OXFORD — Oxford Elementary School teacher Melissa Guerrette has been named Oxford County’s 2021 Teacher of the Year. The honor puts her in the running with 16 other educators for Maine’s teacher of the year, to be announced in October. This is the third time that Guerrette has been nominated for the award.

Guerrette has spent her entire career teaching at OES. She grow up in Madawaska in a family of educators, graduating from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT with degrees in education and French. Returning to Maine in 2001, Oxford was on of the first communities she interviewed in and she has been there since. In 2005 she earned her master’s degree in education with a mathematics specialty from Walden University.

One way Guerrette stands out is her practice of teaching literacy with the use of books that help students tackle sensitive subjects in a safe environment.

One such topic is covered in a middle-grade novel, The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner, which follows a young girl and her family as they support her older sister battling substance addiction. Guerrette’s fifth grade classes have read The Seventh Wish as part of OES’ healthy choices unit and DARE program.

Melissa Guerrette, fifth grade teacher at Oxford Elementary School, is Oxford County’s Teacher of the Year. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

“It’s a conversation that many people may shy away from with kids,” explained Guerrette. “Yet students are so curious and there is so much they want to know, and to understand about it. It is one my passions for sure, to make a safe space to have those conversations.”

Guerrette ended up ended up creating an Educator’s Guide for The Seventh Wish, published by Bloomsberry, for other teachers to utilize in their own classes. To date Guerrette has published 10 educator’s guide, accessible freely on the internet. Some publishers have started reaching out to her to create them for specific books in their catalog; in June one will be released to accompany The Doctor Fauci Picture Book, being published by Simon & Shuster.

Guerrette has also has presented at several  National Council of Teachers of English conferences, on topics of authentic writing and community-wide reads or conversations of brave topics.

SAD 17’s Curriculum Coordinator Heather Manchester nominated Guerrette for Teacher of the Year.

“Melissa is an incredibly student-centered teacher who enriches the lives of her students on a daily basis,” wrote Manchester in nominating Guerrette for Teacher of the Year. “When you visit Melissa’s classroom, she clearly knows her students well, and they her.”

In 2012 Guerrette began pursuing national board certification after being nudged towards it by a colleague, achieving it in 2013. She found the process of becoming certified a critical part of her own professional growth.

“National board certified teachers are highly accomplished teachers,” Guerrette said. “It is the highest credential you can earn in education. Once achieving it, our goal as a network is to keep teachers connected with others who are like-minded and forward thinking. We organized monthly learning sessions over the last year on pandemic life virtually, working to network people. Within the district, I advocate for others to consider board certification.

“I was looking for an additional layer of feedback for how I was doing as a teacher. I got some from employee evaluations, but this was a way to get feedback about my performance against national standards.”

Guerrette is the Chair of the National Board Certified Teachers’ Network of Maine, which promotes the value of board certification and encourages educators to pursue it.

“Melissa actively recruits other teachers from our district and across the state,” said Manchester. “As one of the facilitators in Maine, Melissa works with other teacher leaders at the state level to support candidates through the NBCT. She regularly leads/hosts informational sessions regarding the process and leads professional development for teachers pursuing the certification.”

“Being board certified has helped me be  increasingly reflective about my practice, to hold up a mirror to my own classroom instruction and practice,” Guerrette said. “It helped me recognize where I was doing well but also notice places where I can improve. Because of my board certification I really began to invest energy in making learning outcomes clearer to my students, and to help them engage in their own self reflection and progress.”

Guerrette participates in education leadership roles at all levels. In addition to the NBCT, She has served in a several capacities of the Maine Reading Association for the past 11 years and on numerous boards and committees in SAD 17 and within OES.

“Melissa is a teacher that creates an impact at all levels: at OES, in MSAD #17, in the greater Oxford Hills Community, and in the state of Maine,” Manchester said. “She exemplifies what it means to be a reflective practitioner and is generous with her time and knowledge of best practices.”

Added OES Principal Tiffany Karnes, “Melissa is one of those teachers that you know will volunteer for anything that needs to be done if she knows it will positively impact students. She has worked over the years on several school committees, district committees, and state-level committees. She is always looking for new ways to engage her students with the world around them. She has introduced them to numerous authors from around the country allowing students to see firsthand how the books they love are crafted from start to finish.”

Guerrette maintains a classroom library of about 2,000 books, many of which she purchased out of her own pocket. She will read about 200 books in any given year to assess what she will incorporate into classroom learning, with about 80 being included in her instruction during the year. Some are single copies of titles that students can check out to read independently. Some, like The Seventh Wish, she keeps an inventory of for unit study.

“Melissa is a voracious reader and shares her love of books with her class and the students at OES by bringing several authors to the school each year,” said Manchester.

“As a member of our school leadership teams, she willingly shares any book, resource, or tidbit of knowledge with her peers,” said Karnes. “We are lucky to have Melissa as a part of our OES staff and we are so proud of her accomplishments. We can’t wait to see what Melissa takes on as her next challenge.”

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