Anne Sheehan Political Action Award: Barbara Roberge and Mark Knowles

We are honored to offer some of our remarkable members and community members and leaders MEA awards which highlight the hard work they’ve done throughout the school year. We begin with our Anne Sheehan Political Action Award. Tonight, we have two recipients of the award, Barbara Roberge and Mark Knowles, both of RSU 23, Old Orchard Beach. Barbara is a retired educator who served as her local association vice president prior to retirement and then upon retirement realized the importance of continuing to serve her students. She ran for school board and thanks in part to our second Anne Shennan recipient, Mark Knowles won the election. Mark organized his local association to help elect Barbara to the School Board. His work helped Barbara win the election as both realize the importance of supportive school board members who understand the issues our staff and students face each day. MEA is pleased to award both Barbara and Mark our Anne Sheehan Political Action Award.

MEA’s Ashely Bryan Arts and Humanities Award: Con Fullam

Con is a musician, songwriter, and producer who founded Pihcintu, a chorus made up of girls from around the globe. Fullam began the chorus in 2003 as an after-school program for immigrant and refugee girls who had been relocated to Portland, Maine, in order to “give these new Mainers their voices back, to stimulate dialogue about immigrant/refugee and multicultural issues through story and song” To date, the group has had over 350 girls participate over the years, and now performs throughout the year and around the country. MEA is proud to recognize Con Fullam with our Ashely Bryan Arts and Humanities award.

MEA’s Ashely Bryan Arts and Humanities Award: James Ford

James Ford is MEA’s second recipient of the Ashely Bryan Arts and Humanities Award. James personifies humanity. His commitment to justice is evidenced in every aspect of his being, from his work as a Restorative Practices Coordinator in Lewiston’s public schools to his role as a facilitator for NEA’s Leaders for Just Schools to his work on the Maine State School Board. James serves on several Boards supporting Mainers in various communities and works to bring together global educators, artists, and local leaders to transform communities. Recently, James was recognized by the Maine Humanities Council as their Black History Month Spotlight honoree. James is an ardent supporter of the arts and local artists, an advocate for cultural awareness, appreciation. His kindness, empathy, compassion, and willingness to navigate challenging conversations and situations make him an invaluable resource in our community and MEA is pleased to honor James with our Ashely Bryan Arts and Humanities Award.

MEA’s Ashely Bryan Arts and Humanities Award: Robert Shetterly

Robert Shetterly is our final Ashely Bryan Arts and Humanities Award recipient. Robert is a talented artist who creates priceless works of art for his Americans Who Tell the Truth portrait series. Robert highlights the crucial role of social justice, environmental justice, equality, integrity, and inclusiveness among his portrait subjects while capturing their essence in an oil painting. Robert is incredibly generous routinely loaning over 260 of his original portraits to public schools and organizations to use as curriculum materials and artistic inspiration to teach students about important moments of truth telling from the past and for current times. He works with Maine students, educators, administration, and policy makers to identify the vital role that arts and humanities play in the telling of our stories in our interdependent, 21st century global community. The Human, Civil Rights & Social Justice Committee of the MEA is proud to recognize Mr. Robert Shetterly for his significant contributions and commitment to public education in Maine using the arts and humanities to promote and teach about human rights, civil rights, and social justice.

Friend of Education Award: Christopher McLaughlin

Christopher McLaughlin is MEA’s first recipient of MEA’s Friend of Education Award. Chris has devoted his life to supporting the mental and emotional health of the people in the community. When Chris ran for school board in Hermon he did so with the best interest of the students and educational staff in mind, and since being a part of this committee he has proven his commitment to Hermon’s public schools. He has been resilient, supportive, and nothing but professional during tough situations this past year. Having school board members who stand behind educators the way Chris has is critical to helping us create the schools our students deserve. MEA congratulates Chis, and is proud to give him our Friend of Education Award.

Friend of Education Award: Senator Troy Jackson

MEA is pleased to award Senator Troy Jackson our Friend of Education Award. Senator Jackson is a continued supporter of educators, our public schools, and public education. He seeks input from MEA leaders and staff and supports our priorities, helping to improve educators’ teaching and working conditions and our students’ learning conditions and influences others to do so as well. MEA appreciates Senator Jackson’s leadership and thanks him with our Friend of Education Award.

