FALMOUTH — Kevin M. Grover first knew he wanted to be a teacher during his senior year at St. Dominic Regional High School.
St. Dom's seniors spend a month in "Senior Involvement," doing community service. In 1990, Grover spent his senior involvement at the downtown Head Start.
"I was amazed by the children I connected with," Grover said. "It inspired me. I knew then I didn't want to do anything else."
On Thursday, the second-grade teacher in Falmouth who formerly taught in Auburn was named Maine's 2010 Teacher of the Year.
The surprise announcement was made during a student assembly at the D.W. Lunt School, where Grover teaches.
As students applauded and cheered, Maine Education Commissioner Susan Gendron presented Grover with the award. Other officials, the superintendent and principal, spoke about how well Grover does his job.
His parents, Lianne and Michael Grover of Greene, were there. "Pride," is how his father described what he felt watching his son receive the award.
Afterward, Grover said his head was spinning. "I'm overwhelmed. It's a privilege and an honor to represent a profession I value so highly."
Grover will now compete for 2010 National Teacher of the Year, who will be announced in April 2010 at the White House.
Grover grew up in Greene and earned the nickname "Skippy" while working at the IGA.
After graduating from St. Dom's, he graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington, then earned a master's in early literacy from the University of Southern Maine.
From 1996 through 2001, Grover taught grades one and two at Lake Street School in Auburn before moving to Lunt School.
Grover teaches because "I love it," he said. He finds the job meaningful and exhilarating. "Two days are never the same. Kids offer so many teachable moments."
One of his strategies is to include parents, whom he calls "the most important teacher" in a child's life. Parents need to be aware of what their child is doing in school and be comfortable speaking to teachers.
He also invests time to get to know each student individually. To help motivate them, "I have to establish relationships and figure out their interests," he said. He incorporates their interests in their school work.
Part of Grover's daily routine is greeting students as they enter his class. That gives him a chance to connect with each and get a sense of how each child is feeling, according to the Maine Department of Education.
And Grover loves technology. "From digital morning messages to streamed videos, technology is integrated into his instruction on a daily basis," the department's release said.
He serves as the technology liaison for Lunt School and offers professional development in technology for the staff.
St. Dom's computer education teacher Diane Robitaille remembered Grover on Thursday. He was a student in her computer classes. Robitaille recalled Grover as a quiet, determined student interested in technology.
"I'm not surprised," Robitaille said of Grover becoming teacher of the year. "He loved learning. He wanted to work through everything; he was dedicated. I'm so proud of him."
Grover and his wife, Rebecca, have two children, Lily, 8, and Eli, 5. They live in Falmouth.