Farmington educator selected as national teacher fellow

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FARMINGTON — Educator Doug Hodum has been recognized as a teacher leader.

Hodum, 42, of Farmington was selected as a 2013 Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow. He was one of 12 fellows selected from a pool of nearly 100 applicants from 27 states to serve as advocates for education policy changes.

It is a competitive program, designed for teacher leaders wanting to share their expertise, experience and ideas in helping to shape education policy nationwide, according to the Hope Street Group website, www.hopestreetgroup.org.

Hodum, head of the Science Department at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington and president of the Maine Science Teachers’ Association, had once scoffed at being a teacher when a college adviser suggested it.

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His mother was a teacher, but it didn’t interest him, Hodum said Friday.

He tried working for a environmental consulting technical firm when he first got out of college.

“It was not for me,” he said. “It helped me realize it was not something I wanted to pursue.”

Instead, he decided to pursue teaching.

He has been a science teacher at Mt. Blue for 13 years. In addition, he served one year as a long-term substitute in a middle school special education classroom. He was first hired as an earth science educator and worked toward becoming certified. He has taught environmental science and is currently teaching biology.

Hodum believes in giving students an opportunity to experience firsthand what they are learning. In 2011-12, he integrated astrobiology/high-elevation ballooning curriculum into his biology classes. Students did research, created questions and did experiments to see how different items, including seeds and bacteria, placed in payload boxes attached to a high-altitude balloon would react to high ultraviolet light, low temperature and low pressure. The balloon ascended to over 90,000 feet, which is near space, Hodum said.

Hodum has a master’s degree in ecology and environmental science from the University of Maine in Orono and a bachelor’s degree in environmental technology from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.

As a teacher fellow, he intends to make sure teachers are sitting at the table for discussions and any policy changes on teacher evaluation.

For him personally, he said, this will be an opportunity to find out what what is going on nationally in regard to teacher evaluations, as well as in individual states.

He will receive training in Washington, D.C., during this coming weekend. There will be some opportunity to attend national conferences, where people come together to talk about education and education reform, he said.

“I think one of the biggest issues is teachers tend not to be involved in policy discussion,” he said.

Legislators have the best intention as policy makers, he said, but if you don’t have people sitting at the table who participate in education, it is difficult to make informed decisions on teacher evaluations.

The state is in the process of creating new state standards to evaluate teachers.

Teachers receive training and participate in professional development, he said.

“I think one of the goals of the fellowship is to help teachers to be equipped to talk to people making policy,” Hodum said.

“I am excited,” he said of being selected and the opportunities offered. That is one reason he applied.

The other reason is his dedication to education.

“I’m passionate about this profession. I love being a teacher. There is no other job I would want, and I want good teachers in the classroom, as well,” Hodum said. “This fellowship gives me an opportunity and helps me evaluate teachers and also involve teachers in critical discussion on teacher evaluations.”

“For me, it boils down to what is best for students. This is a teacher fellowship, but ultimately, it will benefit students,” he said.

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