FARMINGTON — Vickie Lailer, second-grade teacher at W.G. Mallett School, has been named the Franklin County Teacher of the Year. Lailer was one of 16 teachers that were chosen to become the 2024 County Teachers of the Year.

Franklin County Teacher of the Year Vickie Lailer stands with her second-grade class next to the W. G. Mallett School marquee on Monday, May 13, in Farmington. Lailer said her class was very supportive of her throughout the process. Submitted Photo

Lailer and the other 15 teachers, chosen out of 630 nominated teachers, were honored at the Maine State House on Thursday, May 9, where she and her colleagues received a plaque from Gov. Janet Mills and got one-on-one time with Education Commissioner Pender Makin.

Franklin County Teacher of the Year Vickie Lailer was honored with flowers and a banner on the door of her classroom on Monday, May 13, at W.G. Mallett School in Farmington. Submitted Photo

“We had some amazing conversations and she joked, ‘wow, we’ve written half a new bill’,” Lailer shared with The Franklin Journal. As a recipient of the honor, she will perform a year of service to her community as an ambassador for the teaching community. Along with that, she will also have several professional learning opportunities to expand her skillset and continue to hone her skills as an educator.

Lailer was nominated by WGMS principal Tracy Williams, and Lailer shared that she has a tremendous amount of respect for Williams and her leadership at the school. She added that the process of nomination involved multiple essays, her resume, letter of recommendation and even an interview with Maine Department of Education that Lailer was forced to hold in an airport while traveling.

“As you can imagine,” she said, “with all the interviews with 16 counties, that schedule is crazy for them, so they truly could only do the interview that day.”

Lailer was traveling to California for a conference for BARR [Building Assets, Reducing Risk] when during a 45-minute layover in Utah, she had her phone interview with the MDOE. Days later, on a three-hour time difference, she got the call that she had been selected.

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A 15-year veteran of the classroom, Lailer’s teacher career is actually her second career path, with her first once being a litigation paralegal for a medical malpractice lawyer in Portland. With an Associate of Science in Business from Thomas College and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Southern Maine, Lailer spent seven years working as a litigation paralegal before she decided it was time to make the switch.

“I loved being a litigation paralegal,” she shared. “I found it interesting to do the research and lots of writing, but I felt like all I was doing was saying to my own children, ‘hurry up, hurry up, hurry up’, because I had to work a lot of hours.”

With her children in mind, she made the switch to being an education technician at her children’s school. Once she got into the role, she found that she had a knack for the job and she was placed in a program called the Kinderstart Program, where she continued to be an ed tech, but was leading a class with a certified teacher.

Vickie Lailer, right, receives a plaque from Gov. Janet Mills, left, at the Maine State House on Thursday, May 9. Lailer is one of the 16 County Teachers of the Year for 2024. Submitted Photo

“I worked with a classroom teacher and had students by myself,” she shared. “She would have the kids and do the academic piece and I’d have the kids and do fine motor, gross motor and literacy reinforcement, and then we would switch our groups.”

Lailer’s ability to lead and manage her students was recognized by the principal, who encouraged her to get her certification while working in the program as an ed tech. She, however, felt her real talent was something more than just managing the kids and keeping them on topic.

“I have this huge power to make sure that no kid ever feels like I felt as a kid when I went to school,” she shared. “I can really make certain that every kid that walks in my door feels like they belong there and deserve a seat at the table and feel valued.”

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Growing up, Lailer dealt with adversity and truly believed she was unworthy of a proper education based on the negative comments she endured.

“I grew up really poor,” she said, “and kids would call me ‘poor white trash’, and so then after a while I started to believe that, and I felt like I didn’t have a teacher that truly had my back until fifth grade.”

Once she entered the fifth grade, she was introduced to her teacher Lance L. Libby, an elementary school teacher in Bowdoinham. According to Lailer, Libby was the first educator who made her feel like she belonged in the classroom and helped develop her value as a person.

“He just knew he needed to boost my self-worth,” she said, “and he gave me a job, that sort of stuff in the classroom, and then I even babysat his children in the summer.”

“He truly had faith in me,” she added.

Throughout the process, Lailer felt it was important to also include her students in the process, even if it was just for their moral support.

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“My class has been amazing and so supportive,” she said. “I struggled at first [with telling them] in the beginning.”

She eventually used the experience as a way to teach something to her students.

“[I told them] that I’m working really hard, and I’m going to try to do this thing,” she said. “And I don’t know if it will happen, but I’m going to try no matter what and I kept telling them that same message throughout the entire process.”

Vickie Lailer gives a lesson on confidence on Tuesday, May 14, in her classroom at W. G. Mallett School in Farmington. Lailer is Franklin County Teacher of the Year. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

Moving forward, Lailer has some ideas on her mind to help her fellow educators at the legislature, with one of her goals being to work on bridging the gap between larger towns with bigger school districts and the smaller, rural ones.

“The state education funding formula is based on the town’s budget, the town’s resources, their tax base,” she said, “and so I feel like the divide keeps growing instead of being closed.”

She also shared that she also wants to address the teacher shortage and fight against the negative commentary that is circling many school districts across the country.

“I feel really passionate about flipping that narrative and getting people to come into our buildings and see what’s happening in schools,” she said.


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