Maine Educator December 2020

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December 2020 @maineea

d n a e d i Outs g n i d n a st Out An afternoon with the Maine 2021 Teacher of the Year - Pg. 10




Opening Bell

The latest information from around the state to inform and support


Editor's Note


President's Letter


Four Things You Need To Know


Helping ESPs Cope Through SEL


Outside and Outstanding


How Much Do You Take Home?


Proud Moments


Union Action Makes a Difference


Quotes & Numbers

Perspective from Maine Educator editor, Giovanna Bechard highlighting key articles in the current issue A message from your MEA President, Grace Leavitt

Interesting facts and quotes about Association membership and public education in Maine and beyond.


Educator Recommended Books


Celebrate Reading Virtually


Big Win for Retirees Following Picket


Tech Talk


Free Stuff


What I Love About Maine Art Cover Contest


MEA Representative Assembly


MEA Pre-Retirement Seminars


MEA Benefits Trust Update

Ideas and tools you can use to help support your digital teaching and learning


FEATURES Outside and Outstanding - Pg. 10 On a turned over bucket, under a tarp sail Cindy Soule, a fourth grade Portland Public Schools teacher, reads to her students. Each student sits on their own carefully placed rock in what is the new outdoor classroom for fourth graders.

Union Action Makes a Difference- Pg. 16 When the MEA and local associations speak up, things happen. The power of the union is in our collective voices, having a seat at that table when decisions are made and standing up for what’s right and needed.

Celebrate Reading Virtually - Pg. 22 For many you may be teaching remotely, so Read Across America can be virtual too! You can still celebrate reading in a virtual world!

Big Win for Retirees Following Picket - Pg. 24 Chanting “Do the right thing,” UMaine System retirees and current employees marched down Commercial Street in Portland with picket signs in hand stopping in front of the office of James Erwin, the Chair of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. December 2020 •




Teacher Evaluations and Remote Learning By: Dan Allen, Training and Professional Director

The MEA has heard concerns from teachers in some districts that they will be subject to summative evaluations based on their performance while teaching remotely or in hybrid models. MEA believes this would be an inappropriate and ineffective application of the local Professional Evaluation Professional Growth plan. We have begun work with the Maine Department of Education, the Maine Principals’ Association and the Maine School Management Association to develop unified guidance on this topic, but feel it is important to provide initial guidance to our members. INADEQUATE PREPARATION Few Maine teachers have been adequately trained in remote or hybrid instruction models and the state has not adopted a set of standards by which to measure performance of educators in those models. Without standards, administrators, lack benchmarks for making decisions about performance that could impact employment decisions as well as the training to employ those standards. No teachers should be evaluated in their use and any evaluations based on observations of teachers using these models should not be used in making employment decisions. Additionally, evaluators who have not been trained to observe hybrid or remote learning models should not be making summative assessments of a teacher’s performance in them. THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW AND THE RULE SHOULD GUIDE DECISIONS The purpose of Chapter 508 of Title 20-A of the Maine Revised Statutes is to support educator professional growth and development with the goal of improving educator effectiveness. Summative evaluations based on a teacher’s performance in remote or blended learning prior to effective training would invalidate the process and hamper professional growth. Rule Chapter 180 emphasizes formative mentoring by peers and requires its frequent use for new teachers and those on conditional certificates and at least once annually for all educators. MEA believes the current crisis is an opportunity for teachers, administrators and support staff to collaborate to identify and develop best practices in these models of instruction. An emphasis on formative peer support would meet the letter and spirit of the law, likely resulting in improved student performance. For the duration of the crisis, we believe summative evaluations should 4

Maine Educator • December 2020

be avoided if possible and no summative evaluation should be based on the observation of teachers in remote or hybrid teaching. Instead, peer observation and support should be emphasized. Conversations with colleagues and supervisors can be very effective in supporting teachers even when no one on staff is an expert in remote or blended learning. Shared or common experiences can help educators develop actionable feedback that can be used to improve the effectiveness of remote and blended learning skills. REVISING OR ADAPTING THE PEPG SYSTEM Educators have a great deal of influence over the process through the steering committees that have been set up to create, monitor, review, and revise the local PEPG plan under Rule Chapter 180. Local associations should urge their steering committees to convene and address the current conditions. PEPG plans should be adapted to address the difficulties faced by both teachers and administrators who are working in unique conditions for which they have not been trained. MEA believes educators and administrators should work together to determine the best way to support and improve any new models of instruction employed as a necessary response to COVID-19. MEA believes the best response to the current situation is to enhance support for formative peer mentoring. USE OF STUDENT LEARNING AND GROWTH MEASURES The use of student learning and growth measures remains a mandatory part of the law until Sept. 1, 2021 but will become optional at that time as a result of legislation supported by the MEA. In the meantime, the MEA strongly suggests deemphasizing the use of student scores, especially standardized test scores, to evaluate educator performance. Many teachers made herculean efforts to provide the best remote instruction possible to their students during the spring of 2020. They continue to do so in hybrid and remote situations today. Still, these modes of teaching are less than ideal and lack the quality of in-person learning. Under these circumstances, student growth data will not provide a valid measure of teacher performance for the purposes of evaluation. PLACEMENT ON RATING LEVELS AND USE OR IMPROVEMENT PLANS Decisions to place teachers on action plans or move them to specific rating levels should be based on observations of in-person practice, not performance in hybrid or remote learning models. If teachers are on action plans that are the result of prior performance ratings under normal teaching conditions, they may remain on those plans until conditions allow administrators to do appropriate evaluations of performance. New teachers and those on conditional certificates should receive formative observations and the support of a mentor, as is required by law. In fact, we recommend that all teachers working in remote or hybrid models be provided opportunities for peer support and mentoring. The MEA will continue to work with DOE, MSMA, and MPA to hopefully reach a joint statement that includes unified guidance from all of the organizations. For more information, please contact MEA Training and Professional Development Director Dan Allen – or 622-4418, ext. 2223.

Editorial Staff Managing Editor Rob Walker Editor Giovanna Bechard Layout Design Shawn Berry Leadership President Grace Leavitt Vice President Jesse Hargrove Treasurer Beth French NEA Director Rebecca Cole Board of Directors District A Robert "Bo" Zabierek District B Suzen Polk-Hoffses District C N/A District D Cedena McAvoy District E Ken Williams District F Janice Murphy District G Nancy Mitchell District H Dennis Boyd District I N/A District J Amy O'Brien-Brown District K Tom Walsh District L Rebecca Manchester District M Donna Longley District O Lisa Leduc District P Dina Goodwin Disrtict R Gary McGrane District ESP Gerry French Student MEA N/A Maine Educator (ISSN #1069-1235) is published by: Maine Education Association 35 Community Drive, Augusta, ME 04330-8005 207-622-4418; fax 207-623-2129 POSTMASTER: send address changes to: Maine Educator 35 Community Drive, Augusta, Maine 04330-8005 Non-Profit US Postage paid at Augusta, Maine and additional mailing offices. For advertising rates and information please contact: Shawn Berry 35 Community Dr., Augusta, ME 04330 207-622-4418 ext. 2206

E D I TO R ' S N OT E - D E C E M B E R 2020

Everyday Feels Like A Monday...

ypically, when I write this note I share information about what’s in the issue, how the articles can help you and what you’ll read on the coming pages. This isn’t one of those notes. Trust me, the info in the magazine is good, and you’ll want to read it and save it for reference in the future. I couldn’t find a way to write the traditional note this time because I keep thinking about all the stories coming from our schools, our friends and family where people are in quarantine or infected. Life is complicated right now, and I'm hoping this note provides some perspective.

moment of silliness or joy, a place we have travelled to or a new experience. I wasn't sure what I would find in my camera roll this year that would reflect something great from 2020 because, especially lately, every day feels like a Monday. The rise in COVID cases feels dire, more people are in quarantine, and we’re spending holidays alone. So, when I scrolled through my camera roll, I was pleasantly surprised. I hadn’t looked in a while, and with so much going on I honestly didn’t remember what pictures I had taken, but what I found didn’t reflect the Monday morning blues I expected. Instead, there was that joy and silliness. There were smiles, and lots of them. There were new adventures and happy family memories. Granted, there weren’t a lot from this fall, but when I scrolled back, there was a year full of good things to remember. The bike rides that didn’t get cancelled, the hikes to our favorite spots that have been an annual tradition that didn’t get cancelled, the lake visits that didn’t get cancelled, the ordinary moments in our house that didn’t get cancelled.


