Extension educator retires after 3 decades

Posted July 20, 2009, at 8:02 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Louise Kirkland spent 30 years teaching people how to can and preserve the green beans they picked from their gardens.

She taught small-business owners how to set up shop and take steps to be successful.

She taught parents about family relationships and how to discipline with love.

Kirkland retired June 30 after three decades as an educator for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and the next day she was given a new title, Extension professor emerita.

“It’s an honor to have that status,” she said Monday. “I’m very pleased.”

Kirkland, who sat in the sun on the back deck of her Brewer home eating lunch Monday with her husband, Ken, said she grew up with Extension.

“My mother was an Extension homemaker,” she said. “She was involved in a community group that would meet monthly and learn skills from an Extension educator.”

Participating in 4-H as a youth also played a role in her choice of profession, she said.

After teaching high school-level home economics for seven years, starting in her hometown of Fort Kent, Kirkland decided to get her master’s degree and become an Extension educator herself.

“It’s been a wonderful 30 years,” she said. “It was an awesome career.”

Fellow faculty member Gleason Gray, who worked with Kirkland in Cooperative Extension for the past 27 years, said she was a pleasure to work with.

“She’s a very dedicated person, dedicated to the clients we serve,” he said. “She’s an excellent educator and teacher.”

Lisa Phelps, her supervisor for the past two years and co-worker for the past eight, said Kirkland’s new title “basically acknowledges [her] life work and her dedication to the university and the community.”

As Extension professor emerita, Kirkland will have access to the university and its resources.

“She was an outstanding educator for us,” she said. “She was somebody who really embraced the value of community education and took her job really seriously.”

Kirkland was also a leader during crisis, including the Ice Storm of 1998 and the Penobscot River flood of 1987, where she taught people techniques to ensure they were drinking clean water, Phelps said.

Filling her shoes will not be easy, her former supervisor said.

“It’s going to be very hard to do that,” Phelps said. “She’s definitely left a hole to fill.”

Kirkland said she’s still adjusting to being retired. She misses interacting with her co-workers and helping people from all over the state.

“I miss the general public who are calling [Cooperative Extension] about canning, freezing and drying,” she said, adding she also misses “helping people by teaching them skills that are really relative to the society of today.”

She said her new title will be added to e-mails she sends out as one of the organizers of the 2010 Cooperative Extension conference in Portland, which is expected to draw more than 700 educators from all over the country.

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