PORTLAND — The Gulf of Maine Research Institute honored Buckfield Junior-Senior High School teacher Gretchen Kimball with the fifth annual McCarthy Education Innovation Award.

GMRI education staff presented the award during a ceremony at the Maine Science Teachers Association conference held recently.

Each year, GMRI presents the McCarthy award to the Maine teacher who best embodies GMRI’s education principles. These teachers provide students authentic science experiences and promote students’ interest in, understanding of, and connection to scientific studies. The McCarthy Award is named after retired Unum CEO Kevin McCarthy, a longtime supporter of science education in Maine.

Kimball was recognized by her nominator as a true innovator in the classroom, and she’s known for creating authentic learning experiences for her students. This year, she took on the challenge of adapting her physical and chemical science units to be less “by-the-book” and more relevant to questions that her students and their families deal with, such as efficient home heating and biodegradable plastics.

“Gretchen is a leader,” says GMRI’s Molly Auclair, who works closely with Kimball and other Maine teachers. “She’s always enthusiastically sharing what she is trying out, how it goes, and her reflections. She communicates freely with other teachers in a collaborative and constructive way.”

GMRI staff also noted Kimball’s commitment to professional development, and support of other teachers. In the last two years, she has utilized GMRI’s citizen science education platform, Vital Signs, and made valuable contributions to the Western Maine Teacher Community — a partner effort between GMRI and local teachers to connect rural and under-resourced teachers of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects.

“Teachers like Gretchen Kimball are a huge part of what makes GMRI education programs scale to serve statewide needs,” said Chief Education Officer Leigh Peake. “We’re so glad to present her with this award, and we’re excited to continue our shared efforts.

Gretchen Kimball, center, a teacher at Buckfield Junior/Senior High School, is awarded the McCarthy Education Innovation Award by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. She is pictured with Tonya Prentice, left, a former winner of the award, and Molly Auclair of the institute.

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