CARIBOU, Maine — Alana Margeson, a 10th- and 11th-grade English teacher at Caribou High School, interrupted her teaching schedule Thursday afternoon for what she thought was an anti-bullying assembly. Although a bit confused when she saw key state Department of Education personnel, city officials and school board members, she accepted the flimsy excuse that they were there because of the importance of the message. She even bought that high school band and chorus members were on hand to perform “anti-bullying songs.”
But when the revered English teacher noticed a number of family members, including her mother, who flew all the way from Warsaw, Poland, to be present, she knew that this story had a plot twist — Margeson was about to be named Maine’s 2012 Teacher of the Year.
A shocked and honored Margeson received a standing ovation from ecstatic students, colleagues and other attendees during the late afternoon ceremony. As her husband, Erich, looked on, her four boys, each wearing T-shirts that read “Proud Son of No. 1,” handed her roses. Students blew horns and shouted as she took the stage.
The Stockholm resident, herself a graduate of Caribou High School, received a dual bachelor’s degree in elementary and secondary education from the University of Maine at Presque Isle and her master’s in education administration from Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. She knew ahead of time that she was one of three finalists for the award and had gone through an intensive selection process consisting of a school visit, professional portfolio review, oral presentation and thorough final interview.
Jennifer Pooler, teacher of the year coordinator for the Maine Department of Education, presented Margeson with the award and read a message of congratulations from Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen. Gov. Paul LePage delivered a videotaped message of congratulations.
The 12-year educator was lauded at the event for her compassionate and enthusiastic teaching style and for inspiring, motivating and empowering her students to push themselves to think on different levels. She was touted for working collaboratively with her colleagues, who noted that she is highly respected and admired.
In 2009, she wrote a grant that enabled all Caribou High School juniors to tour the former Loring Air Force Base to learn about and view firsthand the nuclear capability, storage capacity, and role Loring played in national defense. In addition to teaching, Margeson writes professionally for Janet Allen’s Plugged Into Reading program.
“Her nominating committee wrote that she engages students in debate, inquiry, research and discussion in a safe environment that encourages taking risks, thinking ‘outside the comfort zone’ and ‘a-ha moments’,” Pooler said.
Shelly Moody, Maine’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, has more in common with Margeson than just an award. The two grew up in Caribou together. A third- and fourth-grade looping teacher at Williams Elementary School in Oakland, Moody called Margeson “extremely deserving of the award.”
Margeson will go to Texas in January to meet the other teachers of the year and to Washington, D.C., in May to meet President Barack Obama. She also will attend Space Camp in Alabama in July, and will make a video two months later to document why she loves teaching so much. She then will go on to compete in the selection process for the 2012 National Teacher of the Year. The winner of that honor will be announced in April 2012 at the White House.
“Her love of her students, her knowledge of literacy and her commitment to teaching is very evident,” said Moody. “Her students said that she makes learning fun, she encourages them to stretch themselves and she is committed to her entire community.”
Margeson credited her own teachers, family, friends and colleagues for her success. She also told the approximately 500 students at the assembly that they were also a part of what made her an award-winning teacher.
“I am here because I love what I do,” she said Thursday. “And I have always hoped that I have shown to you that if you do something you love, you will be passionate about it. It is a great honor to be up here, because I love what I do each and every day with you. So let me give you a round of applause, because this award is for us.”
The Teacher of the Year program is managed by the Maine Department of Education in collaboration with the Maine State Board of Education and the Maine State Teacher of the Year Association. The program is fully funded by Hannaford Supermarkets. Bangor Savings Bank reimburse RSU 39 in Caribou for the cost of substitutes while Margeson is out of the classroom on official duties this year.
The two other finalists for the award were Ingrid Stressenger, a fourth-grade teacher at Pond Cove School in Cape Elizabeth, and Tim Eisenhart, a ninth-grade mathematics teacher at Westbrook High School.