Selected from the 16 County Teachers of the Year each fall, the Maine Teacher of the Year becomes the most visible ambassador of the teaching profession in the state. They are invited to serve on various committees, participate in many program and events, and speak on a number of occasions in Maine.
The Maine Teacher of the Year represents Maine in the National Teacher of the Year Program (NTOY), administered by the Chief Council of State School Officers (CCSSO). State Teachers of the Year participate in the National Teacher of the Year Induction Program, Washington DC Recognition Week (includes a White House ceremony), International Space Camp and the Next Steps Conference at Princeton University. In 2017, CCSSO and the College Football Playoff Foundation partnered to celebrate STOYs at the College Football Championship.
The Maine Teacher of the Year is also an entrant for the esteemed position of the National Teacher of the Year.
2024 Maine Teacher of the Year Joshua Chard is a second and third-grade looping teacher at East End Community School and the drama director at Deering High School, both in Portland, Maine. His approach to designing and implementing curriculum for young learners always starts through a culturally responsive lens. Joyful relationships are at the heart of everything Chard does in his classroom, and he is inspired every day by the honor of lifting up and celebrating his diverse learners.
Chard holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in theater from the University of Southern Maine, a Master of Science degree in Education with a K-6 Literacy focus from the University of New England, and a Certificate in K-6 Standards Based Mathematics from the American College of Education. He is also certified as a K-12 teacher of English to speakers of other languages. Chard is proud to teach in two of the most culturally diverse schools north of Boston.
During his 31-year career, he has been an educational technician, taught fourth and fifth grade, and been an instructional coach with a focus on mathematics. He has passionately dedicated his entire career to working in high-needs urban schools and is excited to have a platform to share the amazing work that is happening there. Outside of school, Chard can be found participating in local theater as an actor and director and exploring Maine’s beaches and lighthouses with his husband and their grandsons.
Matt is the 2022 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year.
Bernstein’s pedagogy is centered around student voices and student activism. He believes that the purpose of education is to help students find their way of contributing to a more equitable world. Bernstein is also passionate about creating opportunities for students to experience joy and belonging at school on a daily basis and, to that end, he believes in cultivating meaningful relationships with students, often through his work as a 9th grade crew advisor, that are grounded in deep listening and holistic support.
Bernstein has served as a team leader, crew team leader, and is currently a professional learning community coach where he facilitates ongoing professional learning with his colleagues. He is also a member of the Portland Public Schools Social Studies Vertical Content Team, collaborating with teachers across the district and local experts to develop Wabanaki Studies curriculum.
Bernstein also embraces opportunities to deepen his knowledge and practice. He was recently named a 2022 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar, participating in a seminar entitled “Teaching the Holocaust through Visual Culture.” While not teaching, Bernstein is playing or coaching soccer and basketball, reading a book, or trying to determine where to find Portland’s best slice of pizza.
Maine’s 2022 Teacher of the Year is Kelsey Stoyanova!
Kelsey Stoyanova is an 8th grade language arts teacher at Reeds Brook Middle School, part of Regional School Unit 22, in Hampden, Maine. Stoyanova has a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education with an English concentration, a Master’s Degree in Education with a literacy focus, and is working toward her Educational Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership -- all as a University of Maine Blackbear.
Stoyanova is passionate about reading and helping students find an authentic love of reading through integrating a strong foundation of independent reading in her classroom. That passion really shined when she was selected as a grant recipient by the Book Love Foundation in 2020.
As an advocate for student involvement in curriculum creation, Stoyanova became the RSU22 Middle Level Language Arts Curriculum Leader -- working to audit, align, and enhance the curriculum. She serves on the Equity in Education Committee where she designed and implemented the RSU22 Reads Three Reading Challenge for students and community members to participate in thus far highlighting BIPOC authors and characters, women in literature, AAPI voices, Hispanic and Latinx award winning titles, and LGBTQIA+ authors and characters.
In addition to these roles, Stoyanova is sought out as a technology enthusiast, mentor, and loves to share and design creative projects and assessments with her colleagues in all content areas. After school, you can find her going on outdoor Maine adventures with her family, or with her nose in a book which she will undoubtedly talk about in class tomorrow.
Proud University of Maine Black Bear!
Maine’s 2021 Teacher of the Year is Ms. Cindy Soule!
Cindy Soule creates a learning community that disrupts the opportunity gap. For twenty of her twenty-one years of teaching, she has been committed to one of Maine’s most diverse schools, the Gerald E. Talbot Community School, in Portland, Maine. Soule fosters a dynamic learning environment that inspires curiosity and citizenship in her fourth grade students.
A lifelong resident of Maine, Soule developed an appreciation for the natural world. This passion is evident in her teaching. She grounds learning in real world contexts and encourages students to construct scientific understanding through observation, questioning, and collaborative thinking. Through inquiry and discourse, Soule empowers students to see themselves as meaningful contributors to their community. This work is recognized by her Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching candidacy.
