JACKMAN, Maine — It was a very surprised kindergarten teacher who stood up in the middle of his pupils during a special assembly Thursday at Forest Hills Consolidated School and accepted the 2004 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.
With his 16 pupils applauding wildly, Rob P. Mocarsky stepped to the podium and modestly said: “I love what I do. I love this community, and I love these kids.”
He then was handed a check for $25,000 from Maine’s Education Commissioner Susan Gendron.
Mocarsky was one of 100 teachers across the country recognized by the Milken Family Foundation. Another elementary teacher in Maine, Deanna Nadeau of Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, received her award on Wednesday.
Neither teacher knew about the nomination, and the awards ceremonies were a complete surprise. The Milken Educator Awards were founded in 1985 and have passed on $50 million to exceptional teachers.
Mocarsky’s principal, Richard Curtis, also the SAD 12 superintendent, praised the teacher’s dedication.
“He involves staff, parents and the community in his day-to-day instructional program, and they are inspired by his program,” Curtis said.
Jeanine Emerick’s daughter, Jessica, 5, is in Mocarsky’s class this year. Emerick said she had heard from other mothers about what a superb teacher Mocarsky is and saw for herself that he wanted his classroom to extend outside the school and into the world.
On any given day, Emerick said, Mocarsky and his pupils can be found at the post office, or the local supermarket, or a nearby hairdressing salon. The lessons learned outside the school are then translated into reading, writing and arithmetic lessons inside Mocarsky’s classroom.
“He goes out of his way for these children,” the mother said.
Mocarsky has been teaching for 12 years, the last three at Forest Hills. He is a graduate of the University of Vermont and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Maine. He volunteered for the Peace Corps and served two years in Kazakhstan.
He also was a teacher and consultant for the Maine Geographic Alliance and a national park ranger at Acadia National Park. In addition, he was a music instructor at Islesford’s two-room island school, and he also a host for jazz and folk radio programs on WERU-FM.
Forest Hills Consolidated School has 193 students in a kindergarten through grade 12 program. Class sizes range from nine to 16. Of the 13 graduates last year, 12 are attending college.
“This was a complete shock and surprise,” Mocarsky said while surrounded by well-wishers at a reception in the school’s cafeteria. He said he most likely would use the $25,000 to help buy a house for himself, his wife, Katya, and his young son, Patrick.
“This proves that good learning doesn’t have to take place in large settings,” the teacher said. The school’s “all in one” student population helps him focus on imaginative learning, he said.