Educator at St. Brigid in Portland named Maine's best Catholic teacher

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PORTLAND — Nancy Ouellette at St. Brigid School was named Maine’s Catholic School Teacher of the Year for creating a dynamic classroom environment and shaping the faith of her students. 

Ouellette teaches second grade and received the award from Bishop Robert Deeley during a recent ceremony held to recognize the work of Catholic school educators.

Ouellette is one of 239 teachers serving 2,500 students enrolled in 12 schools supported by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

While Ouellette was singled out, Deeley said that all of the state’s Catholic school teachers provide “a valuable service.”

“You participate in the mission we have to form our students to their full potential,” he said. “We educate, yes, but in truth, we strive to form our students into whole persons for the world in which they live.”

Ouellette has taught second grade in Maine Catholic schools for nearly 22 years, the past 10 at St. Brigid. She is also an active member of the Our Lady of Hope Parish in Portland where she serves as a lector at St. Pius X Church.

Criteria for winning the teaching award include being a leader in the school community, having a dynamic classroom, helping children achieve academic success, helping students to form their faith and parish involvement, according to the diocese.

“Nancy engages her students in a discovery model of learning (where) the students are encouraged to explore (various) concepts through reading, writing and illustration,” said William Burke, principal at St. Brigid.

What also really struck the judges, according to Jim King, superintendent of Maine Catholic schools, is how Ouellette “is really deliberate in engaging the kids (and) just the personal attention (given) to each and every child.”

Ouellette was humbled to receive the teaching award.

“Teaching has been my career passion and joy,” she said this week. “I love the newness of every day.”

Ouellette also said that teaching at St. Brigid has been “an incredible opportunity.”

“I can’t say enough about (the school). There is a lot of parental involvement, a lot of spirit, and our bar is set high academically,” she said. “I feel blessed to work in a profession where I can share my faith everyday with both the children I nurture and teach and with my colleagues who give me inspiration and strength.”

What she most enjoys about teaching the second grade, Ouellette said, is that the students “have a great desire to continue to learn new skills and concepts. They enjoy being challenged with discovery and diverse activities.”

She’s also found that “second-graders have a strong sense of faith and justice for others” and said “my personal faith and commitment to our school are truly strengthened by the young people (I teach).”

Ouellette and her husband, Ray, live in Westbrook with their dog Cordie. They have three adult children and an 18-month old grandson, Henry.

She began her teaching career at the Congin School in Westbrook, where she taught third grade, and at the Prides Corner School, where she was a kindergarten teacher.

Ouellette’s first experience teaching at a Catholic school came in 1995 when she joined the faculty at the now defunct St. Patrick School in Portland.

Winning the Catholic School Teacher of the Year award “has been an amazing honor,” she said.

“I work with very talented and dedicated educators who continually inspire me with their creativity and love for our profession. We share this honor as the St. Brigid community.

“St. Brigid is an exciting place of learning and faith where we truly educate the whole child. Our families are strongly connected (to) our school community (and) I am proud to be part of this collaborative partnership.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Nancy Ouellette, who teaches second grade at St. Brigid’s in Portland, was recently named Maine’s Catholic School Teacher of the Year. She received the award from Bishop Robert Deeley.