Hats Off!


Happy New Year!  Maine educators strive each day to provide the best possible learning for our 10-14 year olds. They understand that engagement, rigor, and creativity are not mutually exclusive, and that effective middle grades schools address cognitive plus social-emotional and physical needs.

I would like to take this opportunity to say Hats Off to various Maine educators and organizations who exemplify dedicated professionals willing to step out of their comfort zone in order to better meet the needs of their students.  A disclaimer—the folks listed below are limited to people I know or have read about.  There are many more Maine middle grades educators who deserve to be recognized for their outstanding work.  I invite readers to use the comment boxes to say Hats Off to a colleague whose good work they wish to recognize!

Hats Off to…

  • Carol Duffy (Lamoine), Alex Briasco-Brin (Freeport), Lynne Bonsey (Surry), Ernie Easter (New Sweden), Lisa Gilman (Winthrop), Tammy Ranger (Skowhegan), Beth Ann Nickerson (MSAD 75) and all of the other creative regular and special ed middle grades educators who continually incorporate effective, research-based learning strategies that help their students internalize important concepts while stretching their intellectual curiosity.
  • Mike Arsenault (Yarmouth), Laura Richter (Skowhegan), Lori Stevens (Pittsfield), Lisa Hogan (MSAD 75) and the other technology integrators who understand the teaching process and work diligently to help their colleagues effectively integrate digital tools into the teaching and learning in their classrooms.
  • Bill Zima (Massabesic), Ray Grogan (Freeport), Ayesha Farag-Davis (Poland), Maria Libby (Camden-Rockport) and the new generation of administrators who will guide the evolution of middle level philosophy in the next decades.
  • Sherry Connally (Rangeley), Cathy Jacobs (Maranacook), Jeff Rodman (Kennebunk), Sandy Nevens (Pittsfield), John Keane (Old Town), Becky Brink (Sanford) and the other veteran middle grades principals who believe in courageous, collaborative leadership.
  • Warsaw Middle School and all of the other middle grades schools that value an inclusive and safe school climate—they walk the talk with their programs and policies.
  • Marie Soucy and Kelly Grantham (Massabesic) and the teachers in six districts ((SAD 57, RSU 2, SAD 15, RSU 18, RSU 82, & the Milford School District)) that are involved in the RISC pilot.  These teachers are examining their pedagogical practice and changing it in order to be more effective.  We all know change is difficult.  Check out the RISC website at http://www.reinventingschools.org/.
  • Sherry Littlefield (Pittsfield) and the other teachers who connect their students to outside experts  involving them with authentic work such as collecting data for ongoing scientific studies.  These teachers are pushing out the classroom walls to link students with the world.
  • Superintendent William Shuttleworth (RSU 1) who challenged a comment by a local private school administrator that characterized public schools as “one-dimensional”. Superintendent Shuttleworth went on to share with readers the multi-faceted programs available to all students in his district.  Read his commentary at http://www.timesrecord.com/articles/2011/01/02/opinion/commentaries/doc4d1d58ab9a74b330659824.txt
  • Troy Howard Middle School (Belfast), Mt. Ararat Middle School (Topsham), Leonard Middle School (Old Town) and other schools exploring restorative justice as an alternative to traditional discipline systems.  They are dedicated to helping their students become responsible and contributing members of their community.
  • Julie Purdy and Kathy Foss and the wonderful librarians who connect kids with great literature and help staff and students navigate the complicated world of information literacy.  Libraries continue to be critical in the  learning process.
  • Chris deGroff (Medomak) and Meredith McCabe (SAD 75) and the hard working counselors who help students sort through monumental issues that often keep them from learning and feeling safe.
  • The MLTI Team that for over eight years has shepherded middle school students and teachers through the digital world.  They have trekked all over the state—Kittery to Ft. Kent and Rangeley to Danforth to provide free and personalized professional development.  These days they are also offering free webinars. (http://maine121.org/)
  • Peg Newberg, former 8th grade teacher and current 1st Vice President of MEA-Retired, and her colleagues who continue to learn new skills and advocate for students and teachers.  These retired volunteers exemplify the dedication and spirit of our profession.  Check out their website at  http://web.mac.com/ljcabana/MEA-R/Who_is_MEA-R.html
  • The Leadership School at Kieve that has worked with middle grades students for years. Their guiding principles (1. Social connections and skills are critical to the success of students. 2. Active learning techniques engage students of all abilities and backgrounds. Active techniques that are fun and encourage metaphorical thinking facilitate maximum growth because it meets students where they are.  3. Solvable challenges of increasing difficulty enable students to accomplish more than they ever thought possible) clearly align with middle level philosophy.
  • Argy Nestor, the Maine DOE Visual and Performing Arts Specialist, is also the Point of Contact for all things middle level at DOE. Her persistence ensured that Bright Futures went up online and that this blog was instituted.
  • MAMLE and NELMS are two professional organizations that support exemplary middle level practice.  For the past three decades, their conferences, professional development opportunities, and resources have helped middle grades educators become more effective in what they do.  Thousands of students have been impacted when their teachers, counselors and administrators came back to school with fresh ideas and a new understanding of the complexities of adolescent learning needs.

Hats Off! to all of the above.  Please add to the list below in the comment boxes.


2 Responses to “Hats Off!”

  1. Argy Nestor Says:

    My Hats Off to Jill Spencer and Chris Toy for continuing their Maine middle level education work by making themselves available to educators by phone, email, skype, and/or in person to answer questions, help solve problems, devise ideas, and create great middle level learning environments! Also for picking the work of planning and implementing the middle level institute. Thanks Chris and Jill! ~Argy

  2. Ed Brazee Says:

    Hats off to Jill Spencer for such an inspirational piece! Jill highlights the very successful stories of students, teachers, principals, superintendents and many others…that are routinely ignored In this age of Waiting for Superman. There are excellent students, teachers, principals, and programs in Maine’s middle level schools and too many of those stories are still the best-kept secret in education!

    And a second tip of the hat to Argy Nestor, Chris Toy, and Jill Spencer who worked long and hard on the release of the Bright Futures report and more importantly, the subsequent advocacy (like this blog). Kudos and thanks for your hard work!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: