Posts Tagged ‘Gorham schools’


Reading the Sunday Paper

December 13, 2022

Moved by articles

I enjoy sitting down by the wood stove on sunny Sunday’s to read the Maine Sunday Telegram. For a brief moment I like holding on to the real paper. During the rest of the week I catch the news online. Some articles encourage me to pause and reflect on a topic I’m familiar with and other times I learn something new. A recent Sunday was no exception but I did find a few more human interest type stories. Love that! All of them relate to education in some way and I’m certain that the stories about Amy and Jessica (below) made several teachers proud. As well they should be! Nothing compares to knowing that one of your former students is experiencing enormous success! I’d suggest finding the articles online but realize that can be tricky if you don’t have a subscription.

Amy Goodness and the Mill Studio Arts

Five years ago Amy Goodness of Saco opened Mill Studio Arts in Biddeford. Amy is an artist with a studio in the old textile mill. She paints on canvas, having loved creating since elementary school. She’s a graduate of Thornton Academy in Saco, ME and Maine College of Art & Design in Portland, ME. As many artists Amy knows that it can be lonely working in a studio all by oneself. Since art was her favorite class in school she decided to create a space for young artists to come and create with others. This has helped Amy’s life be a little less lonely. She started by offering weekend and summer vacation time slots for young people. The program has expanded to offering classes each day and she has a team of teachers who help. She said: “It is joy. You can feel the energy in the room, and its’s so fun. I feel like that just fills me up.” Sounds like it would be a really fun place for me to visit. Perhaps a road trip to Mill Studio Arts will be in my future.

Christmas Through the Ages

Fifteen years ago in the town of North Anson the public library needed funding to update their automated catalog. They came up with a unique idea for a fundraiser; selling tickets for a historical tour showcasing “Christmas Through the Ages”. Volunteers dressed in period clothing and toured ticket buyers the opportunity to see five homes. After five years they passed the idea on to the Kingfield Historical Society which then passed it to the historical societies of Phillips and Farmington. Farmington passed it onto Winthrop where it was held this year. The Winthrop Historical Society sang songs, offered food, and taught lessons about various eras of Christmas, from the Moravian celebrations of the 1740s to the postwar Christmases of the 1950s. Everyone enjoyed themselves and participants were happy to learn about their community in a hands-on way.

2007 Gorham High School graduate performs on Broadway

Jessica Ernest regularly performs as part of the ensemble in “Chicago” on Broadway. She is the understudy and has performed in the star role of Roxie Hart. It’s pretty exciting not only for Jessica but her parents. Jessica is from Gorham and when she was in elementary school she started performing in school musicals and community productions. She played Snow White as a demanding diva in a show called “Mother Goose, Inc.” Later in life she performed on cruise ships and as a Las Vegas showgirl. She’s worked hard to get to where she is now. Ernest was given two days notice that she would perform the star role of “Chicago”. Interestingly enough she hadn’t actually played the role with the other members of the cast, she only practiced with the stage manager and for her roommates. She was cast in 2017, now 33 years old and is doing 8 shows a week. The article mentions Jessica’s elementary music teacher, Janelle Doak, who was impressed by a ‘show-stopping number’ way back in elementary school called “I Want it All”. How fun it must be for Janelle, who is teaching at Great Falls Elementary School in Gorham, to see where Jessica is at this time.

Below: Photo credit Julieta-Cervantes – Jessica Ernest on state in “Chicago”.

Little change since Sandy Hook, 10 years ago, December 14

The last piece I’ll share is a sad one. All I know about the writer, Irv Williams, is that he is a grandparent of three children ages 4 to 8. I’m sure the topic is near to his heart because of his grandchildren. The piece is about Sandy Hook which took place 10 years ago. Twenty children and six teachers lost their lives that day. The children, if living today, could be starting their college applications. The teachers were the following ages when they died: 26, 30, 47, 29, 52, and 56. We can only guess where they’d be today. Through Mr. Wiliams lens “it seems that little has changed”. I can understand why he might see it that way since school shootings continue and mass shootings outside of schools in the US continue. I understand that he is referring to laws and policy’s and that our countries leaders are not effectively working together to put safety measures in place to protect children and adults. I do see many changes in schools to protect children and teachers. I believe that school systems, in most cases, are doing their part. Is it enough? I’m not sure that there is ever ‘enough’ that can be done to make schools totally safe. The reality of schools includes hundreds of variables. Something that is effective to help and support making schools safer isn’t the same for all school communities. On my visits to schools during a 15 year period many safety precautions have been put in place. Many of you reading this are well aware of the precautions.

