NORWAY – At age 35, Joe Cummings is becoming an educator, after working all his adult life at Western Auto of Norway.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” he said Thursday, after attending a teacher orientation day at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

He said he was inspired to hear Principal Joe Moore tell the new teachers, “To some of these kids, you’re going to be the most important part of their day.”

He likes to think that he could have a positive influence on the lives of young people.

“I want to, at the end of the day, feel like I made a difference,” said Cummings, who is raising three young children in Norway with his wife, Sarah, a veterinarian at Oxford Hills Veterinary Hospital in Paris.

Cummings is among 21 new employees at SAD 17 this year. He will work as a library educational technician under Melissa St. John, the new high school librarian.

Cummings began working for the Main Street furniture and appliance dealer at age 18 and rose to the position of operations manager.

He has been an active promoter of downtown business association efforts, and he was named Employee of the Year by the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce in 2000.

The decision to leave his job was a difficult one. The teaching itch came on gradually, as he became involved in the mentoring program at the Guy E. Rowe School, and while coaching youth baseball.

“I just love the interaction with the kids,” he said. “I also saw the spirit of camaraderie. School has always seemed like such a vibrant place. And I really wanted to be a part of that.”

His son Christian, 10, and daughter Hayley Jo, 8, both attend the Rowe school; 6-month-old Emily has a few years to go yet before starting school.

What tipped the scales in favor of a career shift for Cummings was the opening of the new Western Maine University and College Center in Paris. He has taken two courses there this summer, and will be taking night classes there over the next two years to earn his associate degree.

Eventually, he wants to earn his bachelor’s degree in education and become a classroom teacher, most likely at the elementary school level.

“By the time I’m 40 I’d like to be in a classroom,” he said.

Cummings said he’s grateful for all the support he has received from school district staff.

“They’re happy to have me. Education isn’t always the most profitable career, and I couldn’t do this without the support of my wife,” he said.

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