Friend of Education Award: Kimberly Stewart

Kimberly Stewart is a fierce advocate for our schools and teachers. She is the parent of two girls, a local business owner and a well-respected member of the Hermon community. Recently, Hermon has been the focus of attacks from extremists that claim the library has materials that are not appropriate for a school library. Kimberly created a group on Facebook called “Hermon Parents & Teachers Partnership for Positive Change” and posts positive stories about Hermon schools and encourages others to do the same. Kimberly speaks up at town and school meetings in support of the schools and teachers. In doing so, Kimberly has been the subject of attacks on her own character. Despite that, she has not backed down and continues to support our educators. To help bring the community together, Kimberly is working to create an ad hoc committee to come up with solutions on how our town can move forward from this divide. MEA is grateful for community members like Kimberly and is pleased to honor her with this award.

Golden Apple Award: Rosati Leadership Academy

Rosati Leadership Academy, an after-school program that starts with students’ love of soccer and grows far beyond it. Led by Coach CW (Chris White), this program collaborates with Lewiston Public Schools and Bates College to provide a free after-school program to students from 3rd grade to high school. In a district where many students can’t afford after-school programs, particularly sports programs, Rosati is a needed option. Once students arrive, the coaches call students together to discuss their social-emotional goals of the week, which tackle essential topics like perseverance, mindfulness, conflict de-escalation, and teamwork. During these discussions, students connect these SEL topics to experiences at school & in the community. If you stop in during this part of practice, you might hear students sharing shout outs or compliments, holding each other accountable to expectations, or reflecting on what has or hasn’t been going well for them lately. Then, it’s time for structured practice, supported by coaches. The impacts of Rosati Leadership Academy do not stop when the program is done for the day. Coach CW makes it clear to educators in Lewiston that his goal is to connect Rosati to students’ experiences throughout the whole day. MEA thanks the Rosati Leadership Academy and is honored to give them our Golden Apple Award.

Human and Civil Rights Award: Michelle Shupp

Michelle is the advisor for various clubs in Scarborough Public Schools that are committed to social justice and human rights including: Civil Rights Club and Reducing Sexism and Violence Program. With Michelle’s guidance, the clubs bring attention to key issues like antisemitism and digital blackface. These clubs are also always creating new displays to inform students and staff about topics ranging from red flags in romantic relationships to celebrating Black scientists. Additionally, Michelle serves as an unofficial mentor to many of our BIPOC students. Her office has become a safe space for students to gather during lunch and feel welcomed, seen, and heard. Michelle and her students have also been active members of the district’s DEI committee. As an instructional coach, Michelle is also a great resource for staff to diversify their curriculum and integrate more equitable practices into their pedagogy. MEA is pleased to award Michelle with our Human and Civil Rights Award for her continuing service to our school community.

Human and Civil Rights Award: Nesrene Griffin

Nesrene is not only an accomplished educator, and was named a county teacher of the year, but she is also a impassioned voice for educator who is continually looking for ways to share the importance of those who are marginalized in our public schools. Nesrene started the Civil Rights Team at her school and serves as the Lewiston Human, Civil Rights, and Social Justice Chair. She was one of the founders of the MEA conversations for members of color, which has supported and impacted countless educators of color across the state. Nesrene works hard to serve her students, is highly involved in her community, and is a dedicated activist for human and civil rights. MEA is pleased to award Nesrene Griffin with our Human and Civil Rights Award.

Human and Civil Rights Award: Pihcintu Multicultural Chorus

Founded in 2006, the Pihcintu Multicultural Chorus, a Portland-based after-school program has welcomed students from over 40 different countries and singing as “Voices for the Voiceless.” More than 300 girls and young women have found and shared their voices through their time with the chorus, with girls as young as 8 years old. Pihcintu’s members and their families have been impacted by the challenges of persevering through violence, famine, relocation, and political turmoil. Their performances highlight the power of diverse communities and the strength and support that come through collaboration. These musicians have a 100% high school graduation rate and 85% post-secondary education rate. The chorus is truly an impactful part of the lives of all who participate. MEA is honored to present our Human and Civil Rights Award to the Pihcintu Multicultural Chorus.

