from the President’s desk…

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Jeff Rodman, President of MAMLE

Jeff Rodman, President of MAMLE

It’s late August and once again it’s butterfly season in Maine. No, not the season for any of the more than 55 species of butterflies that inhabit our great state, but the ones that we feel in our stomach as another school year approaches. These are the butterflies that keep us up at night wondering about those first days of school. Will I have a good class? Will the students like me? Am I prepared? Did I remember to zip up my fly?


Teaching middle school is a great challenge as each fall enthusiastic, energetic, eager, and well-rested budding adolescents arrive to begin a new school year. The students come to us in all shapes and sizes with a myriad of abilities and needs. They are simple, yet complex. Just when we think we know our students, we find out there is so much more to learn about them. Middle school students are truly a wonderful enigma. As middle school educators, we need to understand what it means to be simple, yet complex. We are lucky to work with them but we have an incredible task that takes great skill, great patience, and great humor.


We should expect to bring to our students a firm and professional commitment to their educational, intellectual, and social-emotional well being that will ensure their growth and development toward becoming positive members of our schools and our communities. Teaching is an obligation we have all made. We have all dedicated ourselves to being the best teachers we can be. I am confident we will all succeed in this endeavor. There is so much to be accomplished in all of our schools but there is no better place where it can happen than in our middle schools.


As my mother-in-law, who was a great teacher herself, always said, “If you don’t feel a little nervous before the school year starts, it’s time to retire.” This year, I begin my 38th year in education, and thankfully, I guess I’m ready as I’m still feeling the butterflies.


I wish you all a successful school year. May it be filled with great learning, great patience, and great laughter.


Jeff Rodman

Principal, Middle School of the Kennebunks

President, Maine Association for Middle Level Education

Seven Middle Level Teachers Finalists for Teacher of the Year!

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MAMLE congratulates the following middle level teachers who have been named finalists for Maine Teacher of the Year!


Kara Beal, 8th grade language arts teacher at Valley Rivers Middle School in Fort Kent

Sara Brokofsky, 5th grade teacher at Westbrook Middle School in Westbrook

Cory Chase,  a language arts teacher from the Boothbay Region Elementary School

Dan Crocker, math teacher from Hall-Dale Middle School in Farmingdale

Dyan McCarthy-Clark, a social studies teacher from SeDoMoCha in Dover-Foxcroft

Jenn Dorman, a language arts teacher from Skowhegan Region Middle School

Ann Luginbuhl, a 6-8 teacher at Charlotte Elementary School

Auburn Principal Search

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Mike Muir writes to tell us that Auburn is in the midst of a principal search for their middle school:

“Frankly, we’d love to find another team member, who is enthusiastic about driving and leading meaningful school change through shared leadership, might have some experience in one or more of our three innovation areas and could come up to speed on the others quickly (they aren’t trivial initiatives!), and is just plain fun to work with!

Did I mention that you’d get to work with an innovative district, making exciting progress on implementing innovative programs to help all children learn at their peak, a district that actively supports and empowers its educators in their professional learning, leadership, and educational entrepreneurship?”

Read the entire post:

The job is posted online at School Spring.

Woolwich 7th Graders Take On the Invasive European Green Crab

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This post is from Denise Friant, seventh and eighth grade science teacher at Woolwich Central School

We look at this as an authentic community effort to help educate our students about the effects of invasive European Green Crabs on our local soft shell clam population. Denise Friant, Woolwich Central School’s seventh grade science teacher.”


Saving the clam flats on Montsweag Bay

Saving the clam flats on Montsweag Bay


The entire 7th Grade at Woolwich Central School conducted a population study on soft-shell clams on May 23rd in the clam flats of Montsweag Bay, Woolwich.  This was in collaboration with Marine Biologist, Dr. Brian Beal, University of Maine at Machias, The Woolwich Shellfish CommitteeTim La Rochelle and Dan Harrington and the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Ruth Indrick and Becky Kolak.  We look at this as an authentic community effort to help educate our students about the effects of invasive European Green Crabs on our local soft shell clam population.

The population study methods are developed by Dr. Beal who has worked with many schools throughout Maine to engage students in understanding about the soft-shelled clam. We will  plant clam seed in plant pots, cover them with screening of two types to protect them from predators and compare clam seed mortality to plant pots without screening.  
Seeding clams

Seeding clams

This study will give us more information about the decimating populations of clams and the effect the European Green Crab is having on them.  Thank you to Dr. Beal and members of the Downeast Institute for Applied Research and Education for assisting our students with the scientific methods and education in the mud flats.
image of Euopean Green Crab

Invasive European Green Crab

 Many thanks to Ruth Indrick  of the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, who helped facilitate a grant to furnish our students with 25 pairs of clam boots for the project.  Ruth and Becky Kolak spent time previously with our students, dissecting clams and teaching about water quality. Ruth was a great asset in the flats assisting and encouraging students through the muddy conditions.

Woolwich Central's seventh graders hard at work with Dr. Beal from the University of Maine-Machias

Woolwich Central’s seventh graders hard at work with Dr. Beal from the University of Maine-Machias

Another highlight of our day was the Maine Campus Compact who joined us in the field to observe our project.  They represent  higher education institutes throughout New England looking to incorporate similar models into their instruction.

In late October, Woolwich students will visit the site again and collect data from the study.  We will present a community showcase to inform the public of our findings.

Stretch Yourself!

