FARMINGTON — The Second Annual Rendezvous, held March 22 at University Maine Farmington, featured educators sharing their personal successes and solutions for delivering high-quality instruction, assessment and curriculum to a broad spectrum of students.

The program of the Western Maine Education Collaborative brought over 1,400 educators together in a professional learning experience that was one of the largest gatherings of educators in Maine this year. Last year the Rendezvous was held at Mt. Blue Campus. With double the attendance this year, it was moved to UMF.

90 presenters, drawn mostly from WMEC teachers, offered 100 plus workshops throughout the day.

Regional School Unit 73 with schools in Jay and Livermore had several educators sharing ideas that work for them.

Spruce Mountain Elementary School Title 1 teacher Wendy Deming and Title 1 education technician Shelly Franchetti discussed Literacy Based Classrooms. They shared data and history on the number of kids needing reading help which made it almost impossible to pull them out of class for extra help. Using a teamwork approach in class to do special projects has boosted reading and led to significant progress for students. They showed this is a great system that doesn’t cost more or require more staff.

Spruce Mountain Middle School teacher Rachel Toner was part of a presentation with English language arts teachers Jennifer Baker, Janet Ventrella and Denise Acritelli which discussed how they get students to be lovers of books. They shared how to build and stock classroom libraries and how they celebrate reading through special projects such as having their students create trailers of books they have read.

In a separate workshop, Toner discussed using the crowdfunding website Donor’s Choose to obtain resources for her classroom.

“In 2016 I obtained $600 worth in books. I was completely blown away by the amazing response from the community. It showed people appreciate what I do,” she said while discussing what her presentation would be about.

Toner has used Donor’s Choose to add wobble stools to her classroom.

“Teachers spend a lot of their own money. This is a way to earn money for my class without relying on the district’s budget,” she said.

Spruce Mountain’s district librarian Amy Ryder presented on the Digital Maine Library,, a new collection of research tools any Maine resident can use online. She talked about ways to use it in the classroom at elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Spruce Mountain district librarian Amy Ryder shares tips for utilizing the Digital Maine Library for research in the classroom. (Franklin Journal photo by Dee Menear)

“Students who use Google for research can find the information obtained too hard to read or not very reliable. The articles and information in the Digital Maine Library are curated by experts to be accurate, high quality and at the right reading levels for kids.

“Because the resources are free to use through Maine State Library, this is a real-life skill students can carry with them outside of school and for the rest of their lives.  I will be showing teachers how to use the resources with their students and also for their own professional and personal knowledge,” Ryder said by email recently.

Regional School Unit 9 educators presented on a variety of subjects ranging from school safety to use of digital stories in the classroom.

Mt. Blue High School French teacher Rachel Calder shared tips on creating and using digital stories for presenting content. Calder asked workshop attendees to come equipped with a variety of media selections such as photos, videos, text and links to use in creating a digital story. She also discussed how students could use digital stories as an empowering medium for self-expression.

Mt. Blue Middle School principal James Black spoke about school safety. His workshop focused on school safety, as well as general workplace safety procedures. Black, a former law enforcement officer, is the chair of the RSU 9 Safety Team.

Mt. Blue Middle School principal James Black discusses school safety at the Western Maine Education Collaborative Rendezvous held at University of Maine at Farmington on Friday, March 22. (Franklin Journal photo by Dee Menear)

“This presentation discusses the very real possibility of emergencies occurring at school and how to appropriately respond,” he said.  “There is a sense of security in knowing we have a plan. Knowing what to do and when to do it, keep crisis from chaos.”

Black shared Avoid, Deny and Defend protocol. The active threat response program has been taught to RSU 9 employees by the Farmington Police Department, he said.

RSU 9 Math Specialist Vickey Cohen presented a hands-on workshop in which participants experienced flexible and effective classroom activities that could impact students’ fluency and number sense.

Maria Howatt, Mt. Blue High School chemistry and physics teacher’s workshop “Skills to Help Students Over Stumbling Blocks that Prevent Learning” addressed false lenses which students see themselves through.  False lenses could include students’ belief that they are not good enough or smart enough.

“My presentation addresses false lenses students and teachers create for themselves and how it can impact learning,” Howatt said in an email.  “We looked at strategies to help see clearly what is happening and things we can change as teachers to increase positive behavior.”

Mt. Blue High School social studies teacher Anthony Feldpausch presented two interactive discussion workshops on best practices to support LGBT students and building safe spaces in schools.

Cape Cod Hill School first grade teacher Michelle Scribner shared ideas for making and using QR Codes in proficiency-based education. Scribner’s workshop focused on how to create the digital codes which can be used to encourage independence and leverage individualized learning.

Maine School Administrative District 58 presenters were physical education teacher Kawika Thompson, middle school English/Language Arts teacher Wendy Morrill, reading and social studies teacher Crystal Polk and Hope Gould from the district’s technology department.

Polk, who teaches at Strong Elementary School, presented workshops on using National History Day programming in the classroom and teaching about the World War I era. Polk is one of three Maine teachers chosen last year to participate in the National History Day graduate studies program.

Maine School Administrative District 58 middle school English/Language Arts and Social Studies teacher Wendy Morrill presents Creative Thinking Strategies for Middle School workshop Friday, March 22 at the Western Maine Education Collaborative Rendezvous held at the University of Maine at Farmington. (Franklin Journal photo by Dee Menear)


Integrating technology into the classroom using Google’s Applied Digital Skills, Search Education and Apps for Education was Gould’s workshop focus. Attendees of her workshop explored how to use these apps to achieve Common Core standards while reinforcing 21st-century skills.

Morrill presented ideas for creative thinking in the middle school classroom. Her students in Strong are motivated by creative and critical thinking skills, she said. She integrates drama and improv into her lessons which helps students sharpen their skills in speaking, listening and problem-solving.

Thompson shared his expertize in physical education and challenged participants of his workshop to consider wellness for themselves, their students and their communities.

WMEC was founded in 2005 to improve student performance through collaboration. The non-profit educational organization includes members from 15 districts throughout western Maine serving 14,000 students in more than 50 schools in over 50 communities located in five counties.

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