Lewiston High School teacher Abigail Reuscher. Submitted photo

Abigail Reuscher, 29, says she has spent most of her life fighting for social justice and equality, engaging in advocacy and protest activities at a young age. She earned a degree in chemistry with a minor in Islamic studies at Haverford College in Pennsylvania and now teaches chemistry and forensic science at Lewiston High School.

The Portland resident says she tries to make all her students feel welcome and valued, no matter their background. She encourages students in her forensic science class to consider how science and social justice intersect, with an aim to foster a spirit of inquiry and innovation.

What was the first advocacy event or protest you attended and why did you go? Technically the first protest I attended was when my mom was still pregnant with me. However, the first one I have a real memory of was when I was about 8 or 9 and we were marching with Catholics for Marriage Equality. This one stuck with me because my mom told my brother and me that there might be people from the news there who might want to talk to us since we were so young and we should be ready with something meaningful to say.

My mom is one of the biggest reasons I’m so committed to social justice. She is a vice president at Preble Street Resource Center now, but she started there as a social worker. Growing up volunteering at the soup kitchen was a regular part of my schedule, especially if I had a snow day in school. She always instilled a deep sense of humanity in me; that all people are worthy of love, happiness and fair opportunities.

I protest because it’s the heartbeat of social change. Protesting amplifies voices that are usually quieted, it creates solidarity within the community and it’s a great way to challenge the status quo for a more just and equitable world.

How does your position as a high school teacher help you achieve more inclusivity and empowerment? I have a couple different positions at the high school. I teach chemistry, including a second-year AP (advance placement) class and forensic science. I am also the mentor for three clubs: the Black Student Union, Project Gen-Z and the Academic Scholars Program. In my role as club advisor, I see myself as more of a facilitator than a leader. While I provide logistical support, such as knowing whom to contact or how to handle practical tasks, the students are the true driving force behind our efforts.


Right now, the most energy and desire for change is in young people. My students — who are already confronting issues such as racism, gender discrimination, and Islamophobia — are determined to take action. Their desire for change extends beyond their personal lives to the broader community. Recently I brought a group of students to Maine’s State House for State Business Day during February break. These students were eager to be present where decisions are made, even during their own vacation. While it’s often said that children are our future, it’s crucial to recognize that they are also agents of change in “the now.”

My students and I would wager a bet to say that most young people possess unique perspectives and innovative ideas that surpass those of many adults. They bring diverse experiences and fresh ideas. I am simply the megaphone that amplifies their voices.

What are some of the ways in which you try to inspire young people? This is a pretty hard one for me. I didn’t think of myself as much of an inspiration until recently. So, I outsourced this question a little bit and asked some people in my life who see me in action a little bit. They helped me come up with the rest of the answer.

I firmly believe that embracing my true, goofy, authentic self not only allows me to thrive but also creates an empowering environment where others feel inspired to embrace their own uniqueness and authenticity. By confidently embracing my unconventional style while maintaining a strong foundation in scientific knowledge, I demonstrate that intelligence and creativity are not mutually exclusive. In fact, my students witness firsthand that embracing individuality enhances their capacity for critical thinking and innovation, fostering a dynamic learning environment where diverse perspectives flourish. Life is too short to be worried about what others think of you.

In my classroom, I try to foster an environment where making mistakes is not only allowed but encouraged. This principle extends beyond traditional academic subjects to encompass critical thinking about real-world issues, particularly those pertaining to social justice and equity. For example, in my forensic science class I require students to research the Innocence Project, which works to exonerate wrongly convicted individuals through DNA testing and advocacy. Through studying the work of organizations like this, students gain insights into the complexities of the criminal justice system and the importance of questioning assumptions and biases in forensics.

By providing a safe space for students to grapple with these challenging and personal topics, I empower them to confront societal issues, expand their perspectives and advocate for positive change in our current social climate. This approach not only enhances their academic understanding but also nurtures empathy, critical thinking, and a commitment to justice in their future endeavors.


What are some of the ways in which you have helped reform school policy to create a more equitable learning environment? A big achievement for me was when I was able to replace an old, outdated and unconstitutional policy regarding the Pledge of Allegiance. In 2022 the official school policy required all students to stand and recite the pledge. The only exception was a signed permission slip from their parents which would allow them to stay seated. The policy was brought to my attention by several of my students who started running into issues with other teachers. At one point a student was sent to the office for the entire period because she refused to stand and instead lost all that instructional time. I gathered articles from other high schools in Maine which changed similar policies, the Supreme Court’s decision in 1943 and student testimony. The school committee changed the policy immediately following my presentation.

I believe I also help create a more equitable learning environment by creating spaces for students to be able to vent about issues in an effort to find a new or innovative way to solve the problem. Whenever there is a new school policy change — we had a pretty big one around cellphones last year — I make sure that all of my classes are aware of the new policy. Sharing the new policies with students enables them to grasp their rights within the school environment and discern the boundaries of authority for teachers and other adults.

What are some of the ways in which people can incorporate advocacy in their own lives for the things they feel passionate about? There are lots of great ways for anyone to incorporate advocacy into their everyday life! The easiest thing to do is just stay educated and aware. Learn about the issues you care about through research and stay informed about events. It’s also important to have open discussions with friends and family or to use social media platforms to raise awareness, share information, and mobilize people around your cause. You can also find clubs, groups, or organizations that share your passion; or you can start one yourself. If you are feeling really driven, a great thing to do is write letters to your local officials urging action on issues or get involved with a canvassing group.

At the end of the day, the most powerful thing you can do is lead by example.

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