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Fabulous – I haven’t been in years and loved it.
Very informative
What a wonderful experience!

This could be 3 or 4 days.

I REALLY got energized around MCL!

Comments from the 2013 MAMLE Annual Conference


For over 25 years middle level educators from across Maine have shared what they are doing in their classrooms and their schools with colleagues.  Educators are inspired by other educators!

It’s time for YOU to stretch yourself professionally and present at the MAMLE Annual Conference this October 23 & 24 at Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center in Northport.  Presenting is a professional privilege and responsibility.  If we are unwilling to share ideas and participate in conversations about our practice, then we open the door even wider for others to tell us what to do.

Al Miller got the whole crowd participating last year!

Al Miller got the whole crowd participating last year!

Accept the challenge!  Not sure what you could possibly present on?  Can you answer YES to any of these questions?

Do you…

___ Use the distinctive nature of young adolescents as the foundation for your decisions about curriculum, instruction, and other programming?

__ Work hard to ensure that every student learns and is held to high expectations?

__ Empower students in their learning and help them learn to make good decisions about their lives?

__ Have a school/classroom that is a place of equity where each child has relevant and challenges learning opportunities?

Are your students…

Students from the Herring Gut Learning Center

Students from the Herring Gut Learning Center

__ At the center of the learning process?

__ Learning to hypothesize, to organize information into useful and meaningful constructs, and to grasp long-term cause and effect relationships?

__ Asking questions that help shape the curriculum?

__ Experiencing different learning approaches?

__ Assessed in a variety of ways?

__ Using their digital devices in ways you never imagined 5 years ago?

__ Saying, “Wow! This was a really cool lesson or unit?”

Does the leadership approach in your school reflect…

__ Courage and collaboration?

__ Shared decision-making?

__ The belief that the children and their learning comes first?

__ An invitational atmosphere for the community?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions based on This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents, please consider presenting this fall.  You won’t regret it!  Click Intent – 2014 to download an Intent to Present form.



As the Year Winds Down…

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The end of May and the entire month of June are tough…

  • Teachers are stressed when they compare their curriculum guides to the remaining days left on the school calendar.
  • Principals are trying to figure out how to complete the necessary observations and write up the resulting evals.
  • The students see, feel, and taste the warm weather and want to do anything but school work.
  • Parents juggle one end of the year event after another with work and family obligations.

It can be crazy out there.

Sometimes we all just need to slow down and take a deep breath. Take some think time.

Tom Burton, director of administrative services for Cuyahoga Heights Schools in Ohio, writes a regular column for the AMLE Magazine.  His May article entitled “Polishing Our Sea Glass” reminds us that “reflecting on the year’s successes and failures is not only a good practice, but a necessity if we are to be the best middle level educators we can be.”

Image of a jar full of sea glass

Maine Sea Glass

He also make the point that that “…middle level students are like pieces of sea glass. Sometimes students feel discarded, tossed around during the day with hectic schedules, slammed against the floors, and wondering when they will finally wash ashore.”

Building on the metaphor, Tom continues…”Great teachers and leaders who support true middle level education understand that even the most hardened glass can be polished into a beautiful piece of sea glass.”

So as the year winds down, may we all pause and reflect on shining moments, the humdrum, and the frustrations of the year and begin the cycle of renewal–thinking about next year and how we will continue to serve our students to the best of our abilities.

Educators never stand still; we are always moving forward to the next week, the next semester and the next year. Keep Tom’s closing words in mind, “And moving forward, take the time to recognize the beauty in all your middle level students and to create programs that will allow them to shine like polished pieces of sea glass.”


Poetry Cafe-Durham Community School

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Autumn Hunter, Windy City Blues, & Eric the Great and other poems captivated the audience at the 6th Grade Poetry Cafe last week at the Durham Community School. Sixth grade teachers Devon Koenig and Jacky Arellano and their students shared original and favorite poems with friends and family.

Students invited friends and family to the 6th Grade Poetry Cafe!

Students invited friends and family to the 6th Grade Poetry Cafe!

Keonig and Arellano are a two person sixth grade team. Jacky Arellano who teaches the math and science enthusiastically joined forces with LA/SS teacher Devon Keonig to stage the Cafe.  In fact, the Cafe was her suggestion when the two were exploring different ways to end the poetry unit. Tablecloths and votive candles helped transfer the cafeteria into a cafe for the event.

Becca reads her onomatopoeia poem "Autumn Hunter"

Becca reads her onomatopoeia poem “Autumn Hunter”




Devon reports,   “We wanted give the students an opportunity or not only celebration of the incredible writing they accomplished, but also to give them an authentic audience with whom to share their hearts.”






 Students and friends gather around tables to listen to the shared poems.

tablegroupgirls copy

boystable1 copy

Many students shared their original writings, others read favorite poems from the famous,

and some…

Devon and Eric read a poem written by his grandmother for his birthday, "Eric the Great"

Devon and Eric read a poem written by his grandmother for his birthday, “Eric the Great”

recited meaningful verses written by a family member.  The teachers also shared their writing.

Jacky Arellano shares her original poem "Windy City Blues"

Jacky Arellano shares her original poem “Windy City Blues”

Caleb  reading his poem "Where I'm From" inspired by George Ella Lyons' "Where I'm From" poem

Caleb reading his poem “Where I’m From” inspired by George Ella Lyons’ “Where I’m From” poem