Public Higher Education Impact Award: Jennifer Perry

Jen Perry recently retired after 46 years with the university and was a staunch advocate for her higher education members. Whether Jen was UMPSA’s Vice President, Chief Negotiator, or advocating for employee’s health insurance benefits on the joint labor/management Employee Healthcare Task Force, Jen was considered THE go-to person if anything would come up that had been discussed in the past (whether it be last month or 10 years ago). Jen was integral in helping to maintain the excellent healthcare benefits for both current employees and for retirees (which the university attempted to diminish during COVID). Along with having been a campus grievance rep since the late 1980’s, Jen has advocated for several hundred employees, been a delegate to the UMPSA Delegates Assembly, and served as vice president and secretary. Jen has also been heavily involved in MEA activities and is very deserving of our Public Higher Education Impact Award. Congratulations, Jen!

Honor Medal Award: Maine Association of School Libraries

The Maine Association of School Libraries is leading the fight in Maine for intellectual freedom and the freedom to read. It has been working with other organizations to form a coalition to defeat LD 123, a proposal that would make educators subject to criminal prosecution under Maine obscenity laws and would have a chilling effect in our schools. The MASL continues to promote the availability of books and materials that are a critical part of the welcoming and affirming school climates that our students need to feel safe and accepted so that they can learn and reach their potential. Many school librarians in our state have been viciously targeted by a vocal few who seek to ban books that are representative of our diverse students and an accurate and complete history. The MASL provides ongoing support and resources for school librarians across the state and MEA is pleased to award the Maine Association of School Libraries with our Honor Medal Award.

John H. Marvin Local Association Award: Portland Education Association and the Benefit Association of School Employees

Members in Portland faced significant challenges this school year when there were widespread payroll issues that caused not only errors but some educators to not get paid at all. This was a test of strength for both local unions in Portland-the Portland Education Association that represents teachers and ed techs and the Benefit Association of School Employees, the unit that represents all other support staff in Portland. Both the PEA and BASE leaders rose to the challenge and their members followed suit attending school board meetings, speaking out about how the issues impacted their lives, and demanding resolutions. Both locals met regularly with their members and communicated effectively on the issues to ensure all understood how the Union was fighting to resolve the compensation issues. In the end, the locals worked to negotiate fair agreements for their members, which included penalty pay if the district didn’t meet certain pay deadlines. MEA congratulates PEA and BASE and its leaders, President Kerry Dowdy, Vice President, Jen Cooper and BASE leaders, Liz Bryant, Greg Bussiere and Ellen LaChapelle on their work for their members and is honored to award both locals with MEA’s John H. Marvin Local Association Award.

John H. Marvin Local Association Award: MSAD 51

The educational technicians and secretaries in MSAD 51 were working without a contract since the expiration of their bargaining agreement early in the summer. As negotiations became exceedingly prolonged, with the association going to mediation, the Association organized multiple showings of visible support for these valued and valuable personnel. Large numbers of members showed up at multiple school board meetings and many members spoke and shared support for their colleagues during public comment. The MSAD 51 EA showed what unions are all about and clearly demonstrated solidarity in standing up for fair treatment and respect for all. The union’s efforts paid off and the ed techs and secretaries have a new contract which represents the value of the work they do. MEA congratulates MSAD 51 on its efforts and awards the local with the John H. Marvin Local Association Award.

Award for Teaching Excellence: Emily Albee

Emily Albee is this year’s winner of the Award for Teaching Excellence. Emily is a teacher at Hampden Academy and is the Penobscot County Teacher of the Year. In the classroom, Emily enjoys helping students discover their curiosity for learning and ways to meaningfully engage with the world around them. She works hard to present diverse social studies content through an equity lens while helping students build an understanding of the impact of the past on the present. In addition to being a dedicated teacher, outside the classroom she is a fierce advocate with a commitment to justice that she conveys with calm confidence. Emily works to unite members, improve working conditions for employees, implement a restorative justice program, and promote student access to a range of library resources. Emily has been and continues to be instrumental in seeing that both colleagues and students are respected and treated fairly. Her role in her local association has helped them to make positive changes in their collective bargaining agreement while simultaneously building community support for educators. The work of Emily and her fellow union members has been crucial in helping the district have school board members who understand the importance of providing a welcoming and supportive learning environment for all students as well as the support educators need to help each student be successful. Emily has served as Co-Chair of the MEA Human and Civil Rights and Social Justice Committee for several years. In this role, she has led the work of the Committee which has contributed a great deal to our state association as we strive to become a more equitable, just, and inclusive organization. The MEA is lucky to have members like Emily and is delighted to award her with this year’s Award for Teaching Excellence. Congratulations, Emily!