Soule contributes to a positive culture of collective efficacy where students thrive. To enrich student learning, she partners with community organizations to include Side X Side, the Maine Audubon, and the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance. She serves as a representative on the Portland Schools Literacy Committee, Talbot Leadership Team, Building Steering Committee, RTI Team, and Science Teams. On behalf of students, Soule is a recipient of Portland Education Foundation, TD Banknorth and DonorsChoose grants.
Soule holds a Master of Science in Special Education from the University of Southern Maine and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from the University of Maine at Orono. A 2020 Funds for Teachers Fellow, she looks forward to continued professional discovery and learning.
Maine’s 2020 Teacher of the Year is Ms. Heather Whitaker!
During her 18-year teaching career at Gorham Middle School, Heather has been a true advocate for 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. Just recently, this program was awarded a $25,000 State Farm Community Assist grant.
Heather is passionate about 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, Heather takes students out of the classroom and has them engaged in the community.
Heather graduated from Boston College in 2000, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with Moderate Special Needs. She later earned her Master of Science in Literacy Education at the University of Southern Maine.
Heather’s biggest love is her family. Her husband, Marc, son Trent, and daughter Maeve inspire her daily. She loves hosting friends at her house, can be found in the mountains skiing during the winter, and is proud to be a “Maine-ah.”
Nominated by: Robert Riley (retired principal)
Heather works with our students who have demonstrated an inability to regularly attend school, participate in traditional content area studies and enjoy the fruits of traditional learning experiences reserved by society for adolescents. She takes students on a series of hikes culminating with a three day, two-night camping trip on the Appalachian Trail. Last year Heather instituted the Backpack Program providing many students with food for the weekend and school vacations to help improve the family food security. Heather is the driving force of our school garden. She incorporated the garden into her Alternative Education curriculum and has arranged to have some students work the garden one day a week during the summer. Because of her innovative, can-do nature, her refusal to give up on any student and her selfless contributions to our school community and to her students, I believe Heather is an excellent candidate to represent all that is good in our educational system.
Read more about Heather here: https://mainedoenews.net/2019/
Maine’s 2019 Teacher of the Year is Mr. Joseph Hennessey!
Joe Hennessey is an English teacher at Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford, Maine. During his tenure at PCHS, Mr. Hennessey has developed and implemented six new interdisciplinary literature-based curricula with emphases on active reading strategies, analytical writing, vocabulary and grammar application exercises, and formal public speaking. Additionally, with colleagues in the Social Studies department, he has co-developed and co-taught an annual Project-Based global affairs course and currently serves as a member to the Camden Conference in the Classroom Committee.
He was selected by his students as the Faculty Speaker in 2015 and 2018 and received the Yearbook Dedication in 2016 and 2018. In 2013-2014 he was named the Teacher of the Year at Collegiate Academy of Colorado. Mr. Hennessey is a Graduate with Distinction in Humanities from the University of Colorado at Boulder and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Nominated by: John Keane, Principal
Mr. Hennessey is a unique and highly effective teacher. His formal manner and personality combined with a dry sense of humor and setting high standards for his students, make him an icon of our school. He is a co-teacher and original designer of a high-level class entitled, Camden Conference. With only four years with us, he has become legendary amongst his students and their families. Watching him in class is truly watching a person who has honed his craft to perfection.
Maine’s 2018 Teacher of the Year is Mrs. Kaitlin Young!
She began her teaching career in 2010 at the SeDoMoCha School in Dover-Foxcroft, ME. Since then she has held a variety of music education positions within the district teaching students in PreK through twelfth grade. Currently she teaches general music to students in Pre-K through fourth grade and choral music to students in fifth through eighth grade. Beyond the RSU #68 school district Kaitlin has worked with the Center Theatre as a music director for several student and adult musical productions. Kaitlin participates in several community music ensembles including a contemporary a cappella group and a steel pan band.
Kaitlin graduated Magna Cum Laude from The University of Maine at Orono with a Bachelors of Arts in Music Education in 2010. Kaitlin completed her Master’s Degree in Music Education with a concentration in Kodaly Pedagogy at The Hartt School in Hartford, CT in 2017. Kaitlin enjoys spending her free time at her camp with her husband Bob, cat Zoe, and dog Gabby.
Nominated by: Carolyn Clark, Colleague
Kaitlin Young has grown our music program exponentially during her time here. She works tirelessly teaching students to love, respect, and learn from music. She starts her days giving free private lessons to students and can often be seen involved in after school activities supporting students in all of their achievements - attending games, spelling bees, and reading events.
Read more about Kaitlin here: https://umaine.edu/news/blog/2017/11/07/kaitlin-young-music-education-alumna-named-2018-maine-teacher-year/
Grade 5, Riverton School, Portland
Teachers of the Year from 1954 to 2013.
The County Teacher of the Year program recognizes and honors the contributions of Maine's public classroom teachers, creates a greater public awareness of the teaching profession, inspires and motivates future and current teachers and promotes teacher leadership. Each year, 16 County Teachers of the Year are selected to represent outstanding educators who are committed to the quality education of Maine students. One of the County Teachers of the Year is selected as the State Teacher of the Year.
2019 County Teachers of the Year