As I sat down to create our annual photo holiday card this year, I started scrolling through my phone camera roll to look for pictures that would help reflect our lives over the course of this last year. Since it’s a holiday card, I wanted to include the pictureperfect reality. You know-the beautiful photos people post on social media as if that’s what their days are really like- as opposed to the true reality where the kids are doing math work on the living room floor. Typically, I choose a photo for the card that shows our boys doing something fun or exciting, a

My camera roll proved there were plenty of reasons to smile this year. This does not take away the reality of the unbelievable grief some folks have faced this year. The struggles and fear. All of that is real-very real. However, as we all work during what seems like a sci-fi movie, I encourage you to find your reason to smile and roll with it. And when things go downhill, and you need support, remember MEA is here for you. Wishing you happiness and health in 2021.

Giovanna Bechard Editor

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December 2020 •


A LET TER FROM THE PRESIDENT December 2020 A year ago, in this column, I ended with the words "Wishing you all an enjoyable holiday break and a bright 2020!" Who could have known that a short time after, the year 2020 instead of being bright would turn so very dark and we'd be wishing the months would pass more quickly! Still, as I write this month's letter a few days before Thanksgiving, I must say there are bits of 'brightness' at least, and I certainly am grateful for so many things-by and large, we have managed to be relatively safe, at least in comparison to many other places. Despite the situation, we are somehow getting through it. I know, anxiety and stress levels continue at all time highs, and the workload has been described as unsustainable and insurmountable. I do not mean to dismiss that nor make light of it. But if any profession was ever characterized by a strong spirit of optimism and hope, it is that of public educators. That flame of hope, maybe now just a flicker, does still exist deep down inside, even if we are too exhausted just now to sense it. Grace Leavitt, President

The feeling of gratitude, even if it is mostly inspired by the fact that we are not as bad off as we could be, makes me stop and appreciate many things-most of all, you! Somehow you are keeping at it; you are truly remarkable people, each and every one of you! Imagine where our students and communities would be without you--talk about a dark time!

and others in our state. For this I am also so grateful-our profession is one also characterized by deep compassion for others. If your local does not already have such a project, maybe you would take the lead and start one. There is a greater need than ever before this year, and though I know you all are already doing so much, maybe we can each find a way to do just a little bit more. The past months have also been filled with political turmoil. Thankfully, November elections are behind us. And thankfully also, we will be seeing many friends of public education-including educators! MEA members!--in our state house to take on the challenges facing us. Some locals also helped there to be positive results in local school board races. (It would be great if more of us could engage in these, by the way!) And now it will soon be time for the MEA election cycle to begin! Be sure to watch for messages about this and also see the information on our website. (At least there won't be endless TV ads with these elections!) I will close by again wishing all a restful holiday break-you have earned one a hundred times over! But rather than hope for a 'bright new year' (seeing where that got us last time I said that), I will hope for us to all stay strong, to stay healthy, and to hold on to that flicker of optimism in each of us until it is once again the brightest flame! The days ahead will indeed be better, I am confident. And at the very least, we can say AdiĂłs to 2020!

The gratefulness I feel for all that I have causes me to want to give what I can to those who struggle. Our MEA Board of Directors has had the custom for some time that for our December Board meeting an organization is selected and each of us makes a contribution. The Board is again being as generous as in years past by making donations to a food bank with a network across the state.

With gratitude and in solidarity,

Some of our locals also engage in wonderful activities like this-giving of their time or collecting contributions to help students and their families

Grace Leavitt, President Maine Education Association 888-622-4418 x 2200


Maine Educator • December 2020

Things You Need To Know This Month NEA Foundation Grants Available

Educators frequently need outside resources to engage in meaningful professional development due to limited district funding. Through the NEA Foundation’s Learning & Leadership grants, support for professional development is available to members in the following areas: • Individuals to participate in high-quality professional development like summer institutes, conferences, seminars, travel abroad programs, or action research • Groups to fund collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson plan development, or mentoring experiences for faculty or staff. Two levels of funding are available: $2,000 and $5,000. Grants fund activities for 12 months from the date of the award. Grant funds can be used for travel, room, meals, registration fees, materials, etc. for individual grants. For group grants, funds can be used for educator stipends, substitute fees, materials, travel, meals, etc. Grant funds cannot be used to pay indirect costs, grant administration fees, salaries, conference fees for more than one person, or lobbying or religious purposes. Student Success Grants are also available. Grant funds can be used for resource materials, supplies, equipment, transportation, technology, or scholars-in-residence. Although some funds may be used to support the professional development necessary to implement the project, the majority of grant funds must be spent on materials or educational experiences for students. Application Period: December 2 - February 28 2021 Notifications: May 2021 To apply, visit

Leaders for Just Schools Equity Training

Recordings are now available for MEA’s Beyond the Classroom: Leaders for Just Schools Equity Training. This webinar series allows participants to take a deep dive into understanding equity and how bias can impact teaching and learning. The webinars will give you practical tools you can use to improve school culture so that every student can succeed. There are four webinars in the series, which has a scaffolded curriculum. The webinar topics include: Equity, Equality, and Justice, Equity and Bias, Privilege, and Isms and Microaggressions. You can find the recordings on MEA’s website, under the professional development tab.

Virtual Office Hours

The Maine Department of Education offers free virtual office hours to support educators and administrators. The office hours are broken up into content categories, ranging from Visual and Performing Arts to Social and Emotional Learning to Elementary Education. The topics run the gamut and webinars are available both live and recorded. Questions will be answered during the sessions. To see the full content calendar visit: calendar

New Education Secretary

President-Elect Joe Biden told then-NEA President Lily Eskelsen García that on his first day in office he would fire Betsy DeVos and nominate an educator for Secretary of Education. With his commitment to including educators in the conversation, a pro-public education ally in Biden’s cabinet would center on issues facing students and educators regularly. The Department of Education will be Educator-Oriented, “Education should be put more in the hands of educators. You should have more input on what you teach, how you teach it, and when you teach it. You are the ones in the classroom, you should have more input,” Biden said at the NEA 2020 Virtual Representative Assembly in July. He continued, “This is going to be a teacher-oriented Department of Education, and it’s not going to come from the top down—it’s going to come from the teachers up.” Biden also reiterated that when federal funding is allocated to schools, educators should have a say in how it is spent in their local districts.

December 2020 •


Helping ESPs Cope Through SEL

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As Seen in NEA Today By: Cindy Long, edited by Giovanna Bechard Stories of teachers and students struggling with education during COVID-19 are pouring in. What we don't hear about as often, however, are the difficulties experienced by Education Support Professionals (ESPs). Like everyone else, they have been feeling enormous stress during the pandemic. Confusion, uncertainty, isolation, frustration and anxiety are among the many emotions they report having each day.

“During the current COVID-19, I feel I'm on an island. I'm an administrative specialist and I'm not involved in my usual day to day functions of dealing with students and staff. Most of the focus is on what needs to be done in the classroom. This leaves me not really understanding my role during all of this." 8

Maine Educator • December 2020

"I am very concerned for our students, teachers and staff. I am uncertain as to what our entire year will look like. I am sad for what is happening in our community, country and world," said one ESP in a recent survey. "During the current COVID-19, I feel I'm on an island. I'm an administrative specialist and I'm not involved in my usual day to day functions of dealing with students and staff. Most of the focus is on what needs to be done in the classroom. This leaves me not really understanding my role during all of this," said another. "As we transition from reactive to proactive on our journey to wellness, the compounding traumas of this crisis call for schools to rethink what it means to educate the whole child and invest deeply in the whole school community," said Chris Cipriano, Assistant Professor and Director of Research at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Cipriano understands how few people actually know that ESPs make up a third of the entire education workforce and there is a widespread lack of acknowledgement of the scale of their work, which exacerbates their stress. In a survey her research team conducted of ESPs, they found that most felt overlooked in school reopening plans. They also said they felt frustrated, anxious, and overwhelmed. When asked to take a moment to think about their experiences of stress and frustration at school and the factors that contribute to these experiences, they said those factors

were a lack of communication, lack of respect from administration, insufficient time, uncertainty, and dismal wages. Most ESPs said they had "very little" communication with their colleagues and teams. Special educators also reported less communication with colleagues and teams than general educators.

An Opportunity For Broader Self-And Social Awareness As ESPs know very well, when stress is not managed well, it can undermine our ability to be effective and can result in burnout. But there are ways to help manage it through Social Emotional Learning (SEL), just as we help students manage their difficult emotions with SEL. In her team's survey, Cirpriano said educators expressed that they want to feel appreciated, respected, valued, and joyful, and identified their sources of inspiration and joy as their students, colleagues, learning, helping, and families.

"We cannont expect teaching, learning, and family functioning to occur in a crisis without attending to our emotions."

To best help students and families, Cipriano said, we must center on supporting the whole school community, including and especially our educators and ESPs. SEL training and implementation that includes all of the adults who make up the education ecosystem-in school and at home-must be prioritized, she said, for student success.

"We cannot expect teaching, learning, and family functioning to occur in a crisis without Chris Cipriano, attending to our emotions," Cipriano said. Assistant Professor She offered several strategies and Director of to do this, such as developing research at the Yale self-awareness. Self-awareness Center for Emotional includes the ability to recognize Intelligence and label emotions as the first step in understanding how emotions influence thinking, decisions, and behavior. A high level of self-awareness leads to better self-management, which is the ability to regulate one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively across situations.

