Gov. Janet Mills addresses Maine’s need for more public educators at the University of Maine at Farmington Orientation Day on Saturday. Franklin Journal photo by Nicole Carter

FARMINGTON — Maine’s governor and her education commissioner had a message Saturday for students entering the University of Maine at Farmington: Education and educators are important.

“Farmington produces many public educators for the state of Maine and we want to welcome them,” said Gov. Janet Mills, a native of Farmington. “UMF is a leader of education, which makes it a critical component for the state’s public school system. When you consider that up to one-third of our public teachers are nearing retirement, it’s clear that we need more students to stay in school and more graduates to stay in Maine.”

Maine is facing a dire shortage of public educators, Education Commissioner Pender Makin said.

“We want these UMF students to know that we appreciate — whether they are majoring in education or not — those who choose to continue their schooling here. And we hope they choose to live and work in Maine once they graduate and start their own careers.

“At times we have seen public education and teachers poorly presented and poorly represented,” Makin said. “That is not the case now. Maine values the role educators play and we are turning the tide against that negative perception.”

Maine has lagged behind other states in teacher salaries. The baseline pay has not changed since 2012. This year the Maine Legislature addressed that issue in its budget by increasing starting salaries from $30,000 to $40,000, starting with the 2020 academic year. The state will help fund the extra costs to local school budgets for the first three years, with state help being incrementally stepped down each year.

Not only new students arrived Saturday. Incoming President Edward Serna and his family were on hand for their first orientation day. Serna said moving to Farmington from Arkansas was a great decision for the family, citing its welcoming and warm community.

“I like that we can walk wherever we want to go,” said his older daughter, Anna Kate, 9. “I love Gifford’s Ice Cream, and the river, too.”

Serna recognizes UMF’s importance to Maine: 40% of UMF students are education majors. Asked about the challenge of keeping graduating students in Maine for their teaching careers, he said the university already sets the standard.

University of Maine at Farmington President Edward Serna brought his family, Caroline, 4, Anna Kate, 9, and wife, Lauren, to Orientation Day on Saturday. Franklin Journal photo by Nicole Carter

“Eighty percent of UMF students already live in Maine,” he said. “And our education majors go out and student teach in Maine schools, so we have an established in-state network for them. Our graduates easily find local schools to work in. Four of the last five Maine teachers of the year graduated from UMF. It’s a high bar for the state’s educators and school systems.”

One example of Maine’s overall education networking is freshman Hayden Thomas of Durham. For her Freeport High School senior project she job shadowed in the Windham School Department, which helped her decide to choose to attend UMF and major in elementary education. Hayden’s mother, Carmen Thomas, noted that job shadowing with another teacher gave her daughter the confidence and perspective to choose education as a career.

“I like working with kids, and I like helping them learn,” Hayden Thomas said. “And I really like Farmington. I didn’t want to go too far away, so UMF is perfect for me.”

Freshman Hayden Thomas’ family attends Orientation Day at the University of Maine at Farmington on Saturday. From left are Elias, Mitch, Hayden and Carmen. Franklin Journal photo by Nicole Carter


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.