herself and her students. Kim always has a smile on her face and her laughter is contagious! I’m certain that she will be missed! (You can learn something about Kim’s humor by the most of the photos below and the embedded links, be sure and click on the center capitalized titles to see the videos).

Kim started teaching grades 6-12 Choral and General Music at Oak Hill High School, Sabattus, Litchfield and Wales. Shortly afterward the position changed and she taught Band and Chorus, grades 9-12 at Oak Hill High School. She took a sabbatical in 1996-97 and then moved to Lincolnville. For the last 25 years she has taught at the high school, Camden-Rockport High School for 3 years and when the new high school opened, Camden Hills Regional High School (CHRHS), she has taught there. Earlier in her music career she worked as a music therapist in Peapack, NJ and Bethlehem, PA.

Kim was a double major and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and Music Therapy. She is a Nationally Board Certified teacher.

What has been your favorite part of teaching?                                                                                                                       

  • I love helping students find their voices. Find their self-confidence through singing. I love it when someone has a solo – and other people never realized what a beautiful voice that person has.  And then there is just the self-confidence in getting up and singing before a large crowd – whether in a small group or a large group. There are life lessons – the teamwork is necessary. 
  • I love music festivals – where students from different schools come together to create works of beauty. It’s SO different from sports – where someone is always the winner and someone is always the loser. With music festivals – the competition has already happened (through auditions) and the coming together to create a concert in 2 – 3 days is a wonderful way to build connections.
  • And then of course – I love musicals!

Tell the readers about a moment in your teaching career that has been unforgettable? 

  • Well – there are many.  But a recent one is…. During the 2020-21 school year, I had the FIRST tent up!  And my tent was the FIRST to blow away! UNDER THE TENT!
And there she blows!

What changes have you experienced during your teaching career that have been positive and/or negative?

  • I think it’s great that kids can take so many AP courses – and get college credit. Yet this (adding of AP classes to schedules) has really hurt music programs in that the schedule and time for Band and Chorus is getting squeezed out. And also – is it healthy for a student to have so many AP classes?
  • In a positive manner, I think students are more assertive; they self-advocate for what they need in education; education is now –  less “top down” instruction and more collaboration.


What do you think are three keys to ANY successful music ed program? 

  • Know your students, be genuine in your care for them
  • Flexibility and creativity – learn to work with schedule changes, or things that happen that throw your carefully written plans out the window
  • Plan, plan, plan 
  • And (a 4th!) have a sense of humor!

What are you most proud of in your career?

When I was hired at CRHS I said that my personal 10 yr goal was to have the strongest choral program in the State of Maine. We are lucky – we have fantastic community support. I think – with the numbers of students that have been accepted to District III, All State, All Eastern and National festivals over the years – I think that it has been one of the strongest choral programs in the State. Unfortunately – right now – due to Covid and other challenges – the Chorus program is not as strong (in numbers) and that breaks my heart. You have to have the numbers.

Who influenced your work as a teacher or perhaps inspired you?

Charlie Seymour and Steve Moro

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Teaching is the hardest and best profession. There are days when you will want to cash in your chips early – don’t! Hold on. Your students learn more from your daily attitude and mindset than you realize. As a teacher – you teach a subject area – but it’s the character that you bring into the classroom that has the lasting educational benefit.


How much of what you do is learned skills and how much is innate?

Wow – that’s an interesting question. I come from a family of teachers – so I think that was how we grew up. So – teaching comes naturally. I was going to be either an English or Math teacher. Those subjects come easily to me (well….not Math anymore – ha ha). But Music didn’t come easily. I had to work at it. I had to make it look easy. But – because I had to work at my music skills so hard, that made me a better teacher – because I could understand why kids were struggling, and I could break it down into smaller chunks for them to understand.


What does retirement look like for you?