Managing the ambiguous and evolving demands of educating during the pandemic requires healthy emotion management, she said, and emotion regulation strategies can help create the conditions for effective teaching and learning.

Create A Healthy Emotional Climate Self-care is important for everyone, but equally important is care for the whole school community. Educators want to feel excited, safe, supported, and calm. When school community members are sensitive to each other's emotional needs and perspectives, it creates a more positive climate for learning and thriving. This means incorporating SEL for everyone. "SEL training and skills are critical for holding space for safe, difficult, constructive conversations to promote real action," Cipriano said. The following are tips from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to manage stress and control of your surroundings to help create a healthy emotional climate.

Managing Stress • Self-Awareness, which includes the ability to recognize and label

our emotions is the first step to understanding how emotions influence our thinking, decisions, and behavior • This is key to Self-Managament, the ability to regulate one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively across situations • Thriving through a pandemic requires a healthy mental flexibility • What can you control? • With a growth mindset you can see opportunities to control your experience and outcomes • A desire to learn • Embrace challenges • Persist in the face of setbacks

Wellness Skills for Self-care and Health for Educational Support Professionals To learn more, a full webinar is available on our website at

"Thriving through a pandemic requires a healthy mental flexibility," Cipriano said. She also stresses the nurturing of a growth mindset, which includes seeing opportunities to control their experience and outcomes as well as a desire to learn, embrace challenges, and persist in the face of setbacks. December 2020 •


d n a e d i Outs g n i d n a st t Ou An afternoon with the Maine 2021 Teacher of the Year


Educators are agents of change. This pandemic has proven that to be true and emphasized the importance of engaging all students in ways that inspire. Teachers have the power to energize students to read, write, and think critically in powerful ways. Our students must believe that they are brilliant individuals whose voice matters and have the confidence to use it. Our classrooms can instill in students the belief that they can positively impact the future. Cultivating passion and dedication will better prepare our students to participate as informed, respectful, open-minded, and responsible citizens who care for their environment and possess compassion for humanity." - Cindy Soule, 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year


Maine Educator • December 2020


n a turned over bucket, under a tarp sail, Cindy Soule, a fourth grade Portland Public Schools teacher, reads to her students. Each student sits on their own carefully placed rock in what is the new outdoor classroom for fourth graders at Gerald E. Talbot Elementary School. This is a typical day for the 2021 Teacher of the Year. "The fourth-grade classes split the time for this space," explains Soule. Today, the story is accompanied by snack time, making their eating even safer as each child is carefully spaced apart and they're outdoors. During this time, Soule doesn't have to worry about the gentle reminders to physically distance as students remain still, engaged in the reading. Though you can't see her facial expressions, due to her mask, the story comes alive in Soule's voice as she stops to ask the children what they think will happen next in the book. Soule has embraced the outdoor learning spaces at her school and spent much of the day with her class outside, in multiple locations. "Educators are agents of change. This pandemic has proven that to be true and emphasized the importance of engaging all students in ways that inspire," said Soule. The inspiration continued as students head to Science class, which today takes place with a quick walk to the school's outdoor garden. "Where do you see seeds?" asks Soule of her students. When learning about the lifecycle, there is no better place to be than the school's garden, where students can explore and experiment in real time. Soule takes advantage of this space as she shows her students different plants, pulls a dandelion from the ground giving it later to a student to spread its seeds across the garden. Students are so interested in the lesson Soule must continually remind them to keep their space as they eagerly gather around her to see what she's picking and pruning. "Is this a seed?" asks one student who finds a tomato plant that is past its prime. Science is a passion for Soule who has been a leader in helping to develop the first comprehensive Science curriculum in the Portland Public School district. The robust science lesson outside concluded with students documenting their findings, writing and drawing pictures from the garden. With clipboards in hand, students found a spot to safely share what they learned, tying in science and writing in the safest way possible. "We will learn so much from her passion for teaching inquiry-based science and literacy!" said Heather Whitaker, the outgoing Maine Teacher of the Year.

Cindy Soule (right) leads students through the Gerald E. Talbot Elementary School's outdoor garden. December 2020 •


Maine Educator invited Cindy Soule to share her thoughts on her teaching, the pandemic, the future, her students and more. The following provides insight into education and sound advice and teaching tips from the 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year.

How has your role as a teacher evolved over the years? I work in a school with a substantial set of unique challenges, in that our students embody a diversity of language, culture, race, and socioeconomic statuses. I have always held firm to the belief: All students can learn. This belief has motivated me to continually refine and evolve my teaching practice. Over the years I have developed a strong foundation of literacy instruction, acquired technology skills, and implemented social emotional learning practices. While these efforts yielded impactful results, I believed I could do more to more fully engage all of my students. After researching high-leverage strategies, I decided to focus my professional learning on science instruction. By harnessing the learning power of science, students develop agency and grow in myriad ways. I select topics to study that have a presence in our community. In doing so this fosters authentic connections between the natural world, its fragility, and academic content. Maine and the world we live in are beautiful; by studying our local community my hope is that my students become inspired to view the natural world around them with a sense of amazement. I have also taken on several leadership roles such as peer evaluation, Leadership Team Representative, and District Vertical Literacy Team. My goal is to advocate for students and staff in each of these roles in a way that empowers them and creates a learning community where everyone flourishes!

Portland is a diverse community; how do you involve families in your students' education, especially now? I believe in a strong partnership with students' families. Our school has grade level blogs that I have linked to our school website. This is an engaging way to keep families updated with what their child is learning. I have found the use of an app like Talking Points is highly effective at reaching all families and staying connected. I use the app to communicate individual needs and share quick notes on student progress as well as to send links to the grade 4 blog. By sending links to our website the updates I post there can also be translated for families with google translate. Families are excited to see and hear what is happening in our fourth-grade classrooms. The app also translates messages which is so helpful for families who do not speak English as their first language. I also invite families as frequently as possible to hear from students about their learning. An example of this is a gallery walk grade 4 hosted. Families got to visit and learn about animal adaptations and see the beautiful informational books they created in partnership with Side x Side. What have you learned from your students? Determination. Gratitude. Perseverance. The importance of laughter. Acceptance. Forgiveness. The list could go on. My students have brought me such joy amidst this pandemic, and I love their spirit and willingness to be present in each moment. Why do you think you were selected as Teacher of the Year? (I know it's hard to talk about yourself, but what do you think your peers might say?) Wow, tough one. Unwavering commitment to have each child walk out my door feeling as though they are valued, heard, and know that I believe in them. By doing so they are empowered to see the possibilities of their future. Dreams are powerful. Each of my students is a unique individual, but all with incredible potential. Here is a note from colleague Alex Lawrence, Math Coach, "You have so many strengths as a teacher to choose from, but the one that stands out the most for me is how you don't give up on any student and insist on finding a way to meet their needs and move them forward. That is true no matter how many issues they come with, or how complicated the issues are, or how little success others may have had in the past addressing them. I feel like the idea of finding a way forward for every child gets a lot of airtime, but you actually do it!" From Dr. Kate Cook, Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, "Perhaps most importantly, Ms. Soule is an incredibly reflective teacher and is always striving to learn more and advance her practice. She takes the time to critically reflect on each and every lesson, identifying areas of success and areas for growth. Further, she regularly seeks out opportunities to learn more. Ms. Soule is a leader in advancing STEM education in her district. She eagerly seeks professional learning opportunities and leadership roles outside of the requirements of her position. Ms. Soule is a critical driver in advancing science education in elementary school throughout her district and throughout the state." From a colleague of 10 years, Kim Elliot, former Literacy Coach, now teaching ELL at South Portland. "Cindy also excels at creating classroom communities that are kind, purposeful and infused with joy. She is attentive to student's social-emotional needs, and implements positive, differentiated supports and strategies to ensure all students can access instruction. She is mindful of barriers that may keep students