The statistics are staggering:

  • 398 schools shootings since 2000
  • 321 people are shot in the US each day, 22 of them are young children and teens, 5 of them die
  • that’s one entire kindergarten class every week

I vividly recall my visit to an elementary school in southern Maine. Within 15 minutes of my arrival to a kindergarten art classroom there was a planned lock down drill. The teacher quickly filled me in on what was about to happen. The alarm sounded and we quickly and quietly moved into the ‘art closet’, the door closed and locked behind us and the only light was the one from the teachers laptop. The children huddled closely to the light source because they trusted their teacher to keep them safe. Their little bodies were alive with tiny movements. In a whispering calm and reassuring voice the teacher helped them through that scary moment with kindness. My visit was within a year of the massacre at Sandy Hook. Tears come to my eyes just thinking of that experience.

In December was the 10 year anniversary of Sandy Hook. Mr. Williams’s article helped me to pause and remember the twenty children and six teachers whose lives were lost that day. I know that schools and teachers are continuously working to make schools safer. I appreciate and applaud those efforts. It’s past time for the leaders in our country to put their differences aside and do what is right for all children and teachers. I am hopeful!


Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Allie Rimkunas

May 31, 2016

Teacher Leader series


This is the twelfth and final blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 71 posted to date.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 9.05.08 PMAllie Rimkunas has taught in the Gorham School Department for 18 years, the last 12 as a K-5 Art teacher responsible for 500+ students.

What do you like best about being a music/art/drama/dance educator?

I get to play with the coolest supplies with all of the students. I also love getting messy and reminding kids that nothing is perfect.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

Having fun, teaching how to be courageous, imperfect, and open to change. (Oops, that was four. Hey- I’m an Art teacher, not a math teacher!)

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

It makes me think much more about what I’m teaching, how I’m teaching, why I’m teaching it, and how it can help my students to become more creative inside and outside the Art room.

IMG_0178What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

It’s great to hang out with Arts teachers from all over Maine and pick their brains not only about assessment, but everything else that we have in common. It’s lonely being the only Art teacher in the school with no one else to commiserate with on topics that are important to me as an Art teacher. Our district VPA teachers are given time together only once or twice a year. We’re social animals and need time to share and learn from each other.

Meeting with folks from all over the state also gives me tons of ideas to think about and new strategies to try out.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Whenever I run into students at the grocery store they run to me and not away from me.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

The lack of time to do all of the things I want/need/should do.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

I would change the word “luck” to “talent” and say that my artistic and teaching “talent” is not innate but developed through work and perseverance.

As far as “luck” is concerned, I’m the luckiest Art teacher in Maine, probably the world. I have a beautiful Art room, wonderful co-workers, understanding and supportive administrators, and terrific students.

IMG_0366Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Love your kids, especially the difficult ones. You never know how far love will reach in their lives.

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

I’d pay off my kids’ college debts, then I’d love to create a nature program for the neighborhood kids, and then…wait, can we up it to an even million? I need to do some traveling to soak in the Art and cultures of the world.

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

My only regret is that cloning has not been perfected so that I can have a second brain to remember all of my student’s names (especially in the grocery store when their names become “sweetie”, “big guy”, or “you with the face”).



Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Elise Bothel

March 29, 2016

MALI Teacher Leader series


This is the fourth blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 63 posted to date.

Elise Photo - Meca PosterElise Bothel teaches grades K-5 art at Narragansett Elementary School in Gorham. She has been teaching at Narragansett for two years now, and is in her third year of teaching. Elise is the only art teacher in the school, and teaches part-time 3 days a week. She teaches 12 classes, about 220 students total, for 45 minutes each class. Elise also teaches an after school clay club at Narragansett, and has taught after school art classes at the Art Alliance in Gorham.

What do you like best about being a visual art educator?

