Nothing affects a child’s academic and social success in school more than a healthy relationship between schools, families and the community, which will help students enjoy learning, meet state academic standards and ensure success.
The 2014 Maine County Teachers of the Year are a new cohort of 16 teachers representing every area of our state: Jeffrey Bailey, Oxford; Kara Beal, Aroostook; Andrea Beardsley, Hancock; Sarah Brokofsky, Cumberland; Cory Chase, Lincoln; Dan Crocker, Kennebec; Gordon “Skip” Crosby, Androscoggin; Jennifer Dorman, Somerset; Phyllis Frkuska-Heeren, Waldo; Victoria Grotton, Penobscot; Ann Luginbuhl, Washington; Dyan McCarthy-Clark, Piscataquis; Sarah Reynolds, Franklin; Kate Smith, York; Kristi Todd, Knox; and Eric Varney, Sagadahoc.
As a unified group, we have been working hard this summer and have written the following platform to strengthen student achievement. The key to our success is you.
Our schools are evolving in a transition to “proficiency-based learning.” Gone are the days when — regardless of gaps in knowledge, skills and understanding — a student could receive a high school diploma based on just completing the required coursework. Now all Maine students are required to apply knowledge and demonstrate skills in order to earn a diploma. The change to proficiency-based learning creates challenges for schools, students and families, and the only way to navigate these challenges is to work together.
We all want our students, and every child in Maine, to achieve academically and socially. So what can you do to help our schools and children succeed?
Everyone is responsible for helping to overcome truancy and disengagement — the result of the growing number of children in crisis due to poverty and other family stressors. To address these obstacles, it is crucial to have strong relationships between families and schools. These relationships require shared responsibility among teachers, administrators, students, families and the community. Consistent attendance is crucial, so please help us get students to school each day.
Families: Help schools by meeting with your child’s teacher at every opportunity, from preschool through grade 12. Know what is expected of each child, and hold the child accountable. Take the time each day to ask children about their successes and challenges in school.
Educators: Reach out to families and communicate regularly about each child’s progress, sharing both concerns and praise. Build meaningful relationships with students and their families, and discover what interests and motivates students.
Administrators: Support teachers by providing the time to contact students and their families.
Students: Take charge of your learning. You must challenge yourself even when it is difficult. Take risks and take pride in your accomplishments. Realize many people have invested in your future — and believe in yourself.
Community members: Visit your schools. The best way to be informed is to talk with students and teachers. Have high expectations of Maine’s children and schools. Look for ways we can help one another, and be willing to contribute time, talent and resources.
Elected officials: Make education a priority. Involve educators when making decisions by visiting schools and talking with teachers about what is going on in the classroom. Engage students and families in conversations about the challenges their schools face. Turn these challenges into opportunities and celebrate the accomplishments. Your advocacy is key to our success.
Building relationships among schools, families and the community is crucial to addressing the challenges in today’s classrooms. Regardless of your role, we urge you to always ask the question: “How will my actions impact our students?”
We need your help to make our platform, and student achievement, a success. So what will you do?
Dolly Sullivan is the program director for the Maine Teacher of the Year and Council of Advisors.