Exciting and Terrifying.  I have an Air BNB business at my house, which I LOVE to do – and hope to be able to grow that – especially in the shoulder seasons (when I would have been at school). I’m connecting with community theater and music groups – because that is my passion. I do a lot of work with my church – and hope to be able to volunteer more with places like AIO food pantry (food and energy assistance for citizens of Knox county) or other social programs. And finally – I will fly to CA (whenever I damn well please) to see my son!

If you were given $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would create a theater program for kids – especially kids who struggle in life.  

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back, do you have any regrets?

I hope not!  You have to live in the moment and enjoy each beautiful step.

The concert photos in this blog post were taken by Marti Stone Photography.


Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership

June 20, 2022

Teaching Artists and Educators Invited!

This is a great opportunity to become part of a dynamic network of arts educators across the state of Maine. This year-long experience begins with a 3-day Summer Institute, held at a beautiful outdoor setting sure to jumpstart your leadership journey.

August 1-3, 2022. APPLICATION deadline June 23. There is no cost.

If you’re selected your role begins with the 3-day institute at Pilgrim Lodge, August 1-3.

MAEPL would love to build community with educators and teaching artists who know or have someone interested in arts integration. If you have someone in your building or your community or have partnered with someone in the past please have them attend this summer with you!

MAEPL recently moved from the Maine Arts Commission and is now a program of the Maine Department of Education.


QUESTIONS? Contact Iva Damon, Program Team Lead: or ‪(802) 695-0198‬

August 1-3, 2022. APPLICATION deadline June 23. There is no cost.

Pilgrim Lodge is a camp run by the United Church of Christ of Maine on Lake Cobbosseecontee in West Gardiner, ME. This beautiful venue has cabins with electricity and plumbing, large indoor and outdoor meeting spaces, modern dining facilities, wifi in main buildings, good general cell reception, and recreation options including swimming, human-powered boating, and trails. 


The Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership (MAEPL) is committed to developing and promoting high quality arts education for all. MAEPL operates on the premise of “teachers teaching teachers.” All of our design teams, institutes, and professional development opportunities offer/encourage collaboration.

This We Believe’ Statements outline our foundational beliefs and practices.  


  • Teacher Leaders: Maine Visual or Performing Arts Educators with a professional teaching certificate who teach an Arts discipline in a public or private school.  
  • Teaching Artist Leaders:  Professional Teaching Artists in Maine with demonstrated experience collaborating within educational or civic environments to design and lead student-centered, values-driven residencies drawn from mastery of their artistic discipline.    


MAEPL is built on an institute model, by application. There is a Summer Institute for Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. Returning community members are encouraged to participate. 

At the Summer Institute new Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders will learn foundational practices in instructional design and leadership skills. Participants will take part in a variety of workshops focused on emerging needs in Arts Education professional development.  

Collaboration, networking, and the sharing of resources are an expectation as a member of the MAEPL community. During the Institute participants will develop an individualized growth plan that will be shared with others for feedback and suggestions.  

Throughout the school year, participants will continue to share how their individualized growth plan is developed and implemented, and they will have the opportunity to share at a Critical Friends Day, and with a thought partner. At the Winter Retreat participants review and reflect on the work done, and allow for time to get feedback to plan for the next Summer Institute.  


  • Attend Summer Institute 
  • Work with a thought partner 
  • Develop a individualized growth plan 
  • Share the outcomes of your individual growth plan within the MAEPL community and beyond (i.e. workshop, resource, video, article, etc.) 
  • Share feedback and information about MAEPL through teacher leader stories and as part of your outcomes of your personal growth plan 
  • Collaborate, network, and share resources 
  • Participate in Critical Friend Day 
  • Attend Winter Retreat

August 1-3, 2022. APPLICATION deadline June 23. There is no cost.



June 19, 2022

Freedom Day

Today, June 19 marks the 157th anniversary of Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. It commemorates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and brought news that slavery had been abolished more than two years earlier.

I came across this story from 2015 on NPR, an interview recorded in 1941 with Laura Smalley who was born into slavery. Most slave owners kept the news from the slaves. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19 with 2000 troops and a message – slaves were free. 

