Area teachers among Teacher of Year contenders


Two area teachers — a music teacher at Leavitt Area High School in Turner and a fourth-grade teacher at Poland Community School — have been named among the five semi-finalists for the title of 2011 Maine Teacher of the Year.

The Maine Department of Education released the list of semi-finalists Monday, which also included teachers from Yarmouth, North Berwick and Oakland. The five were chosen from 13 nominees honored earlier this month in a State House ceremony, and were selected by a review panel of teachers, principals, members of professional organizations and the business community.

The two area teachers are William “Bill” Buzza, a music teacher at Leavitt, and Amy Hediger, a fourth-greade teacher at Poland.

According to a statement by LAHS Principal Patrick Harnett, “Buzza is the consummate role model for his peers. He is a collaborative, positive and committed problem-solver. Mr. Buzza is willing to engage in the process and stand on principle or commit to compromise when necessary. He is a passionate advocate for the arts and his students reap the benefits on a daily basis. Across the district, staff members have only praise and admiration for Mr. Buzza; he is a staff member that makes a school and community a better place. He understands adolescents and can see the big picture, so his opinions are both thoughtful and helpful.”

The principal at Poland Community School, Ayesha Farag-Davis, said of Hediger: “At Poland Community School, staff members have banded together to unveil their true identities. The staff members are also known as a unique group of superheroes called the ‘League of Knowledge.’ Each staff member has come forth to reveal his or her true superhero identity. Amy Hediger is known as the ‘Incredible Inferno.’ She encapsulates this identity because she has the ability to spark learning, keep the learning fire burning, and is persistent at making learning relevant and fun. The ‘Incredible Inferno’ takes time to kindle a fire in each student and continues to feed each fire with projects and experiments matched to learning interests and goals.”

The semi-finalists will now undergo a school visit, a professional portfolio review and an oral presentation, which will narrow the group to three. The teacher of the year will be announced in September. Last year’s teacher of the year was Kevin Grover, a second-grade teacher at D.W. Lunt School in Falmouth and a former teacher at Lake Street School in Auburn.

Among the 13 original nominees for this year’s award was another area teacher, Tracy Gendron-Turner, a third-grade teacher at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston. Her principal, Deb Goding, said of her: “Tracy Gendron-Turner has been teaching at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston for nine years. She has worked as a second and third grade looping teacher and is currently teaching a third-grade classroom. Mrs. Turner has piloted an inclusionary special education model and presently represents her third grade colleagues on the Montello Leadership Team. She earned her master’s degree in elementary education in 2001. In 2008, Mrs. Turner spent two weeks in Brazil as a Cross Cultural Solutions volunteer working with children in poverty stricken areas. Her passion is to touch the lives of as many children as possible.”

The program is coordinated by the Maine Department of Education and is supported by the Maine State Board of Education and the Maine State Teacher of the Year Association, while Hannaford Supermarkets underwrites the cost of the program.