Mid-Coast School Notebook: Sept. 9

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Hyde founder to receive lifetime achievement award

Hyde School founder Joseph W. Gauld is the recipient of this year’s Sanford N. McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education bestowed by Character.org. The award honors an individual for his or her commitment to the field of character education.

Gauld will receive his award at the 2016 National Forum on Character Education before an audience that will include educators and community leaders from 45 states and 20 countries in Washington, D.C., in October.

Gauld was formulating a vision that put character first in the life of a school decades before there was a national movement. In 1962, while teaching at New Hampton, Gauld had what he terms a “crisis of conscience” in which he realized the educational system fails many children because it is based on achievement instead of effort, and on aptitude rather than attitude.

Later, when he was headmaster at Berwick Academy, he realized he would have to found a new school if he wanted to develop a new concept of education.

Gauld insight was gained by following the progress of two students in his calculus course. One was a discouraged Vermont farm boy who was getting the lowest grade in the class and lamented that he worked twice as hard  and got half as much out of the course. Gauld told him his character and determination could someday make him the best engineer in the course. Another student Gauld described as a lazy, self-centered genius. Gauld said the student knew less about himself and life than any student he had ever taught, but he was getting the highest grade in the class. Years later Gauld followed up with them both and learned the genius had graduated from MIT at age 18, yet had been unemployed for the past 11 years. The Vermont farm boy had become a nationally recognized engineer.

Gauld has written four books and is now working on a fifth. He regularly writes blogs on education and parenting for the Huffington Post, and his columns have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Education Week, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. His work has been featured on the “Today Show,” “20/20” and “60 Minutes.”

Teachers blessed as they begin new school year

At the start of a new academic year, hundreds gathered at St. John the Baptist Church in Brunswick on Aug. 28, as Bishop Deeley offered blessings to school teachers, administrators, staff, and religious education teachers at a Mass for Educators.

Educators from colleges, high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, daycare centers, and faith formation programs throughout the state filled the pews as Bishop Deeley asked God to “bless all educators with an abundance of grace to help them persevere and prosper in their profession, and strive and succeed with their students.”

The Mass for Educators was organized as part of the Diocese of Portland’s celebration of the Holy Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis.

“I think this Mass is a wonderful opportunity,” said Jeanne Billings, who is starting her 37th year as a health education teacher at Mount Ararat High School in Topsham. “Teaching is such an important ministry. It’s really nice to have everyone together. It was very moving. When you are with other educators, you know that these are other people who impact lives.”

“Some of the kids that have come through the daycare now bring their own kids to me. It means I am doing an important job and doing it well,” said Elizabeth Wilson, who operates Elizabeth Wilson Daycare in Brunswick.

“It humbles me. Truly,” said Sr. Elizabeth Cobb, who is celebrating her 62nd year as a Sister of Mercy and has touched the lives of thousands of Maine students as a teacher, principal and superintendent of Maine Catholic Schools (1985-1996). “I know a lot of people use that word, but it humbles me. I get teary over it. It’s wonderful.”

The gathering also served as an opportunity for the educators to reflect back on the gift that important educators were to each of them in their lives. Notebooks were placed inside the church for those who wished to write the name of an educator, living or deceased, for whom prayers would be collectively offered during the Mass.

In addition, during a reception that followed the Mass, large paper apples, in the spirit of the theme of the Mass, were placed on each table featuring quotes from over twenty prominent Mainers that told personal stories of teachers who made a difference in their lives.

Educators at the Mass also received a commemorative bookmark featuring a picture and biography of St. John Baptist de La Salle, the patron saint of teachers, and a prayer for educators.