CAPE ELIZABETH — Talya Edlund, a third-grade teacher at Pond Cove Elementary School, has been named Cumberland County Teacher of the Year.
Edlund, who has worked at Pond Cove since 2004, was one of 300 nominees across all 16 Maine counties. She found out she won on May 1 after being nominated by a parent in February.
“I think it’s particularly a huge honor that a parent nominated me,” Edlund said. “For their kids to come home and tell them what they’re doing is a big compliment.”
The award was announced by first lady Ann LePage and Acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin. The 16 winners are now candidates for Maine Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in the fall.
Edlund said the day she found out she won was very special to her because she had also launched a new swim program for her students that day after two years of preparation. They were all at the pool together when she received the good news.
“The day was a bit of a landmark for me in teaching,” she said. “It was one of the best days of my teaching career.”
Edlund said her students have been very happy about her award.
“They’ve said everything from ‘Mrs. Edlund’s the best teacher in the school’ to ‘Mrs. Edlund’s the best teacher in the world,'” she said.
Edlund said other Pond Cove teachers have also been enthusiastic. She said any of them could have won the award.
“Any teacher I work with could be in this position,” she said. “It’s often really a matter of being the right teacher for the right kiddos at the right time.”
Pond Cove Assistant Principal Julie Nickerson said Edlund was the perfect person for the award.
“She’s definitely somebody who deserves the recognition,” Nickerson said. “The parents of her class really recognize that she’s meeting the needs of their kids.”
Edlund said she always thinks about each individual child and making sure the curriculum suits them. She said she also finds it important to help kids learn in new ways. Her swimming program is part of that initiative.
“It gives kids a different opportunity to work on a skill and shine at something different,” she said.
She said swimming is also good for “community building,” because the students get to interact with new people in a public setting. Plus, she said the activity is enjoyable.
“Third grade is supposed to be fun,” Edlund said.
Edlund is also working on persuasive writing with her students, which she said she really enjoys.
“They’re just discovering their opinions,” she said. “They like to debate and they like to argue.”
Edlund said her students have also shown an interest in legislature since she won the award.
The award ceremony was held May 7 at the Statehouse and a leadership summit will be held this summer for all the award winners. She said sometimes the teachers get to discuss ideas and issues with state representatives and that her students are interested in having their ideas about education shared with politicians.
Edlund said she believes the important initiatives surrounding education now have to do with modernizing classrooms. She said updating technology is important as is “moving kids to 21st century learning.”
She said this requires a lot of work and learning for both students and teachers. She also said receiving the award wouldn’t have been possible without her students.
“This has been very uplifting for them,” Edlund said. “They’re a part of it.”
Third-grade teacher Talya Edlund, who has been teaching at Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth for more than a decade, said the “family feeling” of the school, as well as parents’ involvement, makes it a great place to be a teacher.