Hello MEA! I am excited to introduce myself as the newest member of the MEA team and the new editor of Educator Magazine. This Educator edition is special to me, not only because it’s my first, but because it was also an opportunity to connect with former colleagues from RSU 1, where I enjoyed my first few years in the classroom. It was truly an honor to witness the inclusion work that Morse High School is doing and see a few of my former middle school students and their siblings involved; I left feeling nostalgic and inspired.

After teaching in Maine, I spent a year teaching 3rd grade in Moshi, Tanzania, where I learned one of my favorite words—jamani! Jamani is a Swahili slang word, which loosely translated means “OMG.” It has become a word that I only say in Swahili, typically in the middle of an English sentence, always forgetting that most people have no idea what I am talking about. Either way, jamani is used frequently in my house.

I will never forget my first ‘jamani’ moment. I had only been in Tanzania for a few hours, not long enough for the jet lag to wear off. I was painting my classroom in preparation for school to start, and sure enough, my iPhone fell right into the bucket of paint.

After a little bit of panic, because there wasn’t an Apple store in Tanzania, and then a little problem-solving (luckily, the ‘stick it in rice’ trick works), I was able to salvage my iPhone, at least enough to get by until I returned to the States. Did it work perfectly? No, but it worked well enough to stay connected with family and friends and serve as a hot spot for my classroom laptop to stream their favorite BrainPOP videos.

I was reminded of this story while talking to Maine Teacher of the Year, Joshua Chard. He said, “That’s what Educators do. We are problem solvers.” Every day, each one of you solves problems for your students, whether it is sticking some leftover fruit in their backpacks because you know they don’t have a full refrigerator at home, troubleshooting a technology issue, or finding ways to meet the needs of the diverse learners in your classrooms. These days it seems like the challenges are ever present in our communities and schools.

So, the next time one of those problems seems a little too big to handle at the moment, let this be your permission to say, “jamani,” and give yourself the space to problem-solve it later.