Finally, after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier, the news reached the slaves in Texas. I can’t imagine being a child and being born into slavery let alone not being told that in fact, my freedom had been granted. I wondered how much respect Laura had for the slave owner after learning the news. Access Laura’s recording at THIS LINK.

Laura’s story and others are archived at the Library of Congress. There is a collection of stories in a section called Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories. The documented stories took place between 1932 and 1975 in nine states. We can learn from the plethora of information included in the stories. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 amid discussions of racial injustice following the death of George Floyd.

I can’t help but think about Ashley Bryan on this day. His contribution as a black artist, storyteller, poet and all around amazing human being is immeasurable. Many of you know that Ashley passed away in February of this year. He left a large body of artwork but my favorite and most cherished pieces of what he left are his children’s books. Even though they are children books each one has a message for all ages. If you read no others I recommend you get yourself a copy of Freedom over me. It includes the stories of 11 slaves, their lives and dreams were brought to life by Ashley. Mr. Bryan bought the slave papers at an auction in Southwest Harbor, ME and used them as a launch pad for the book. In this book he combined the simple descriptions and the price the slaves were sold for with his imagination and creativity and created a tribute to all slaves.


Pride Month

June 18, 2022

All invited to celebrate

Throughout the world this month people of all ages are celebrating Pride Month. It’s all about people coming together to celebrate who they focusing on the freedom to be who they are. June was selected as Pride month to recognize the Stonewall uprising that took place in New York City, June 1969. Protests and riots went on for three days following a police raid of a gay bar at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan where the gay community and police clashed.

This event marked the beginning of the modern day gay rights movement. One year later the first Pride parade took place in New York’s Central Park and others followed in cities across the country. It was called Christopher Street Liberation Day because the Stonewall Inn is located on Christopher Street. In 2016 the area around the Stonewall Inn was designated a national monument.

In 1978, artist and designer Gilbert Baker was commissioned by San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the US, to make a flag for the Pride celebrations that year. Baker recognized the stripes of the American flag and was inspired by the rainbow to reflect the many groups within the gay community. Since 1978 other flags have been created to represent other sexualities.

Pride events welcome allies from outside the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community. All are welcome to show their support and it gives them an opportunity to learn.

This month I am reminded of this statement made to Agnes de Mille, by Martha Graham in 1943:

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you.


Art Teacher Extraordinaire Retiring

June 14, 2022

Congratulations, Mrs. Bickford and thank you!

There is nothing more rewarding than being in a room full of students who are productive and teaching each other the skills you have shared with them. When all the art rooms are full of active learners at every level and they are teaching each other a broad range of skills, that feeling is intoxicating. I still marvel at it to this day and I cannot think of anything like it.

Debra Bickford, better known as Deb, is retiring this year after 37 years teaching visual art. Her career started at Wells Jr. High School (1 year), she moved on to Westbrook Middle School (2 years), and she is ending her career at Westbrook High School (34 years).

Her early experiences as a student have influenced her teaching and her life. She learned at a young age that she loved learning but didn’t care for school. When she arrived at Maine College of Art & Design – then called Maine College of Art (MECA), she fell in love with being in a space where people were hungry for learning about the same thing. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from MECA and went on to the University of Southern Maine where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Education. During her formal learning she was engaged in pre-service teaching at Waynflete School in Portland and student taught at Gorham Schools and Thornton Academy in Saco.

Deb and I had a conversation about her teaching career and what became clear is her passion comes through every single day in and out of the classroom. She has positively impacted thousands of students! She’s proud of the fact that she is honest with students, even when it is hard. And, she has NEVER taken a sick day! Many people have influenced Deb over the years. She’s had the opportunity to work with many positively astonishing educators who have shown her what excellence looks like and how to make it happen.