I love seeing what my students create! I focus on adding choice to my lessons to let students explore their creativity and to help develop creative problem-solving skills. My favorite part of the day is when I see a student create something incredible, and to see the joy and pride in their face. I also love when students make connections from art class to their personal lives and what they are learning in their other classrooms.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  1. The educator needs to be passionate about the subject.
  2. The educator needs to work to meet the needs of many.
  3. The program needs access to materials and support from the district, and if not, an educator that can advocate and get what they need.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

Assessment has helped my students track their own learning. It has made my program a bit more rigorous, but I feel that my students are learning more, understand why they are learning it, and what they need to do to meet proficiency.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

It has helped my increase confidence as an educator. I’ve gotten to know so many Visual and Performing Arts educators in Maine, and the benefits of connection are endless. I’ve already added so many new tools to my toolbox, and look forward to more collaboration and inspiration.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am proud to say that I am a Teacher Leader in my third year of teaching! I’m proud of the respect I’ve received as an educator, despite how young I look. Most of all, I am proud of my students when I see them grow, build confidence, and show interest and excitement about something new.


Elise presenting on the MALI Critical Friends Day

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

Time is probably a challenge for every teacher. I wish I had more time with students to help them learn and progress as artists. Personally, the work/life balance can get in my way. I only work part-time, but I commute over an hour to work and participate in other activities after school. Making sure I don’t get burnt out or let my personal problems seep into my job can be challenging.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

This year I put on an Empty Bowls fundraiser for the Gorham Food Pantry, which raised over $1200. Though I facilitated the event, put in many extra hours, and had every student in the school make a clay bowl for the event; I didn’t seem to get the personal recognition of the success of the project. I now know that I need to advocate more for the art department and the hard work that I do. Here’s a link to a TV spot with a mention of the money raised, but no mention of our art program!

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

My advice to all teachers would be to breathe and to focus on the positive aspects of teaching. I see many teachers stressed, burned out, and counting minutes. Teachers need to remind themselves why they wanted to teach in the first place. My advice to arts educators is that it can feel isolating and we can feel misunderstood, but it is up to us to reach out, make connections, and find creative solutions to our unique challenges.

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

I don’t want to be selfish but I would use some of the money to travel! As a life long learner, I’d love to see art and architecture from all over the world. I feel that my art curriculum could use more global awareness. I’d use the rest of the money to help the schools in Maine that don’t have the funding they need to have arts programs.

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

I’m not quite sure what I’ll be getting up to by the time I’m 94, but I do already regret not taking the time to focus on my own artistic practice. I believe that it is important to have working artists as educators, and being an artist is important to me. I’m glad I have plenty of time to build and grow my own artistic practice.




My Last Two Weeks

May 10, 2013

What an adventure!

Some weeks are filled with excitement and adventure and some weeks are filled with excitement and adventure – yes, I repeated that since all my weeks are pretty amazing! However, my most valuable days are when I am visiting teachers and students, learning about the work that is going on in the arts in Maine schools. I am always interested in what teachers are doing with curriculum, assessment, and arts education in general! What I hear and what I see keeps me grounded in what is “real” for Maine arts education. When I do my work at the Department it is first and foremost in the best interest of all Maine kids and their visual and performing arts education. I feel so fortunate to have this job that takes me to all corners of the state. Thank you for the invitations!

During the last two weeks I have had the chance to go to the following:

  • Ashley Smith (Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leader) and Mike Scarpone, music teachers at Brunswick High School invited me to speak at their Tri-M Music Honor Society induction ceremony. I was very impressed with the music and the students. Bridget Horan, Chanel Thibeault, Ariel Bouchard, and Joe Waring played the National Anthem to start the program. Throughout the program there were student performances including: Tessa Hauptman was accompanied on the piano by Ben Flanagan. Hannah Judd played the cello. Joe Waring played the saxophone accompanied by Nathaniel Vilas on the piano. Alexis Gillis sang accompanied by Ben Flanagan on the piano. Walter Martin played the trombone accompanied by Nathaniel Vilas on the piano. Nathaniel Vilas ending the evening on the piano. It was wonderful to hear the present members (15 of them) introduce the inductees (21 of them). As these type of ceremonies go, it was very formal however, the students humor shined through which brought several chuckles to members of the audience. Afterwards, parents and students enjoyed refreshments in the cafeteria. Thank you Brunswick Tri-M students and Ashley and Mike for including me.


