Portland teacher ready to put sabbatical to good use

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PORTLAND — When Stephanie Doane returns to Casco Bay High School next month, she will have been gone longer than just the summer.

Doane spent last year on sabbatical with Street Law, a nonprofit organization that helps educate students about law, democracy and human rights.

Although the organization is based in Silver Springs, Maryland, Doane said she worked remotely from home most of the time as a teacher in residence.

“I did a lot of writing,” Doane said, because the organization’s two main textbooks, on the U.S. government and the official Street Law textbook, were in the process of being republished.

Doane, 47, said the experience left her feeling reinvigorated for her classroom.

“It was completely different from teaching,” Doane said. “It required a lot of research, reading and writing. I also feel regenerated, renewed and excited about going back to the classroom. I feel very lucky.”

In addition to reviewing curriculum and writing lesson plans, Doane also led an online “webinar” about improving relations between law enforcement and young people, and how teachers can help improve those relations. She said this is something she plans to bring back into the classroom at CBHS.

“In my year away all these horrible things happened,” Doane said, referencing incidents like the death of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer last year in Ferguson, Missouri. She said this left her concerned about her students, particularly her immigrant students.

“I kept thinking to myself what are they thinking, how are they reacting to this?” she said.

So she plans to do something about her concern.

“My plan is to reach out to the Portland Police Department and … make a connection,” Doane said, with an intensive course that will bring students and police together to learn from each other.

She said she is excited about the opportunity, since it will have developed organically from her sabbatical.

Portland Public Schools is one of the few school districts that allows teachers this opportunity, she said. While she loves her job, she said she just “needed a break,” which ultimately left her feeling renewed and ready to keep teaching.

“I wish more teachers around the country had that opportunity,” she said.

Doane has been teaching at CBHS, at 196 Allen Ave., for the last 10 years. She teaches an 11th-grade humanities class and an AP U.S. history class. Before that, she spent six years at Deering High School.

In preparation for the start of the school year, Doane has spent the summer writing the course readings for her humanities class, because she does not use a traditional textbook.

Additionally, she said the AP U.S. history test students take has “radically changed,” so she had to change all of her own assessments to reflect new test, which requires a lot of research.

“I’ve been spending a lot of my summer to prepare to be best teacher I can be,” Doane said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Stephanie Doane is returning to Casco Bay High School after being gone for a year on sabbatical. She is planning to bring some of the same lessons she taught while away to her classroom in Portland.

Back to school

The first day of school for Portland students in first grade through high school is Wednesday, Sept. 2. There is no school on Friday, Sept. 4, or on Monday, Sept. 7, which is Labor Day. Students in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten start on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.