“It would be really inspiring to make some sort of visual map or “who” and “what” I learned from so many. Like a mind map with art education inspiration at the center and people fanning out all around the center.

I hope Deb takes the time to make this visual map and send a copy to everyone on the map. It would be an amazing representation exhibiting the numbers that influence teachers!

Deb has had many unforgettable moments during her 37 years in the classroom. Here are a few highlights:

  • The day a student in my adaptive art class shared how much her family loved her art work and said: “I never knew I could be an artist”.
  • The day both parents met a students guidance counselor at 7a.m. to have her drop another content area to start Pre-AP Studio Art. The student had made the request but was told she had already had an art class. That same student went on and received a $10,000 scholarship at class night and earn a BFA in Painting at MECA.
  • The many texts, visits and emails from students thanking me for preparing them to be successful in college level visual arts classes. Many have even reported being asked to lead critiques in class. This makes me so happy.

Deb presenting her colleague Matt Johnson the Maine Art Education Association (MAEA) Art Teacher of the Year award in April at the spring MAEA conference at CMCA, Rockland

During Deb’s career she has experienced many changes, both positive and negative. She is pleased to see “more students who desire a broader, deeper education in the arts and are willing and prepared to advocate for what they want even when there are roadblocks.” The negative aspect: “Over a decade of lower expectations in just about every aspect of what makes a strong, successful student has had a powerful impact on adequate progress. In general, students who used to be in the average range are finding the typical stress of high school level classes too much to cope with and organize for. What it means to “be a student” has, on average, deteriorated.

Deb’s program has evolved over the years. She’s grateful for the educators she has worked closely with who have influenced the evolution. Her classes are often mixed groups with AP, Art 1, and advanced students in one space. And, Art 3, 4, AP and Studio Art the same. Juniors and seniors enrolled in Studio Art have their own studio spaces within the art room. Her colleague Matt Johnson teaches in an adjoining classroom. Students migrate between Matt’s and Deb’s classes, moving where learning needs can be met. Deb and Matt’s collegial relationship promote a common studio space that encourages a cross pollination between students. Flexibility has been critical in leading to student success. The teachers move to meet the needs of the kids, not visa versa. A great example of ‘student-centered’ learning environment.

These are the four key ingredients that Deb believes are essential to any successful visual art education program:

  1. Know your content inside out, backward, forward and upside down and be willing to honor tradition whilst embracing the future.
  2. Understand that art skills and teaching skills are two very different things.
  3. Make sure that ‘what’ you are teaching and ‘how’ you are teaching it provides real world, valuable skills to every student no matter what level (skill level, experience in art) they are, or why, they are taking your class.
  4. Embrace Advocacy at every single turn. Never, ever pass up the opportunity to help people understand how and why arts education matters, no matter how exhausting it is.

Deb’s advocacy has been ongoing and her successes have served students well. I asked Deb to look into her crystal ball and offer advice to teachers.

Being an educator is not for the faint of heart. Wanting to help others learn and grow takes courage. When you do your preservice, think really hard about ‘why’ you want to pursue this. Teaching Art is not easy or fluffy or romantic. If you want to work hard and can commit to being a lifelong learner – go for it.”

You can view Deb’s pinterest teaching board which she has organized by elements, principles, concepts, media and process at Her personal website which includes here amazing art is at

Deb’s future is bright with a retirement plans filling her days with activities she loves. She’ll be tending her multiple gardens. 60X40 vegetable, fruit trees, and perennials. She has willow gardens for traditional willow basket making. Deb and her husband are tearing up 20 year old floors in her home and replacing them with something easier to care for time in retirement. Deb will include time in her studio on a regular basis; printmaking and painting. She plans to pursue becoming a Golden Artist Educator and run a few painting workshops. Deb and her husband love visiting remote locations and plan to travel to the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton and make a return visit to Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada as well as several other beautiful highways.

I’m sure all your colleagues and the blog readers are joining me to wish you well on your retirement Deb!

