Loranger and St. George EIRs 2019

Loranger’s Educator in Residence: Sam M.

We’re just over halfway through one of my favorite times of the year, the Educator in Residence Program. This is my third winter at Loranger Memorial School in Old Orchard Beach, and I truly can feel difference between  my first year to now. I feel like a celebrity when I walk through the halls. Eighth graders stop to check in, sixth graders ask if they can go back to TLS, and fifth graders tell me “[I] make Mondays better.” Talk about a compliment! It’s these interactions that have shown me the positive impact that I’ve made  in these children’s’ lives, and it’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. What’s even more rewarding, however, is the difference these students and teachers have made to me.

My first winter at Loranger was anything but smooth. I walked in the day after winter break, and it felt like everyone was moving 100 miles a minute. There were lots of ideas for what I could do based on what past EIRs had accomplished. For the most part, however, I was encouraged to pursue my own interests. My site mentor, Matt Michaud, the school social worker, is incredibly busy, so I was given a lot of freedom to get to know the school and create my own schedule. That first winter, I spent most of my time playing games with students during non-academic periods like recess or learning lab, and helping with classwork comprehension. As I got a better sense for the school climate, I realized that I wanted more time and more valuable connections with kids.

With my first year behind me, I pitched the idea of teaching some of the core classes for the sixth grade team my second winter. I’m not entirely sure why, but they agreed to let me teach one day of math, science, and language arts each week. Just like that, it was time to get to work. Through my experience at TLS, I’ve learned that kids typically moan and groan about school. They’re quick to give up, often without trying, possibly because the system is no longer working for them. I was determined to make learning as fun for them as I think it is. Knowing that the students at Loranger love KW and all of our activities, I decided to combine their classroom lessons with our curriculum to make learning more active and experiential.

After that winter, in April of 2018, Jess Anderson and I ran a workshop at the Northeast Regional Conference for the Association of Experiential Education. The EIR program is unique when it comes to bringing experiential and social-emotional learning into schools, and with our combined experience, we had a lot to share. In our workshop, we explained the EIR model and presented some activities I had run that winter. We received a lot of positive feedback and interest in our program and curriculum from the participants.

Now, in my third year of creating my own curriculum and collaborating with teachers to meet standards, I find that the sixth grade students and teachers look forward to having me in their classrooms. Students are excited for my teaching days, saying things like, “whenever Sam is here, math is fun!” Similarly, teachers are asking me to share my lessons with them, so they can use them in the future if I’m not around. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in my past three years at Loranger. I think the teachers and administrators have a better idea now of the capability of an EIR.

Beyond  the work I’ve done,  the school has made a remarkable impact on me. When I graduated from Hamilton in 2016 I was sure I’d go on to get a doctoral degree in ecology and hopefully teach at a college similar to my alma mater. My advisor, who had a background in outdoor and experiential education, recommended I try teaching first. Fast forward three years, and I’m looking to pursue a masters in education and teaching certification in Maine, so that I can serve students similar to the youth I work with at Loranger. If it wasn’t for my experience as an EIR, I might never have found my passion for education.

St. George’s Educator in Residence: Ryan

Nestled in the heart of Tenants Harbor on the Midcoast of Maine sits St. George Municipal School Unit, a K-8 school, that serves the community on the St. George Peninsula. At the core, St. George is a school that is a valued and contributing part of the community that not only provides a supportive learning climate rooted in the expeditionary learning style but also focuses heavily on developing their students into thoughtful, productive members of society. As St. George’s first Educator in Residence, I feel extremely lucky to be in a school that values social emotional learning and supports me in all my endeavors to provide guidance to the students.

As an expeditionary learning school, each homeroom has “crew” time in which they meet to monitor academic progress, work on relationship building, and participate in character development activities. Crew is the time in which the some 200 students of St. George receive social, emotional, and academic help. In my role, this is the time that I primarily meet with the students in the 4th through 8th grade. I also have the opportunity to work with small groups in the 4th and 5th grade, as well as run an after school program for 3rd to 5th graders. The after school program, The St. George Forest School, focuses on bringing joy through environmental stewardship for all of the participants as well as encouraging creativity in a safe forum as we strive to have a lasting impact on St. George. Being able to run activities in the classroom setting allows for some really meaningful discussion in a controlled atmosphere. However, I find that I get the most joy out of developing relationships with the students during the passing times in the hallways and eating with them everyday at lunch.

Each day at St. George brings an exciting new dynamic as I am constantly rotating between different age groups. I recently had the opportunity to work with the kindergarten where we learned about winter ecology and made peanut butter and pinecone bird feeders to hang outside for the local birds. During crew in the 4th and 5th grades, we have been working on building empathy for classmates, practicing communication skills, and working together to complete tasks in groups. In 6th and 7th grade crews, we have been working more on communicating in a larger group as well as team activities that require a higher level of collaboration. Just this week, I had a conversation with the 7th grade crew after an activity they had just completed. I wondered aloud if they thought that at the start of the year, they could have completed the activity I had just given them. What followed was a resounding no and then a realization of how much they really have grown as a team in the past five weeks. The 8th grade crew continues their work from their week at Kieve in the fall and enjoys every moment they get together before spreading out to different high schools next year. Observing the different challenges that are unique to each grade level has allowed me to enjoy so much of what it means to be a kid in Maine.

Having gotten my start with Kieve through summer camp, I have always enjoyed the special feeling that one gets from being in New England during the warmer months of the year. Whether it be exploring the rivers, lakes, woods, mountains, or rocky coasts, Maine has always held a special place in my heart full of fond memories. This winter, even though the days are much shorter and air is much colder, I have found myself enjoying so much more of what Maine has to offer and the St. George community is a huge reason for that. As much as I like to think I am instilling all of this profound wisdom upon my students, their consistent desire to participate and be heard, along with their welcoming spirits on a daily basis has taught me so much more about myself then they could ever learn from me. For this, I am grateful for my opportunity to be an Educator in Residence for not only the St. George Municipal School Unit but the St. George community as a whole.