Maine Educator • December 2020

from learning, and works closely with ELL teachers, social workers, specialists and families to create and implement multi-tiered plans of support. Cindy works tirelessly to ensure that students know that with hard work and confidence, they can succeed." If you had the power to change one education policy right now, what would it be and why? Over the last 8 months I have reflected upon how as a result of the pandemic we have been, in a way, forced to step outside the status quo and do things differently. While there are many inherent challenges, we have also learned a tremendous amount about what works for kids, ways to engage learners, and how some learners excel at learning remotely. Though I don't name a specific policy, I would suggest as educators we make a commitment to consider the ways we have learned from stepping outside the status quo. Fear of change can be a significant barrier, but my hope is that one of the positives we take away from this experience is that there can be a real benefit from making significant changes. In particular, I hope that we can think more carefully about systemic racism. It is critical that our education systems take action to disrupt racism and narrow the opportunity gap faced by far too many students. What specific strategies do you use to help reach your students that you think could help other educators around the state? Making a shift from a teacher-led explanation to student-led inquiry, allows students to work collaboratively by asking questions and exploring curiosities. An inquiry-based model will invite all students to explore and discover the natural world. By providing shared experiences to our students, they will be supported in a way that is inclusive of their backgrounds and knowledge they bring to learning. This type of instructional approach creates a learning environment where all students collaborate and self-construct science knowledge in a way that cultivates critical thinking and communication skills. Students will be provided opportunities to explain phenomena, ask questions, carry out investigations, discuss theories, create and revise visual models of thinking, and share their ideas publicly. The student products created throughout the unit will be a reflection of their own learning. The engaging design of these learning experiences will provide accessibility for all our students in a way that fosters a sense of community while simultaneously deepening students' scientific understanding. To implement this instructional shift anchor each science unit in a "phenomenon," otherwise known as a mysterious event that occurs in the natural world. Preferably something local. In doing so, students will participate in conversations to develop initial explanations about the how and why of each phenomenon. Students keep a science notebook to record their observations, questions, and visual models of thinking. As students generate questions, gain key scientific understandings, and test theories, they revisit the anchoring phenomena, work with peers, and revise their models to incorporate new ideas. To document questions, list investigations, identify student products, and record findings, I co-construct a driving question board with students that is posted in the classroom and shared with families on our class blog. Students use this tool to navigate through lessons and reflect on learning and determine next steps. During this phase of the inquiry process, I use supplemental images, videos, and interviews to guide students to discover answers to specific questions and identify related phenomena. As a part of the investigative process, students conduct experiments and analyze artifacts.

The end result is that students put all the pieces of their investigations together to scientifically explain the phenomena in a way that incorporates key science ideas.

Any advice for other educators to help keep them motivated while teaching during a pandemic? In moments of vulnerability, teachers have and will continue to come together and provide each other with the strength needed to ensure our students learn and grow. Reach out and ask for help. Teaching by design is not meant to be done in isolation. It is also important that we remind ourselves and our colleagues to continue to engage in activities that are restorative and sources of joy. It is critical that educators remind ourselves and each other that our health and wellness matter. Anything else you want to share? It is my belief that one of the most critical contributions I have made throughout my tenure at Talbot is modeling, with passion and conviction, my belief that all students can learn. It is a natural reaction for teachers to lessen expectations given signs of trauma, poverty, or struggles of access due to language barriers. However, educational research has demonstrated that when given clear and high expectations, students will rise. In all that I do at Talbot, I repeatedly convey this as one of the most critical elements we can employ to mitigate the widening of the opportunity gap faced by many Talbot students. Also, I am so incredibly proud to be Maine Teacher of the Year. Maine teachers have flexed with creativity and innovation to deliver instruction in ways that are assuredly different than anything we have ever done before. In moments of vulnerability, we have leaned on one another and lifted one another up. Educators across our state have demonstrated the power of our collective strength as, together, we navigate the challenges of this pandemic with creativity, ingenuity, compassion and a commitment to our students' growth and learning as well as their social and emotional well-being. Teachers have the power to energize students to read, write, and think critically in powerful ways. Our students must believe that they are brilliant individuals whose voice matters and have the confidence to use it. Our classrooms can instill in students the belief that they can positively impact the future. Cultivating passion and dedication will better prepare our students to participate as informed, respectful, openminded, and responsible citizens who care for their environment and possess compassion for humanity.

December 2020 •


How Much Do You Take Home? In the MEA's ongoing effort to inform members regarding issues of salary and benefits, MEA's Director of Collective Bargaining and Research compiled a comparative analysis on net compensation. The figures in the charts on this page highlight take-home pay after the chosen health care deduction. The figures do not account for taxes deducted, and are a sample of only several districts. The net compensation figure is significant, as it highlights the importance of the health care contribution by the district. The MEA encourages all locals to review this data as it relates to your total compensation package. The MEA will continue to highlight this type of information in this publication in the coming months. Bachelor’s Scale, Single Health Insurance Health Insurance 0 Years of Experience Employee Contribution Salary Net Compensation Bangor 0% 40,605 40,605 Calais 0% 31,524 31,524 Caribou 0% with 38,000 38,000 incentive Auburn 10% ($84) 38,854 38,770 RSU 10 10% ($84) 38,400 38,316 RSU 71 18% ($150) 35,380 35,230 SAD 60 8% ($67) 36,053 35,986 South Portland 18% ($150) 42,467 42,317 Bachelor’s Scale, Family Health Insurance Health Insurance 0 Years of Experience Employee Contribution Salary Net Compensation Bangor 41% of ($598) 40,605 40,007 additional cost Calais 16% of ($233) 31,524 31,291 additional cost Caribou 25% with ($573) 38,000 37,427 incentive Auburn 15% ($344) 38,854 38,510 RSU 10 20% ($803) 38,400 37,597 RSU 71 28% ($642) 35,380 34,738 SAD 60 South Portland

13% 18%

($298) ($413)

36,053 42,467

35,755 42,054

Master’s Scale, Single Health Insurance Health Insurance 0 Years of Experience Employee Contribution Salary Net Compensation Bangor 0% 45,676 45,676 Calais 0% 33,834 33,834 Caribou 0% with 40,000 40,000 incentive Auburn 10% ($84) 42,942 42,858 RSU 10 10% ($84) 41,400 41,316 RSU 71 18% ($150) 37,580 37,430 SAD 60 8% ($67) 39,048 38,981 South Portland 18% ($150) 46,512 46,362 Master's Scale, Family Health Insurance Health Insurance 0 Years Experience Employee Contribution Salary Net Compensation Bangor 41 % of ($598) 45,676 45,078 additional cost Calais 16% of ($233) 33,834 33,601 additional cost Caribou 25% with ($573) 40,000 39,427 incentive Auburn 15% ($344) 42,942 42,598 RSU 10 20% ($803) 41,400 40,597 RSU 71 28% ($642) 37,580 36,938 SAD 60 13% ($298) 39,048 38,750 South Portland 18% ($413) 46,512 46,099 14

Maine Educator • December 2020

10 Years Experience Salary Net Compensation 55,572 55,572 46,137 46,137 51,463 51,463

20 Years of Experience Salary Net Compensation 70,315 70,315 56,902 56,902 70,381 70,381


52,744 51,463 51,125 50,925 60,668

61,031 68,331 63,935 63,914 67,948

15 19 15 18 14

53,660 51,379 50,975 50,858 60,518

60,947 68,247 63,785 63,847 67,798

21 40 19

10 Years Experience 20 Years of Experience Steps Salary Net Salary Net Compensation Compensation 55,572 54,974 70,315 69,717 21 46,137










52,744 51,463 51,125

52,400 50,660 50,483

61,031 68,331 63,935

60,687 67,528 63,293

15 19 15

50,925 60,668

50,627 60,255

63,914 67,948

63,616 67,535

18 14

10 Years Experience Salary Net Compensation 60,106 60,106 49,213 49,213 54,036 54,036

20 Years Experience Salary Net Compensation 7,6051 76,051 59,978 59,978 73,899 73,899


59,638 55,323 53,325 53,920 64,712

66,931 73,455 65,662 66,909 76,037

15 19 15 18 16

59,554 55,239 53,175 53,853 64,562

66,837 73,371 65,512 66,842 75,887

21 40 19

10 Years Experience 20 Years Experience Steps Salary Net Salary Net Compensation Compensation 60,106 59,508 76,051 75,453 21 49,213










59,638 55,323 53,325 53,920 64,712

59,294 54,520 52,683 53,622 64,299

66,931 73,455 65,662 66,909 76,037

66,587 72,652 65,020 66,611 75,624

15 19 15 18 16


Moments Business Leadership Instructor Named CTE Teacher of the Year

From the Maine Department of Education Amanda Peterson, the Business Leadership Instructor at United Technologies Center (UTC) in Bangor and member of Region 4 EA has been named the 2020 Maine Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teacher of the Year by the Maine Administrators of Career and Technical Education (MACTE). During his remarks, MCCS President Daigler spoke about Mrs. P's efforts to develop a robust CTE Business program for UTC that helps students earn college credit. "Delivering a demanding college level curriculum to high school students is challenging. Having over 90% complete with A's and B's based on locked 3rd party and college summative assessments is phenomenal. This level of learning, with students widely becoming able to reach and function in Bloom's Quadrant D, occurs because of her dedication, belief system, and understanding of experiential education.”