If you know of other visual or performing arts teachers retiring this year please let me know by emailing


Maine Art Ed Summer Retreat

June 13, 2022

Join your colleagues and make art

The Maine Art Education Association (MAEA) is holding a summer retreat that brings art educators together to make art. The retreat will be held at Pilgrim Lodge on Lake Cobbosseecontee in West Gardiner, July 6 – 9. The cost is $300 which includes room and board and access to the facility.

You’re invited to bring a project you’re working on or start a new one. Pilgrim Lodge is an inspiring camp facility. There are 13 cabins connected by a boardwalk, 100 acres of forest, and a beautiful waterfront with swimming and paddling for all. Every cabin is equipped with a screened porch, bathroom, and shower. 

The Main Lodge has lots of room to spread out with all of your art supplies or you can set up on the boardwalk or walk the trails and labyrinth for inspiration. If you want to bring a friend or family member to enjoy the beauty feel free! This is MAEA sponsored but it is not necessary to be a member or even an artist to attend. 

REGISTRATION and a short video showing more of what to expect. 

If you have questions please contact

Allie Rimkunas

207-653-0941 (call or text)


2022 Maine County Teachers of the Year

June 12, 2022


The 2022 County Teachers of the Year were announced recently in Augusta at the State House. I love that there are so many teachers each year nominated who represent all that is ‘right’ with education. Each of us in the profession, no matter what our role is, should feel the pride!

I’m especially excited this year that there are two performing arts teachers; representing Hancock County is Rebecca Edmondson who teaches music at Conners-Emerson School, Bar Harbor and representing Somerset County is Debra Susi who teaches theatre at Central Institute, Pittsfield.

Hundreds of teachers across Maine are nominated by a member of their school community. The application process is rigorous, not a lightly designed ordeal, with a teacher selected from each county by a panel of educators and other individuals who are members of each county.

Maine County Teachers of the Year serve as ambassadors for teachers, students, and quality education state-wide throughout the year. The Maine County Teachers of the Year are available to make presentations to local and regional organizations. Throughout the summer, they will continue to participate in an intensive selection process. In the fall one of these sixteen teachers will be named the 2023 Maine State Teacher of the Year.

I’m sure the blog readers join me in congratulating all of the county teachers of the year, especially Rebecca and Debra!

The Maine Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year Program is administered through a collaborative partnership with Educate Maine. To learn more about the Teacher of the Year Program visit:



June 6, 2022

Today, D-Day and suffering in US schools

This has been a very difficult couple of weeks for me and I know for many others. On reflection, my sadness and anger started with the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999 when 12 students and one teacher were killed by two 12th grade students. On April 16, 2007, a student at Virginia Tech killed 32 students. On December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School a 20 year old killed 20 children between 6 and 7 years old and six adult staff members. On February 14, 2018, a 19 year-old opened fire on students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida murdering 17 people and injuring 17 others. The perpetrator pleaded guilty and is still awaiting sentencing.

Since January 1, 2022 there have been 27 shootings, with injuries or deaths, that have taken place in schools across the United States. We all know that school shootings have been going on for decades. The first one that I found documented took place in 1840 when a student entered a classroom on the campus of the University of Virginia and shot his professor who died three days later.

The latest heart wrenching event on May 24, 2022 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas 19 fourth graders and their two teachers were gunned down in their classroom by an 18 year old. I say ENOUGH!

These innocent young faces below each have a story and for their stories to end abruptly and unnecessarily is very sad. And the two teachers smiling and such happy faces who guided and taught these young children – to have their teaching careers cut short by a gunman is totally unfair.

Precious victims from Robb Elementary School

I’m sure you’ve heard the horrific stories connected to this event which include the police not entering the classroom for over an hour and the gunman shooting his grandmother before going to the school and on and on. As I process the event I can’t help but feel and think so many emotions. From what I’ve read…

it’s OK to feel scared and sad AND also feel joy and hope.

I choose to imagine the bright stories. Read about these children and teachers. Ten year old Alithia Ramirez loved to draw and wanted to be an artist. She recently submitted a drawing to the “Doodle for Google” contest.


I wanted to volunteer in the school district where I live and taught for 30 years but due to the pandemic, I was unable to be in the schools. So, I decided in January to start substituting, after the local district increased the substitute daily pay which they’ve based on experience and formal education. They’re using federal Covid relief funds and it has increased the number of substitutes exponentially. The idea is working! I was called to sub for elementary art two days after the shooting in Uvalde and I admit I hesitated to say ‘yes’. I took out the sub manual and didn’t read anything about what to do in a similar situation. I asked in the office when I arrived at the school for the protocol. Little information was provided and I felt scared that if there was a similar emergency, I would not be able to act on anything but my gut of what to do. My message to teachers and substitutes is…

Review the school policy and protocols with your colleagues and administrator. Do what you can to arm yourself with the knowledge and options so you can be as prepared as possible. Do it for yourself and for your students safety!

At the end of my day substituting for art, I sent an email to the Assistant Superintendent who oversees the substitute program. Ten days later, I’m still waiting a reply. I will circle back to the administrator since I understand how busy school personnel are at every level.


I want you to know that I’m not opposed to individuals owning guns but I think owning a gun for the ‘right’ reason is important and perfectly fine. Here’s an example of what I mean. Last week in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, Representative Ken Buck from Colorado dismissed a proposal to regulate AR-style rifles. He said: “An AR-15 is a gun of choice for killing raccoons before they get to our chickens.” I understand that the farmers and ranchers in Colorado need to protect their chickens however, there are other guns that can be used for this purpose. Owning an AR-15 for this reason is simply not ‘right’.

An example of what I believe is a right reason. I grew up in a hunting family. My father was a rabbit and deer hunter so there were always guns in our home, locked in a gun cabinet when not in use. The animals my dad shot helped put meals on our supper table and sustain our family of six. My brothers were taught to hunt and so were my sister and I. Safety was a priority and I can hear my father’s voice emphatically saying: “never, ever point a gun at a human being”. You see, my father proudly served in the Army in WWII, 26th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Division (known as the Big Red One). He was trained in desert fighting and sailed on the Queen Mary to England to prepare for the invasion of Africa. On the first day, Corporal Nestor’s first day in battle anywhere, he was awarded the Silver Star medal and promoted to Sergeant. He fought against General Rommel’s German troops in Northern Africa and fought across Sicily. On June 6, 1944, his division was part of the second hour landing on Omaha Beach at Normandy. He continued the fight across France, Belgium, and crossed the Rhine River into Germany including The Battle of the Bulge. For 34 months he served as a Forward Observer until he was seriously wounded. He put himself in extreme danger in order to save a battalion of fellow First Infantry soldiers guarding an air base. His injury on the battlefield sent him home and for this action he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. His exemplary valor, bravery, and leadership also earned him a Silver Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster, a Bronze Star with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, two Purple Hearts, The French Croix de Guerre, a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant, as well as numerous other commendations. My dad never talked about the difficult parts of the war but he told stories about the many friendships and shared his mementos. He was proud to have served and to be an American and humbly served our country for the many freedoms we have. After the war he put his energy towards his family and community and made a lasting positive impact. In my opinion, all his life he used guns and owned guns for the right reasons.


