Three Maine teachers have been announced as state finalists for the 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year, including a local educator.
The finalists were chosen from the 2019 Maine County Teachers of the Year honored earlier this year at the Hall of Flags.
The Maine Teacher of the Year program honors outstanding teachers who represent the thousands of excellent educators in Maine. Maine’s Teacher of the Year serves as an advocate for the teaching profession, education and students, and represents Maine in the National Teacher of the Year program.
Each educator was nominated by a member of their community for their exemplary service in education and dedication to their students. They were selected by a distinguished panel of teachers, principals, and business community members from a pool of hundreds of other nominated teachers in their communities.
Heather Whitaker is the alternative education teacher at Gorham Middle School and earlier this year she was named 2019 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year.
Passionate about combining learning opportunities with the needs of the community, she started her school’s garden, which donates over 800 pounds of produce for the local food pantry each year. She also was a founding member of the Gorham BackPack Program, which provides students in her community, experiencing chronic hunger, with food over the weekend. Her alternative education students are active volunteers for both programs.
Whitaker is an advocate for and experienced in using restorative practices and experiential learning. She believes in the power of relationships and that learning should be meaningful to students. Whenever possible, Whitaker takes students out of the classroom on educational field trips and gets them involved in community volunteering.
Whitaker holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Boston College and a Master of Science in Literacy from University of Southern Maine and has been teaching for 18 years.
Rob Taylor started teaching in 1989. He has spent his entire 30 year career in Maine Regional School Unit 73, teaching secondary math and science, Advanced Placement Environmental Science and also served as district Gifted and Talented Coordinator. He recently transferred to a middle school science position at Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay and earlier this year was named the 2019 Franklin County Teacher of the Year. He is an educational leader, working to implement standards via the district curriculum committee and address Maine’s teacher shortfall through participation in the Maine Math and Science Teaching Excellence Collaborative.
Taylor believes that students need to “get outside and connect to nature’. His Envirothon teams have won nine Maine Envirothon championships and were 1st in Aquatics and 6th overall at the 2018 International Envirothon. His current school projects include greenhouse and aquaculture systems that provide produce for local pantries, participation in an American Chestnut Foundation restoration project, a drinking water monitoring program, and school renewable energy solar panel and wind turbine projects.
Taylor received a Bachelor of Science in Biology/Secondary Education from the University of Maine at Farmington and a Master of Education degree from the University of Maine.
2019 Knox County Teacher of the Year, Tom teaches Social Studies, English, and Gifted and Talented at Camden Hills Regional High School (Five Town CSD). He has been teaching for 21 years.
As the coordinator of the school’s Intercultural Program, he has developed direct connections with educators in partner schools around the world, from China, to France, to Morocco. These school-to-school partnerships offer opportunities for students to interact and collaborate with peers in other cultures to investigate real-world problems. By leveraging technology to transcend physical limitations he prepares his students to thrive as global citizens. Gray believes in the “transformational power of adventure” for students as a way to build into education an opportunity for kids to cope with the unknown so they can discover their own agency.
In the 2019-2020 school year, Tom will pioneer a new, district-wide initiative in Innovation Engineering, in partnership with the University of Maine.
Tom is a National Board Certified Teacher. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from University of Delaware; Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Arts in History from the University of Maine; Graduate Certificate in Gifted and Talented Education at the University of Maine at Farmington; and is currently enrolled in the St. Joseph’s College Master of Science in Educational Leadership program.
One of these three teachers will be named the 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year, an honor awarded each year to one teacher in Maine. The announcement will be in October after a school site visit and final interview.
Maine Teacher of the Year is a program of the Maine Department of Education, administered by Educate Maine. For more information, visit mainetoy.org.