Gorham Middle School Music Educator Semifinalist for GRAMMY Association’s Music Educator of the Year Award Tracy Williamson, music educator at Gorham Middle School and member of Gorham TA, has been selected as a semifinalist for the GRAMMY Association's Music Educator of the Year. Only 25 music teachers around the country have been named semi-finalists. Williamson was selected out of nearly 2,000 initial nominations submitted from all 50 states. Williamson teaches music to sixth- and seventh graders and chorus to grades 6-8. She also helped found and direct the district's steel drum band for grades 6 through 12. Congratulations, Tracy!

Maine School Nurse of the Year Donna Jordan, Saco Valley TA member and nurse at Bonny Eagle Middle School, has been named the 2020-21 Maine School Nurse of the Year. The award, given by the Maine Association of School Nurses, recognizes someone who demonstrates excellence in school nursing practice and leadership in the profession. During a time when school nurses are critical to the learning process, Jordan has been described as a trusted medical professional who is valued in her building with more than 800 students and 100 staff. Jordan maintains professional membership in both the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) and the Maine Association of School Nurses (MASN) and has served on the board of MASN for the past five years as treasurer. As one supporter stated, “she is a natural born leader…perceptive, caring, extremely bright, and always willing to go the extra mile for her school children and for her peers.”

Member Wins National Teaching Excellence Award

Congratulations to RSU 18 EA (China/Messalonskee) member Luanne Phair from Jean H. Bean Elementary in Sydney on being named a 2021 NEA Foundation California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence recipient. The NEA Foundation announced that 46 public school educators from across the country will receive the prestigious California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence at the NEA Foundation 2021 Salute to Excellence in Education Gala in February 2021. The California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence awardees are nominated for their dedication to the profession, community engagement, professional development, attention to diversity, and advocacy for fellow educators.

December 2020 •


Union Action Makes a Difference When the MEA and local associations speak up, things happen. The power of the union is in our collective voices, having a seat at that table when decisions are made and standing up for what’s right and needed. This has never been more evident than now, as everyone works under what is a temporary new normal. On the following two pages are a few examples of how the MEA and local associations improved the lives of educators and students who are working and learning during a pandemic.

Beyond W the ump

hen Kittery EA member Lauren Roy realized she was pregnant she knew she needed to work remotely in order to keep her baby safe. As a cancer survivor, late effects from treatments add to her risk with COVID. While she was concerned for her own well-being, as a new mom with one child at home and another on the way, she knew, for the safety of her baby, she should take all precautions to remain healthy. Roy’s doctor advised she work remotely, which the 6th grade teacher knew would be difficult under her current district’s hybrid learning plan. As someone who believes strongly in the union, and who joined the MEA when she started teaching, after her mother, a now retired teacher, told her she needed the support, she reached out to the union for help to navigate the “ask” to go remote. Within 24 hours of bringing her MEA UniServ Director, Judi Beverage, to a meeting Roy, was offered a remote position, keeping her and her unborn baby safe. “I have always felt it was important for people to understand the power and support of the union, and my story is just one example of that,” said Roy.


Maine Educator • December 2020

“It is a sad day for our educational community that things have come to this. No one wins in this situation. Having said that, though, this is where the teachers and support staff feel we need to be to affect change in our educational community and in our district." Doug Hodum, Mt. Blue EA President

Mt Blue No Confidence Vote Led by the Mt Blue Education Association, teachers and support staff in the Mt Blue Regional School District overwhelmingly supported a vote of “no confidence” in district superintendent Tina Meserve. The local education association received 368 ballots back after placing a vote out to all 425 district employees, both members and non-members. Of the ballots returned, 91.3% stated they have lost faith in Meserve’s capacity to lead, supporting the “no confidence” vote. The vote of no confidence comes after more than two years of poor treatment of staff, lack of support for employees and inadequate skill set needed to run a school district.

“It is a sad day for our educational community that things have come to this. No one wins in this situation. Having said that, though, this is where the teachers and support staff feel we need to be to affect change in our educational community and in our district,” said Doug Hodum, Mt Blue EA President. Since the vote of “no confidence” several members of the School Board have largely ignored the complaints of the educators in the district and now the local association is working to organize the community to better understand the issues they’re facing to impart some change in leadership. “We need support and leadership now more than ever for our students and for those who are working hard to meet the needs of every child,” said Hodum.

"We need support and leadership now more than ever for our students and for those who are working hard to meet the needs of every child." Doug Hodum, Mt. Blue EA President

RSU 35, Quamphegan EA, Negotiates Language to Help Maintain Proper Lines Between Parents, Students and Staff With more people working from home than ever, the lines between work and home time have been more than blurred. In an attempt to create a greater division and provide educators with proper boundaries, RSU 35, Quamphegan EA, negotiated an agreement with the district that includes specific language about contact information and how parents/students/guardians should be able to reach an educator. Below is the language on those issues:

Communication To the extent possible, communication between teachers and students/parents will be through email and/or the online platform being used to posUdeliver instruction. If parents or students request to speak to a teacher who is working remotely, they will be directed to such platforms and the teacher will schedule a mutually agreeable time to talk with the parent.

Personal Contact Information Employees shall not be required to provide personal contact information including but not limited to personal cell phone numbers and home addresses to students or families. If employees must communicate with parents or students via telephone and do not want to use their personal cell phones or devices, the District will provide a virtual teleconference option that maintains the privacy of employees' personal contact information.

Follow Up Discussions The parties agree to meet virtually at least once per month or upon request to discuss issues, concerns, and successes regarding matters outlined in this Agreement.

Need Support? Head to December 2020 •


Portland Education Association Negotiates Mandated Pay and Other Benefits In order to adjust to the pandemic, the Portland Education Association worked with the School Board to agree on several issues related to the pandemic including, sick leave, salary and need for assistance with students who are not engaging. The following is the language adopted on those key issues:

No Discipline Against Educators For Students’ Lack of “Attendance” Should educators need assistance with students who are not participating as required, the educator shall inform the building Principal who shall work with the teacher and other appropriate staff to resolve the matter. Educators shall not be disciplined for students’ lack of access or lack of “attendance.”

Sick Leave The Board will grant 15 days of emergency sick leave, without deduction from the employee’s accumulated sick leave, for all staff who have COVID-19 related absences, regardless of whether the staff member has accrued leave time available. There will be no requirement that these days be taken consecutively. After emergency leave is exhausted, employees who are eligible may access leave under FFCRA and/or FMLA. Employees may use a proportional amount of accrued sick leave to supplement FFCRA leave in order to receive their regular salary/wages, which at no time shall this exceed 100% of the employees’ regular wage. After exhaustion of paid leave available under this provision, the CBA and applicable law, educators will not suffer a loss of pay due to necessary absences resulting from the employee’s own COVID-19 or need to care for a family member with COVID-19.

Salary All staff members shall be compensated their salaries/wages and benefits for the regular school year, in accordance with the provisions of their collective bargaining agreements between the Board and the Association and any applicable law, including the Governor’s Executive Orders. In the case where a sports season and/or an activity or club is canceled due to COVID-19, staff members who coach or supervise co-curricular activities shall be paid an amount to be negotiated by the board and association.


Maine Educator • December 2020

Our Board approved the MOA unanimously, showing that they understood a lot of our concerns and were willing to support the needs of our staff. I will say that it was a highly time intensive process, but we wanted to be part of getting our kids back to school in a way that would put the safety of students and staff at the forefront of returning to school. I think we succeeded in that.” – Rob Taylor, RSU 73 EA President RSU 73 Collaborative Effort Pays Off Big

RSU 73 EA (Jay/ Livermore Falls) successfully negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with its school board which included safety and work-related guidelines. A MOA is a signed document between the union and the school board that is in addition to the contract but holds the same weight and enforcement. Included in the RSU 73 MOA were specific pandemic related securities. The local worked with its leadership team and the superintendent and School Board Chair. “Our Board approved the MOA unanimously, showing that they understood a lot of our concerns and were willing to support the needs of our staff. I will say that it was a highly time intensive process, but we wanted to be part of getting our kids back to school in a way that would put the safety of students and staff at the forefront of returning to school. I think we succeeded in that,” said Rob Taylor, President of RSU 73 EA. The MOA (as well as the Return to School plan) both really empower teacher decision making. Due to the collaborative work with the Board, the district has empowered teachers to make decisions about what and how to teach in these unprecedented times and that has been a benefit to students and staff alike. Additionally, educators have a mandated 3 work days for planning, should they need to transition to fully remote instruction to be

able to implement remote learning effectively. Also included in the MOA is a great deal of health and safety language that mirrors what is in their Return to School Plan. Having that language in the MOA ensures that it will be followed and provides educators with a mechanism for dealing with it via the grievance process should it not be. The MOA also includes what the local calls common sense language, like permitting teachers access to their rooms after they have been cleaned for the day, if needed. “I believe that the MOA and the Reopening Plan here at RSU 73 have given staff a voice in the safety measures that are occurring and in the education of our students within a pandemic that many districts do not have. I, too, must say that having our Superintendent and Board Chair willing to be collaborative made a huge difference. We have been fortunate to have a positive working relationship in this stressful time,” said Taylor.