We all know that teaching is a challenging and also a rewarding career. The stresses that exist today due to the pandemic and another massive school shooting have teachers asking the hard questions. They’re struggling to find time to take care of themselves. We all know self-care is critical. The shortage of teachers has been ongoing for several years, especially in certain subject areas, more so in school districts with low- income households and in rural areas. According to Education Week typically about 8% leave every year. Some states are discussing arming teachers with guns to stop school shootings. In my opinion that is a bad idea for many reasons. First of all, we have more guns in America than people. Has this kept individuals and schools safer? According to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy website it looks like 120 hours of training is required to be eligible to be a Maine State Police officer. I don’t see where any state is suggesting 120 hours for teacher training however, expecting teachers to train to respond to a shooter in school is unreasonable. Here are other reasons I believe this is an unfair expectation:

  • In a moment of duress and confusion when an intruder enters a classroom, there is no way to predict how a teacher may respond.
  • This increases the chances of their own students being shot.
  • The liability for the school district will be near to impossible.
  • Do we really want students to be watching this type of scenario played out?
  • Teachers are hired to teach not to be law enforcement and security personnel. Their jobs are enormous already.


When I was in elementary school (a hundred years ago) we practiced for fire drills and we also had ‘duck and cover drills’ preparing us for an atomic bomb. We silently filed into the hall, kneeling up against the wall with our arms crossed over our heads without moving, until the teacher said it was OK to release our position. Yes, we were scared but we practiced so we’d be prepared, just in case. If drills are done with the best interest of the children to help alleviate the fears, practicing can contribute to the effectiveness and ease their fears. I was on a zoom call last week with several Maine teachers who shared that there are problems with the various situations in school buildings. Some examples include: outside doors don’t lock without a certain key, turning off lights in classrooms without windows makes it very difficult to get 20 students to the designated safe space in the classroom, and passing students out windows can be very risky when you don’t know where the shooter is located.


MCSTOYA is an organization whose members are Maine county and state teachers of the year. A week ago members were invited to discuss ideas for addressing the complex issues related to school safety. We landed on two ideas and met with an aide of Senator Collins last Friday to share our requests.

Request #1: Raise the age of people purchasing an AR-15 to 21

  • WHY? Part of the answer lies within understanding the effects of bullets from an AR-15. This information is taken from the The Atlantic: What I Saw Treating the Victims from Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns written by Heather Sher. Bullets travel at a higher velocity from an AR-15 and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. The bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than-and imparting more than three times the energy of a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. When these guns are outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds it allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.
  • The second part of the answer lies within understanding the brains of a young person. Many educators know this information. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center the rational part of a teens brain isn’t fully developed until 25 or so. An adult brain and teen brain work differently. Adult brains think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part. In teens’ brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing – and not always at the same rate. That’s why when teens have overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.

Request #2: Funding for school violence prevention and intervention programs

  • WHY? It makes perfect sense that if we could identify the struggling students and provide them the support they need to begin to articulate their needs and process their stresses school personnel would be assisting to address some of the problems. In many schools there is one social worker or guidance counselor responsible for hundreds of students. This makes it impossible for the existing staff to service students.


Consider your options. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or be in fear of losing your gun if stricter laws are put in place to keep schools safe. Have conversations with your neighbors and community members. Often they do not know what goes on in schools. You’re the expert, share information, enlighten them.

Contact your legislator to share your opinions and beliefs. Vote every time you have the opportunity. Below is a sample to help start a phone conversation. And, you will find the phone numbers for Senator King and Collins’ offices.

Hi, my name is ……………

I am a constituent from (name of town) and an educator in Maine.

I am calling about (state the issue) 

Please consider supporting legislation that will……………. Or I am concerned about (issue) and would like this looked into. 

Thank you for hearing my concerns.

Phone numbers:

Senator Angus King Washington Office:  Phone: (202) 224-5344

Senator Susan Collins: Washington Office:  (202) 224-2523

                                      Caribou Office:  (207) 493-7873

                                       Lewiston Office:  (207) 784-6969


This is a book that you might find helpful at this point in your career (no matter how long you’ve been teaching) and the school year (with all that has been going on during the last 27 months.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD and sister Amelia Nagoski DMA 

Emily’s Masters’ degree is in counseling and Amelia’s is in choral conducting; one day they realized they both got graduate degrees in how to listen and feel feelings.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to education. Please don’t hesitate to post a comment below in this blog post and/or reach out to me if you have questions/comments at

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