FARMINGTON — Mt. Blue High School science teacher Doug Hodum will spend 11 months in a different type of classroom beginning Sept. 1. 

He will work on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on education policy for U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, a Democrat, representing the Congressional District 17 that includes Silicon Valley in California.

Hodum is one of 13 science, technology, engineering and math teachers from around the U.S. selected as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. 

“I will be working specifically on education policy for him,” the Farmington teacher said.

Honda is a ranking Democrat on the the Appropriations Committee.

“Education is an area of passion for (Honda), specifically equity in education is very important to him,” Hodum said.

Honda’s office has hosted numerous fellows over the years.

Education is also a passion for 45-year-old Hodum. He has taught for 17 years, 16 of those in Regional School Unit 9, where he teaches biology.

There are two possible pieces of legislation up for discussion and possibly for re-authorization: Higher Education Act, involving student loans, and the Head Start Program. He won’t be sure until he arrives on Capital Hill.

“I will be doing background research, writing briefs and helping Congressman Honda prepare for discussions,” Hodum said.

His wife, Leigh Welch, will join him in Washington, D.C., for part of the time he is there, as well as their golden retriever, Esker.  

Hodum was a 2013 Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow. At the time, he said he intended to make sure teachers are sitting at the table for discussions and any policy changes on teacher evaluation.

He followed through on his intentions. He is involved in a district committee that developed a teacher evaluation system to meet a Maine Department of Education requirement. The committee’s work was piloted in the district and a draft copy of the evaluation document was submitted to the state in the spring.

Hodum also involved his students in a NASA-sponsored astrobiology ballooning project for several years. His students worked with college students using a weather balloon rigged with a video camera and data collecting equipment to record the ascent and temperature, wind speed and air pressure. 

“It’s a new opportunity for me, especially as a teacher leader,” Hodum said of being named an Einstein fellow.

Over the past 3½ years, he has encouraged teachers to have their voices heard and become engaged in educational policy discussions.

He will be using what he learns as a fellow in the classroom and to help form conversations with his colleagues when he returns to teach at Mt. Blue in 2017.

This cohort of Einstein fellows is a very “impressive” collection of teachers, Hodum said.

“It will provide me with the opportunity to collaborate about contents and pedagogy because they are from all over the country,” he said. “I will be able to talk to them about standards and best policies and those last couple of pieces will influence how I teach in the classroom.”

He will work with other teacher fellows in Honda’s office, he said, and it will be an “opportunity to pick their brains.” He will also have discussions with policymakers from around the country.

The RSU 9 board granted Hodum a leave of absence earlier this year.

“I am incredibly appreciative for the support I have received from everyone in the district from Principal Bruce Mochamer to Leanne Condon, (assistant superintendent/director of curriculum) to Superintendent (Tom) Ward, in addition to the entire board and colleagues,” he said. “I am also appreciative for the program accepting me and putting me in Rep. Honda’s office.”

The day he accepted the fellowship, he received an email welcoming him to Honda’s office from his chief of staff.

Though he finds it strange not to be planning for the upcoming school year as he has done for years, he said he is “excited” for the opportunity to be engaged in the national science, technology, engineering and math education arena.

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