  • Last week I was invited to meet with the arts staff from the Gorham schools. In the Gorham schools they rotate updating curriculum and arts educators are starting this important work. Assistant middle school principal Susie Hanley has been communicating periodically during the last year with questions and information on the work of the Gorham arts teachers. It was great to have a chance to hear discuss their work and the challenges it poses. I did get a photo at the end but it was after some of the teachers had already left the meeting. Thank you to Susie for inviting me!

The teachers include:

  • Gail Thibodeau, Music  K-5, Narragansett and Village
  • Janelle Mosey, Music and Chorus  K-5, Great Falls
  • Allie Rimkunas, Art 1-5, Great Falls
  • Paula Balcom, Art 1-5, Narragansett and Village
  • Amy Stewart, Music K-5, Narragansett
  • Vicki Bove, Art  6-8, Gorham Middle School
  • Amy Cousins, Art 6-8, Gorham Middle School
  • Tracy Wheeler, Music and Chorus 6-8, Gorham Middle School
  • Kim Mathieu, Music and Band  6-8, Gorham Middle School, 5th grade Band
  • Chris Crosby, Art 9-12, Gorham High School
  • Sarah Tucker, Art 9-12, Gorham High School
  • Matt Murray, Music and Chorus 9-12, Gorham High School
  • Tim Ebersold, Music and Band 9-12, Gorham High School


  • Gray-New Gloucester High School art exhibit was held last week in the auxiliary gym on the same evening that the students were performing the comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner. It was great to see Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leader Barb Weed (Barb’s Another Arts Teacher’s story) on my way in to the school. After I arrived Waterville High School art teacher Suzanne Goulet dropped in to see the show. The gym was completely filled with outstanding 2 and 3 dimensional art work and it was great to see art teachers Sarah Gould and Michaela DiGianvittorio. Talk about proficiency?! The evidence was clear! Thanks for inviting me to a great show!


Sarah, Argy, Michaela

IMG_3277 IMG_3283

  • This week I’ve had more opportunities to visit schools. Debi Lynne Baker and I were at Biddeford Intermediate School to videotape Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leader, music teacher Andrea Wollstadt. (Andrea’s Another Arts Teacher’s story). The last of a series of 4 that Debi is creating showing standards based arts classrooms in action. We had a great day in Andrea’s 4th and 5th grade classes. Her superintendent, Jeremy Ray, popped in to give her an apple for Teacher Appreciation Week. We interviewed Andrea’s principal Debra Kenney, music colleague Jillian Cote, and two of her students. Thanks to the students and staff at Biddeford Intermediate School!
  • I visited Belfast High School and Troy Howard Middle School and the classrooms of Heidi O’Donnell and Lynnette Sproch. Heidi has a lesson where students wrote an artist statement after research and created an artwork that depicted the style of the artist. They were created in small shadow-like boxes. The pieces were fascinating to look at and really made me think. I was glad to see the “man coming out of the ceiling” in real life that Lynnette had created with her middle school students. I also stopped to see my dear friend science teacher John Thurston who is responsible for the garden program at the middle school. It is always great to see John who works with Lynnette on integrated units. You might remember the one that they did on creating posters for the Belfast coop. They were beautiful with bright red giant tomatoes and a great example of service learning. I stopped to see theatre teacher Jason Bannister who caught me up on the event they just held at the school for middle level theatre students – Maine Student Acting competition. Thanks for the visit to both schools!
  • I traveled up the coast to Hancock Grammar School and stopped to see Maine Arts Assessment art teacher leader Janie Snider (Janie’s Another Arts Teacher’s story). We critiqued the video that Debi has created of Janie in action earlier this spring.  We spent some time talking about the idea of writing “power standards” and perhaps rubrics to make available for all arts teachers. What do you think of the idea? Thanks for “great food for thought” Janie!
  • Onto Machias and the Rose Gaffney School to visit Maine Arts Assessment music teacher leader Bonnie Atkinson. (Bonnie’s Another Arts Teacher’s story). When I arrived her middle and high school band were rehearsing their pieces for the spring concert. Bonnie has many thought provoking sayings in her classrooms. I loved hearing the students practice and I also had a chance to listen to the chorus practice before I left for the Washington county superintendents meeting at University of Maine at Machias. Thanks for letting me pop in Bonnie! The artwork everywhere in the halls is stunning.



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