Rob Taylor. Maine Department of Education.

JAY — Rob Taylor, a teacher from Regional School Unit 73, has been named by the Maine Department of Education as one of three 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year finalists. The finalists are from Cumberland, Franklin and Knox counties.

A winner will be announced in October following school site visits and final interviews, the department said in a statement.

Taylor is a math and science teacher at Spruce Mountain Middle School and advisor for the school’s FIRST LEGO League program. He teaches Advanced Placement Environmental Science teacher at the high school and is advisor for the school’s Envirothon program. He is also involved with the school’s FIRST Robotics Competition program. FIRST is an abbreviation of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Taylor, Franklin County’s 2019 Teacher of the Year, has spent his entire 30-year career in the Jay-based district.

Rob Taylor and a Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon team has won the state competition every year since Jay schools and School Administrative District 36 combined. Taylor is seen at left with 2019 winning team members Hunter Quirrion, Gabby Beaudoin, Natalie Luce, Orion Schwab and John Brenner.File photo

His current school projects include greenhouse and aquaculture systems that provide produce for local food pantries, a drinking water monitoring program and school solar power panels and wind turbines, the statement said.

On Friday, August 30 Taylor was attending a Project Learning Tree workshop in Augusta. During a break he shared what the next steps are in the Maine Teacher of the Year program.

“A visiting committee of five will come to the the school the week of September 16,” he said. “They will observe my teaching, meet with my colleagues and have some of my students give them a tour of the school. The panel will meet with community leaders and members of the school board. There will be an interview with me afterwards.”

Taylor said he has met with new SMMS principal Greg Henderson. They are developing an agenda for the school visit.

“The following week I will go to the Department of Education for another round of interviews,” he said.

Taylor noted the Maine Teacher of the Year program is a cumulative process. He has already submitted a videotaped lesson and analysis, given an eight-minute speech on his platform of Environmental Education and participated in a question and answer panel.

“Everything builds on what has been done before,” he said.

Heather Whitaker. Maine Department of Education.

The other finalists are Heather Whitaker, an alternative education teacher at Gorham Middle School in Gorham and Tom Gray, a social studies, English and gifted and talented teacher at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport.

Whitaker is the 2019 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year. She also started her school’s garden and was a founding member of the Gorham BackPack program, which provides students facing chronic hunger with food over the weekend.

Gray is the 2019 Knox County Teacher of the Year. As the coordinator of his school’s Intercultural Program, he has developed partnerships with educators around the world, giving students an opportunity to interact and collaborate with peers in China, France and Morocco.

Tom Gray. Maine Department of Education.

He also helped pioneer a district-wide initiative in innovation engineering in partnership with the University of Maine.

“It’s been really nice meeting all the people in my cohort,” Taylor said. “The other two finalists, Heather Whitaker and Tom Gray, especially. I have a huge amount of respect for them. They are doing some incredible things.

“I feel honored to be grouped with them.”


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