We Attitude in RSU 20 After meeting twice weekly, a Health and Safety Committee in RSU 20 (Searsport) agreed upon several changes to school protocols and procedures. The Health and Safety Committee consisted of twelve association members, representing each school and job classification, and eleven others including “We spent a lot of administrators and employees time going over the who are not eligible for association membership. template that our Based on the committee’s work, the parties agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding, which was written jointly by the Association president and vice president, the RSU 20 superintendent, and business manager. “We spent a lot of time going over the template that our UniServ Director Phyllis Hunter gave us. It really helped guide our conversations. I don’t think the superintendent really wanted to engage in these formal conversations at first, but by the end of our process we were all really proud of the work we accomplished and were glad that we used the guide we had available,” said Dawn Staples-Knox, President of the Penobscot Bay Education Association.

Planning Time Agreement The Penobscot Bay Education Association says one of

UniServ Director Phyllis Hunter gave us. It really helped guide our conversations. I don’t think the superintendent really wanted to engage in these formal conversations at first, but by the end of our process we were all really proud of the work we accomplished and were glad that we used the guide we had available,”

I feel the biggest win was the 'we attitude' that this process created and not a 'them vs us' situation... We look at problem solving and anticipating issues that will come up, such as the first snow day. Our goal is to be a team doing what is best for everyone in our district and to make our decisions based on science and common sense” – Dawn Staples-Knox, Penobscot Bay EA President

the best agreements reached came in the form of a three-day preparation and planning period, if it became necessary to switch to whole school remote learning. The Health and Safety Committee recommended a practice hybrid model period at the beginning of the school year that really helped educators when they had to return to the hybrid model for two weeks due to a local outbreak. With the MOU in place, educators now have a dedicated amount of time they must receive for planning and potential training before remote teaching occurs, should the time come.

Collaborative Attitude “I feel the biggest win was the “we attitude” that this process created and not a “them vs us” situation,” added Staples-Knox. Staff in the District feel a sense of ease when COVID questions arise because local leadership have answers due to the continued collaborative conversations between the Union and Administrators. When the full Health and Safety Committee finished its work, the Union president and vice president continued to meet bi-weekly with the superintendent and business manager to debrief, reflect and revise any protocols, for example, outside mask breaks. “We look at problem solving and anticipating issues that will come up, such as the first snow day. Our goal is to be a team doing what is best for everyone in our district and to make our decisions based on science and common sense,” said Staples-Knox.

Dawn Staples-Knox, Penobscot Bay EA President December 2020 •



& Numbers

1 out of 4

Number of Maine teachers older than 55, according to a 2018 National Center for Education Statistics survey of teachers and principals

MEA President Grace Leavitt with soon to be First Lady, Jill Biden.


Number of Total Active COVID-19 Cases in Public Schools as of 11/19/2020

232 Number of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in Maine Public Schools as of 11/19/2020

“Public education remains an essential public service in times of crisis, and like any element of infrastructure, it needs our continued support.” Joseph Hennessey, Teacher, Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford and 2019 Maine Teacher of the Year


"It’s more time developing remote lessons. It’s more time trying to find time to check in with your asynchronous learners. Compared to a non-COVID teaching year, our workload has doubled.”- says Betsy Woodward, a health and physical education teacher at the school and president of the local teachers' union. 20

Maine Educator • December 2020

“Jill’s a mom — a military mom — and an educator. She has dedicated her life to education, but teaching isn’t just what she does — it’s who she is. For America’s educators, this is a great day: You’re going to have one of your own in the White House, and Jill is going to make a great First Lady.” President-Elect, Joe Biden

“We look forward to collaborating with President-elect Biden and elected leaders across the nation at every level of government, as educators build the movement to reclaim public education as a common good and transform our system of public education into one that is racially and socially just and equitable, ensuring students and educators have the resources they need for success.” - Becky Pringle, newly elected NEA president.

Educator Recommended Books Reads


In collaboration with NEA’s Read Across America, the following book titles are for every grade level, with specific selections highlighting December’s reading theme, exploring identity.

Teen Readers

Elementary Readers Blanca & Roja

Because Score by Mo Willems; performance by Amber Ren (Hyperion Books for Children an imprint of Disney Book Group) Celebrate the arts and creativity with this ode to the many people that inspire and contribute to bringing music to life.

By Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of MacMillan)


The lives of two cursed sisters become entwined with two enchanted boys in this contemporary retelling of “SnowWhite and Rose-Red’ and “Swan Lake.”


Middle Readers

Teen Readers

Middle Readers

Elementary Readers

Your Name is a Song By Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow; illustrated by Luisa Uribe (Innovation Press) Frustrated that no one can pronounce her name, a young girl learns about the musicality of all names and teaches others at her school to sing—and say—her name correctly.

Not Your All-American Girl By Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg (Scholastic Press) When her best friend Tara gets the lead in the school musical because their teacher doesn’t think half-Jewish, half-Chinese Lauren looks the part of the all-American girl, Lauren finds a way to have her voice heard.

A High Five for Glenn Burke

Becoming Beatriz

By Phil Bidner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers)

By Tami Charles (Charlesbridge)

For Silas, his presentation on the first professional baseball player to come out as gay is more than another school report—it’s his first step toward telling his family, friends, and teammates about who he is.

Fifteen-year-old Beatriz aspired to be a professional dancer, but when her brother was killed by a rival gang, she stopped dancing— until new-kid Nasser invites her to compete with him in a dance tournament and tempts her away from gang life, back to music and her passion.

December 2020 •


Celebrate Reading Virtually or many you may be teaching remotely, so Read Across America can be virtual too! You can still celebrate reading in a virtual world! Remember, NEA’s Read Across America Day is Monday, March 2nd. If you’re planning an event, MEA is here to help fund your great idea. MEA offers grants, apply for one today (see next page for more information). In additional to virtual read alouds and mystery readers, below are some fun ideas to make this year’s Read Across America Day exciting and safe, no matter the format.


Book Talks Host an Author Deepen student enthusiasm for both reading and writing with a virtual author visit! Many authors and illustrators are offering opportunities for virtual visits with students. These might be short 15-30-minute interactive sessions or up to an hour for longer discussions or activities. Author visits go best when students have read their books in advance and, if appropriate, have prepared questions. Most authors have an online presence and can be easily contacted via their websites, social media, or through their publishers—try reaching out to school and library marketing departments.


Maine Educator • December 2020

A book talk is just a short presentation about an awesome book to get readers excited and interested in it. You can record yourself or give a live book talk or ask your school or public librarian to offer virtual book talks. You can also have students give book talks. That way students get to learn what their fellow students enjoy reading. Book talks work best when they can be conversational, with questions asked and answered. Slides can also be developed and used to add visual interest and help provide structure. Reading Drive In Invite families to a physically distanced evening out of reading fun! As members of your community read aloud a variety of diverse books, live stream their read alouds on a large screen set up in the school or community center parking lot for families to enjoy from their vehicles. Have readers use props, costumes, music, or interesting virtual backdrops to make the stories come alive for your audience.

Slide Parties A Slide Party happens when students prepare a slide presentation (Google Slides; PowerPoint) on a topic of their choice and share it with others on a videochat platform. Slides can be about a lot of things— students can create slides to introduce themselves, share interests, make a comic, teach others about something they are passionate about, or talk about a favorite book, series, or character in detail. Host a Read Across America Slide Party focused on sharing favorite books or favorite book characters. StoryWalk StoryWalk is a fun, physically-distanced activity that places a children’s story—a deconstructed book, page by page—along a walking route in your community. To make a StoryWalk, you’ll need two copies of a book. Mount each page spread on cardstock and laminate with a heavy weight lamination. You should also create a “Welcome” page that explains how the StoryWalk works and includes the front cover of the book. Depending on where you set up your Read Across America StoryWalk (library or school grounds, park, trails, or storefront windows along main street), you’ll also need wooden stakes for each laminated page spread and heavy duty adhesive-backed Velcro to attach them. Window installations can be secured using suction cups with clips or removable wall-safe tape. Your StoryWalk could also feature student writing, photography, and artwork rather than published works. Find more StoryWalk ideas and how-tos at Let’s Move in Libraries.

Reading Obstacle Course Book fun, physical activity, and physical distancing all in one! Take advantage of empty parking lots or sidewalks and chalk up (or paint, duct tape) a path that gets kids hopping, jumping, spinning, balancing, marching, dancing, and zigzagging. Your chalk walk could include a variety of steps and directions based on literary references from fairy tales or folk tales, like Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters; be focused around books that really move, such as Barnyard Dance or We’re Going on a Bear Hunt; or be an inspired interpretation of a title like Firebird or Jabari Jumps.

