CAPE ELIZABETH — Talya Edlund, a third-grade teacher at Pond Cove Elementary School, was named Maine’s 2016 Teacher of the Year on Monday.
Edlund was surprised with the news during a school-wide assembly, where the award was announced by a representative from the Maine Department of Education.
“I’m so, so grateful to every single one of you that’s here,” Edlund said through tears. “It’s because of you. It’s because of the parents, and the students, my beautiful, amazing students.”
Edlund, who has worked at Pond Cove since 2004, was one of 300 nominees from across all 16 Maine counties. She found out she was named Cumberland County Teacher of the Year in May after being nominated by a parent in February.
In August, the Maine DOE announced Edlund was one of three finalists for the top honor.
On Monday, Maine DOE Acting Deputy Commissioner Rachelle Tome praised Edlund’s teaching style and her ability to connect with students. Tome said Edlund is a leader to her students and colleagues, and her passion for helping others learn is one of the reasons she was chosen as teacher of the year.
“With her ‘think-out-of-the-box’ approach to problem-solving, tenacious attitude for overcoming challenges, zest for staying at the cutting edge of her craft, and uncanny insight into the needs of her students and colleagues, she is the teacher we all want our children to have and the colleague we hope to work with,” Tome said.
Tome also read a letter from Gov. Paul LePage, who applauded Edlund for being “a true example of an educator who has gone out of her way to match students’ learning with their levels of interest.”
LePage said Edlund has made a great impression on her students, school and community.
Pond Cove Elementary School Principal Kelly Hasson told the story of how Edlund was hired and where she worked before coming to Cape Elizabeth. Early in her career, Edlund was a teacher in a poor neighborhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York, an experience Hasson said Edlund still draws upon today.
“That helped her recognize how important it is for children to have individual attention whenever it’s needed,” Hasson said. “She continues to care about every one of her students and works hard to help them solve problems, discover and own their passions, and give them the confidence that they need to be their very best.”
The love and respect Edlund’s students have for her was evident Monday when her class of third-graders embraced her when the announcement was made, and while they continued cheering throughout the ceremony. Some of Edlund’s former students attended the assembly, too, and another student, who is now a college freshman, wrote a letter that Hasson read aloud.
Edlund’s family was there for the surprise, along with town councilors, School Board members and residents. The 2015 Teacher of the Year, former Teachers of the Year and the other 2015 county Teachers of the Year were present, too.
As the 2016 Teacher of the Year, Edlund will travel across the state to speak with teachers and students about her teaching style and her ideas about education.
Hasson said she knows Edlund will be a great resource.
“Talya Edlund, it is such an honor and privilege to be your principal, your colleague, and your friend,” Hasson said. “We are so fortunate to have you work with us at Pond Cove and I have no doubt that you will be the very, very best ambassador for the state of Maine.”
Edlund said she is excited about visiting with and learning from other teachers. She said Maine, and Cape Elizabeth, care very much about education.
Edlund thanked many people for supporting her throughout her career and while she was being considered for the Teacher of the Year title. But she had special words for her students.
“To my students I would say thank you because you are the most important part of all of this,” she said. “I would never, ever be here without you. You make my job an adventure every single day.”
Talya Edlund, a third-grade teacher at Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth, is surrounded by students after she was named 2016 Maine Teacher of the Year in a surprise, school-wide ceremony on Monday, Oct. 5.
Talya Edlund, standing right, receives 2016 Maine Teacher of the Year award from Rachelle Tome, left, of the Maine Department of Education, as Pond Cove Elementary School Principal Kelly Hassan and Cape Elizabeth Superintendent of Schools Meredith Nadeau look on.