Lacey Todd stands Monday in her classroom at Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico where she teaches fifth grade science. The 2023 Oxford County Teacher of the Year said Monday that she was motivated to become a teacher by Heidi Steele, her fourth grade teacher at Crescent Park Elementary School in Bethel, who welcomed her every morning and made her feel special. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

MEXICO — Lacey Todd, a fifth-grade science teacher at Mountain Valley Middle School, was presented the 2023 Oxford County Teacher of the Year award last week at the State House in Augusta.

The May 11 ceremony was held during Teacher Appreciation Week and included recipients from all 16 counties. Gov. Janet Mills and Maine Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta were joined by 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year Matthew Bernstein, a ninth-grade humanities and social studies instructor at Casco Bay High School in Portland, and other state officials.

Todd, who has taught for 19 years, said in an interview Monday that she was motivated to join the profession by Heidi Steele, her fourth grade teacher at Crescent Park Elementary School in Bethel.

Mountain Valley Middle School teacher Lacey Todd, second from right, receives the 2023 Oxford County Teacher of the Year award May 11 at the State House in Augusta. From left are Dan Chuhta, deputy commissioner of Education; Gov. Janet Mills; Todd; and Heather Whitaker, 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year and president of the Maine County and State Teachers of the Year Association. Submitted photo

Steele noticed her, made her feel loved by greeting her every morning and always made her feel special. “So, she is really kind of a driving motivation,” Todd said.

“I teach because I want to make a difference,” Todd wrote in her essay as part of the nomination process. “I teach because I have a debt to pay forward. It’s a debt of love, hope, and connectedness. It’s my difference and it is both my obligation and honor to pass it on.”

What makes teachers outstanding?


“It’s about connections in the classroom,” she said.

It begins with standing in her classroom doorway at the beginning of the school day, chatting with students as they pass by or enter her classroom, hugging those who come to her, and inviting students to share whatever they’d like to from their personal lives.

“Making students feel noticed and valued is my most significant contribution,” she wrote in the essay.

Todd said one of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching science exclusively is she can “focus on kids figuring out some phenomenon that we’re investigating,” and then do activities that lead to understanding why the phenomenon happened.

Recently the class has been studying gargoyles, the monster-like creatures that were part of the architecture of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and what caused the change in their appearance over time.

“Their initial thought is probably the rain wears them down or the wind wears them down,” Todd said. The students learn that the structures are also changing into other substances like carbon dioxide, she said.

Todd said her award wouldn’t be possible without the support of the teachers on her fifth grade team: Liz Ledesma, Sean Scribner, Ross Chicoine, Brittany Ferland and Jessica Sirois.

“I’m the face of (the award) just because they’ve been promoting me from underneath this whole time, but it really is an award that is earned by my entire team,” Todd said. “This team of teachers has just been so emotionally supportive, academically supportive — just top-notch.”

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