Need Funding for a Reading Event? MEA Can Help! NEA’s Read Across America will take place on Monday, March 2, 2021! To help plan and prepare for a reading celebration, MEA is offering Read Across America Incentive Grants to our local associations who sponsor association activities for this event. Grants of $50 each will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Requests must be made by the local association President for funding of activities within the local association. GRANT DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 1, 2021 Apply for grants on the MEA website at

December 2020 •


Retirees Picket Board of Trustees Office & File Class-Action Lawsuit Resulting in Positive Outcome Chanting “Do the right thing,” UMaine System retirees and current employees marched down Commercial Street in Portland with picket signs in hand stopping in front of the office of James Erwin, the Chair of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. The UMaine System announced it would strip the current group health care plan, and Erwin is one of the key decision makers who has the power to help overturn that decision.


Maine Educator • December 2020

The University of Maine System’s change in retiree health care plan eliminates their current group plan and forces retirees into the individual marketplace. Early indications are that retirees are finding plans are more expensive, with higher out-of-pocket costs and less coverage. In addition, under the new system, retirees are being asked to pay out-of-pocket for their medical expenses and then seek reimbursement through a computer or paper system, complicating their health care coverage even more. The health care plan change will impact existing and future retirees. In the weeks following the picket, retirees, with the support of the Maine Education Association and the local union chapters, AFUM, ACSUM and UMPSA*, filed a class action lawsuit against the UMaine System. “Filing this lawsuit was not the route we wanted to take but this was the route the University of Maine System’s Board of Trustees pushed us into. We have retirees, who under their new plans, can no longer afford the prescriptions they need to stay alive, and others who are making the tough choices to stop taking one medication so they can afford another at a cost of their own health. This change in plan violates the contract and the promise the University of Maine System made with its retirees, and we will now pursue our rights in the courts,” said Jim McClymer, Associate Professor of Physics and President of AFUM. Eleven retirees are named in the class-action suit which was filed in Cumberland County Superior Court against their former employer, the University of Maine System. The lawsuit alleges that the University of Maine System violated the retirees’ contractual rights to group health insurance when it unilaterally, and secretly, approved elimination of that benefit earlier this year. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop implementation of the proposed change, and it seeks a declaratory judgment affirming the retirees’ contractual rights to group health insurance. The named Plaintiffs represent a class of over 2,900 retirees and retiree spouses and dependents. Within hours of filing the lawsuit the University of Maine System released a statement which read: “The University of Maine System announced this afternoon that it would pause to address concerns over a planned retiree health benefits transition with retiree representatives and union leaders to determine if retirees would be better served by the System's existing group retiree health benefit plan or new plans and prescription coverage available through the individual insurance exchange marketplace.”

support for our existing group plan and concern that the individual exchange does not provide an affordable solution for everyone,” said James Erwin, Chair of the Board. “The Board has heard these concerns and commends Chancellor Dannel Malloy and his team for the options they have developed to provide coverage consistency and prescription drug protections for our retirees.” The agreement between the Unions and the University System now allows retirees to KEEP their group plan, if they choose, or switch to an AON plan on the marketplace, if they choose. If a retiree had already switched to an AON plan and wants to return to the group plan, the agreement allows for that change as well. With the agreement in place, the lawsuit and grievances filed on behalf of union retirees are resolved. "University of Maine System retirees are collectively breathing a sigh of relief learning they can keep their group health care plan," said the presidents of the three Unions, AFUM, ACSUM and UMPSA. *AFUM-Associated Faculties of the University of Maine- the only faculty organization that has a contract with the University of Maine system *ACSUMAssociated COLT Staff of the Universities of Maine, represents the hourly COLT (clerical, office, laboratory, technical) staff in the University of Maine System. *UMPSAUniversities of Maine Professional Staff Association, representing professional staff who are not faculty

“University of Maine System retirees are collectively breathing a sigh of relief learning they can keep their group health care plan. This change to restore their group plan means our most vulnerable Mainers do not have to choose which prescriptions to fill or worry they won’t be able to afford to see their doctor. The Unions that represent our UMaine System retirees worked hard to share the negative impacts of the UMS decision with the Board of Trustees, and are pleased the System finally understood a change of this magnitude required negotiation. In the future, the Unions look forward to working with the University System to discuss any issues that impact employees, past and present.”

Jim McClymer, AFUM President Neil Greenberg, UMPSA President, Cheryl Spencer, ACSUM President

Shortly following the public statement to pause the transition, the Unions met with the University System and reached an agreement which would fully restore the group plan for all retirees. “Many of our former employees and our bargaining units have engaged with the Board of Trustees over the last several weeks expressing both December 2020 •


TECH talk This holiday season think about yourself! Here are some handy tech items that can help make your distance teaching and learning a little bit easier and fun. And if you don’t want to buy them yourself, tear this page right out and leave it somewhere obvious for your loved ones to see—nothing like a good hint for a good gift!

Microscope Camera Cost: Around $35

While you need to keep your distance and can’t share microscopes, this nifty camera allows you to hook up your computer to the microscope camera and easily display images of specimens and samples for your class to see. You can even do this remotely and share your screen with your students.

Easy-Speak PRO USB Recorder Cost: Around $60

This wireless microphone records and stores up to 4 hours of audio—making it easier to share things like fluency readings, math facts, intervention and assessments.

High-Speed Label Printer Cost: Around $115 Keeping student items organized is more important now than ever. Having everything labeled makes it easier! You can wirelessly print labels on the go, right from your desk (or your outdoor classroom). 26

Maine Educator • December 2020

BrushBot Kits Cost: Around $20

This is a great activity students can do while in their own individual workspace. Using the head of a toothbrush or other small brush, BrushBot kits teach kids about making and working with basic electronics to construct a “robot.” The bristles vibrate around and make the bot bounce around moving like a bug across a table. Attach a paint brush and make some art!

FREE STUFF! Yoga and Self-Care Resources for Educators and Students

Online Courses From Top Universities

Thousands of free online courses from top universities like Harvard, MIT and others are available for you to take from your home. Great for your own professional development or for ideas/ inspiration for your own classes! Simply type the topic you’re looking to learn about and see a list of courses pop up and choose which one best suits your needs. FMI:

Taking care of yourself is important to be able to continue to find balance in your work and home lives. Breathe for Change, an online mindfulness website offers on demand yoga classes for educators, lesson plans and more. Yoga classes for educators focus on different issues including compassion, gratitude and harmony. Lesson plans are also available for educators to help students deal with complex emotions they may be experiencing during the pandemic. FMI:

Free Books

Half Price Books will consider donation requests from educators that focus on literacy, the environment, or education. Simply fill out an online request form detailing your need and reason. FMI: https://halfpricebooks. com/book-donationsrequest-form/

December 2020 •


What I Love About Maine Educator Magazine Cover: "What I Love About Maine" Cover Contest The Maine Educator will feature a cover designed by a Maine public school student depicting the theme “What I Love About Maine.” Submissions can be any form of art and should be 8.5” by 11” or able to be photographed. Please advise students that the magazine title will be across the top and 2.5” high. The artist will want to make sure there is nothing important to the piece at the top, as it may be obscured by the title. Entries must include the name of the student, the school, and the submitting teacher’s name and email.

WHO: Grades K-4, 5-8, 9-12 – Based on entries, an indeterminate number of finalists will be selected, with one overall winner chosen from the finalists to have their work on the cover of the magazine. HOW: Submit artwork to Giovanna Bechard via email at 28

DEADLINE: April 29, 2021

Maine Educator • December 2020

The Maine Education Association Representative Assembly The MEA holds an annual Representative Assembly (RA) in May. MEA’s RA is the largest democratic body of the association, made up of educators elected by their local associations to represent their district. The MEA RA delegates set the course of work for the Association in the upcoming school year, discuss and take positions on key education issues, pass the MEA Strategic Budget for the coming year, and elect new leadership. Being a delegate at the MEA RA allows educators to have a greater voice in their work and in the profession as a whole.

As a member of the Maine Education Association, you are eligible to have a voice. Proposed additions, deletions, or changes in wording to the Constitution, Bylaws, or Standing Rules and to the MEA Resolutions (our belief statements) are welcome from MEA committees, local Associations and/or individual members. If you have proposed changes or new ideas or would like to see the MEA take specific actions (New Business Items—or NBIs), then run to be elected as a delegate from your local and let your voice be heard! The 2021 MEA RA will be held May 22nd -23rd at the Marriott Sable Oaks in South Portland. On the evening of the 22nd, MEA also holds its annual awards dinner where educators, students,

and community members are recognized for their achievements and outstanding commitment to education. (Note: in 2020, MEA held its first ‘virtual Representative Assembly’ in May, with a modified agenda, and held an 'extraordinary session' of the RA in August to the RA’ to take care of additional business.) Check the updated list of delegate seats to see if there will be a vacancy in your local and plan to attend and/or encourage fellow colleagues to be a delegate! Go to the MEA Elections section under the Member Center tab on the MEA website for more information: https://maineea. org/mea-elections/

information in late December/ early January and return the necessary forms to MEA in a timely manner. Please do not hesitate to ask any questions you may have about the process by clicking on the “contact us” button.

