PORTLAND — Karen MacDonald, a teacher at King Middle School in Portland, was named Maine’s 2014 Teacher of the Year at a surprise assembly on Tuesday morning.
Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen made the announcement to King students and staff, elected officials and other dignitaries who packed the school cafeteria.
Bowen, according to a School Department press release, described MacDonald as “the most consistently innovative teacher at King Middle School for over two decades.”
In a written statement read by Bowen, Gov. Paul LePage told MacDonald, “You’ve exemplified what it truly means to put children first. …Children describe being in your classroom as a gift.”
Shannon Shanning, the 2013 Maine Teacher of the Year, said MacDonald is “a teacher who never stops teaching.” She noted that MacDonald used the Teacher of the Year finalist ceremony in Augusta to recruit help for a classroom project.
MacDonald will attend a gathering of all state teachers of the year in Scottsdale, Ariz.; a ceremony in Washington, D.C., with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and other events.
MacDonald has worked for the Portland Public Schools since 1978. She taught in the gifted and talented program at Longfellow Elementary School and Lincoln Middle School for several years and taught fourth and fifth grade at the former Baxter and Nathan Clifford elementary schools.
MacDonald moved to King 24 years ago. There, she has taught language arts to students in grades six and seven, and she also worked for four years as a teaching strategist.
A year after MacDonald arrived at King, the school became an Expeditionary Learning school. She helped create a learning expedition about civil rights, titled Small Acts of Courage, and another expedition, Lead On, where the students work with artist Robert Shetterly to study leaders and their own leadership skills.
MacDonald uses Shetterly’s portraits of “Americans Who Tell the Truth” in the leadership expedition, and the artist comes to King to talk to her students.
“She insists on telling the kids the truth about our history,” Shetterly said, “and what that means about their own obligation as citizens in a democracy.”
King Principal Michael McCarthy said that in his 40-year career in education, “Karen MacDonald is the best teacher I have ever known.” He noted that she has touched the lives of more than 2,000 students during her years at King.
The pool of 14 nominees for 2014 Maine Teacher of the Year was winnowed in a selection process consisting of school visits by a review panel, professional portfolio review, oral presentations and interviews.
During the past 30 years, the Portland Public Schools has had two other Maine Teachers of the Year: Paul McDowell, a teacher at Lyseth Elementary School, in 1997, and Marjorie Miller, a teacher at Longfellow Elementary School, in 1989.