For MEA Officers: The positions of all three officersMEA President, Vice President, and Treasurer--are up for election this year. Officers are elected by the delegates to the MEA RA.

For the MEA Board of Directors: Is it time for you to step up and be the voice for your region on the MEA Board of Directors? As a member of the MEA Board, you help make decisions to steer the MEA throughout the year to support all members.

For the MEA RA: As a delegate to the MEA RA for your local association, you help set the direction of the MEA for the coming year and determine the positions of the MEA on many issues.

For the NEA RA: As a delegate to the NEA RA, you help represent Maine educators at the national level in directing the actions of the NEA.

Visit mea-elections

Be sure to look for elections December 2020 •


MEA Pre-Retirement Seminars MEA’s Pre-retirement seminars will be held over the course of two nights, with one night a presentation from MEA Benefits Trust and information regarding WEP/GPO and the other night a presentation from MainePERS. Members should be prepared to attend BOTH nights. Below are the dates for the upcoming MEA pre-retirement seminars. The sessions are all held on Zoom. Members who sign up will have a packet mailed to them about two weeks prior to the Zoom meeting. The packet will be needed during the seminar. The link to attend the meeting will be emailed to registrants the day before the session you are scheduled to attend. DATE



February 2, 2021

5:00-6:15 p.m. Welcome: Kay Grindall, MEA-Retired President, MEA-Retired: Ed Nunery MEA Benefits Trust: Sharon Beaulieu WEP/GPO: Troy True

February 3, 2021

5:00-6:15 p.m. Welcome: Kay Grindall, MEA-Retired President, MEA-Retired: Carl Bucciantini, MainePERS: David Jones

February 9, 2021

5:00-6:15 p.m. Welcome: Kay Grindall, MEA-Retired President, MEA-Retired: Carl Bucciantini, MainePERS: David Jones

February 10, 2021

5:00-6:15 p.m. Welcome: Kay Grindall, MEA-Retired President, MEA-Retired: Ed Nunery, MEA Benefits Trust: Sharon Beaulieu, WEP/GPO: PJ Kinney

February 23, 2021

5:00-6:15 p.m. Welcome: Kay Grindall, MEA-Retired President, MEA-Retired: Ed Nunery, MEA Benefits Trust: Sharon Beaulieu, WEP/GPO: Paul Yarnevich

February 24, 2021

5:00-6:15 p.m. Welcome: Kay Grindall, MEA-Retired President, MEA-Retired: Carl Bucciantini, MainePERS: David Jones

It's hard to believe it's time to get ready for the new school year. As you prepare for returning students, you should also think about preparing for your own financial future. Supplemental retirement plans offered in your district are one of the best places for you to set aside money for your future. Why participate? • Earnings in the account grow tax-deferred. • You determine how much you want deducted from your paycheck – which you can change at your convenience. • The contributions you make are saved through convenient, automatic payroll deductions – you won’t even miss them. • Any contributions you make are always 100% vested –so the money you save is always yours. Whether or not Horace Mann is an approved provider in your district's supplemental retirement plan,it ’s important that you participate to help prepare for a healthy financial future. Contact your local Horace Mann representative to get more information on how to help protect what you have today and achieve a more secure financial future.


Maine Educator • December 2020

Offering 100% Online Graduate Programs in Education The Online Graduate Programs in Education at the University of New England provide students with the knowledge and skills to advance their career and shape the future of education through flexible and supported study.

Programs Include: •

Graduate Certificate in Designing Learning Experiences (NEW)

Graduate Certificate in Teaching Online (NEW)

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Master of Science in Education: Reading Specialist (MSEd-RS)

Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS)

Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study: Advanced Educational Leadership (CAGS AEL)

Post Master’s Certificate (PMC)

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)

Why UNE Online? •

Learn on your schedule in a flexible study format Dynamic faculty of practitioners, researchers, and educators

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Complete in one to three years.

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DID YOU KNOW? We also offer over thirty courses for you to take individually that can help fulfill certification requirements or skill gaps.


800.994.2804 | |

MEA Benefi Bene fits ts Trust


Registration link: Member login (after initial registration):

Virgin Pulse Customer Support: 855-689-6884 Virgin Pulse Customer Support:

Member Spotlight Meet Lesa Taylor, an Ed Tech II at Surry Elementary School and her husband James, a Custodian at Ellsworth Elementary School. They started participating in the Virgin Pulse program in early July and immediately found it to be fun and engaging. They each synced a Fitbit to the program and have really enjoyed challenging each other with their daily step totals. Lesa initially began with 5,000 steps a day and is now up to 10,000 steps daily. James has been consistently recording 19 to 20,000 steps daily. Lesa stated, “James being a custodian is physically active in his job and I have to make sure I’m getting my steps to keep up with him. We constantly find ourselves saying step check!” Lesa commented that during the first few months of the Covid19 pandemic she mostly recorded her steps walking around their property, but as restrictions loosened, she enjoyed finding nature hikes and getting outside to walk. She and James visited the Brewer Water Park Walkway, wooded hikes in Orland, and the water falls in Rangeley. They both exceeded the Q1 program goal of 20,000 points by recording their activity, doing the daily cards and completing healthy habits (parking farther away, drinking water, deep breathing and eating their fruits and vegetables.) As of mid-October, James has lost 20 lbs. and Lesa has lost 23 lbs. Lesa reported that she is breathing easier and her blood pressure is lower. She has also seen improvements in muscular strength and endurance and mental health. When asked what message she would like to give those who have not yet started the program she said, “please join the program, it’s free money! It’s fun! It’s a win, win! I love to challenge friends to get active and healthy. I just really love the program!” Thank you, Lesa and James, for sharing your story! Keep up the great work! 32

Maine Educator • December 2020

WEEKLY: Commit to taking a short walk every day as part of your mindfulness practice. Use it to power down, power up, and power forward. Check out MEABT's Whil Program for more helpful tips and earn points!

All Virgin Pulse members who reach Level 2 or above quarterly will be entered into the drawing for a $250 Visa gift card. Two winners will be drawn! Did you know that we have a frequently asked questions page at and program overview on Virgin Pulse? These are saved under the Programs tab>Virgin Pulse Program Frequently Asked Questions.

Reminder: points reset each quarter, but your money earned will continue to roll over until you decide to spend it (no expiration date). Check out the different ways you can spend your money by going to the Rewards tab > Spend Rewards. Have a picture from somewhere in Maine you want to highlight? Send to and she will be picking a random one for each newsletter. If your picture is chosen, you'll receive a 100 point voucher!

Graduate Programs That Change Lives M.S.Ed in Educational Leadership — Enrolling a New Cohort This Summer! Those Who Can, Teach. Those Who Teach, Advance Their Careers at Farmington. Whether you’re seeking to earn the credentials, knowledge and skill sets to climb the ladder at your current school, to become a more valuable educator wherever you choose, or to be the kind of educator other teachers want to emulate, the University of Maine at Farmington M.S.Ed. in Educational Leadership will help you get there. M.S.Ed. in Educational Leadership is designed for professional educators who want to become leaders in their classrooms, schools, school districts or other educational settings.

> > > > >

• Delivered in blended format: 70% online / 30% face-to-face • Emphasizes school improvement knowledge and skills grounded in research • Organized in a collaborative cohort format Other Graduate Programs Offered at Farmington • M.S.Ed. in Early Childhood • M.S.Ed. in Special Education • M.A. in Counseling Psychology - Emphasis in Creative Arts • Online M.Ed. in Instructional Technology • Certificate in Administration • Certificate in Assistive Technology • Certificate in Gifted and Talented Education • Certificate in Math Leadership • And more! Accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

Learn More:

Articles inside

The Maine Pulse article cover image

The Maine Pulse

page 32
The Maine Education Association Representative Assembly article cover image

The Maine Education Association Representative Assembly

page 29
Retirees Picket Board of Trustees Office & File Class-Action Lawsuit Resulting in Positive Outcome article cover image

Retirees Picket Board of Trustees Office & File Class-Action Lawsuit Resulting in Positive Outcome

pages 24-25
Celebrate Reading Virtually article cover image

Celebrate Reading Virtually

pages 22-23
Union Action Makes a Difference article cover image

Union Action Makes a Difference

pages 16-19
Outside and Outstanding article cover image

Outside and Outstanding

pages 10-13
Helping ESPs Cope Through SEL article cover image

Helping ESPs Cope Through SEL

pages 8-9
Four Things You Need To Know This Month article cover image

Four Things You Need To Know This Month

page 7
A Letter From the President article cover image

A Letter From the President

page 6
Opening Bell article cover image

Opening Bell

page 4
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