Mallory Beane receives a scholarship from Husson University

Husson University announced today that Fairfield, ME resident, Mallory Beane, will receive a $3000 Provost’s Leadership Scholarship for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Beane is a first-year student who is currently enrolled in Husson’s Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science/Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Merit scholarships at Husson University, like this one, are awarded on the basis of academic achievement.

Local man’s latest adventure: Teaching in China

China, Maine’s Ron Maxwell, left, taking a selfie while on a field trip in China. (Photo courtesy of Ron Maxwell)

by Ron Maxwell

I had never properly left the United States until this last summer. I did go to Tijuana in high school and honeymooned in New Brunswick, but as neither of them was off the continent and both were brief visits to places less than an hour or two into their respective countries, I never really counted either of them. I have, however, taught middle school in rural Maine for 20 years so I am not a stranger to danger and intrigue.

When I tell people I teach at China Middle School, they always ask if the trip back here took a long time. I tell them it is an easy commute to Maine and we both laugh a little at how clever we are. But in all the years of pretending to teach in China, I never once thought I would get there. Until Bernie.

I hope there is a Bernie in your life. Someone whose good nature is never forced. Someone who genuinely is interested in the answer to his/her question, “How are you?” Someone who knows that s/he has an opportunity for you that would do you good and at which you would be good and doesn’t listen when you make silly excuses to say no.

Bernie told me he taught in China and I said I’ve taught in China for years, cleverly countering. Later, Bernie told me he taught in China during Christmas break and I said I’d never be able to make a break trip work, cleverly stalling. Later, Bernie told me I’d be good at it and I told him I had never traveled abroad, cleverly distancing. What I wasn’t ready for was when he was done playing nice. Last year, Bernie came back from China and said he had given my name to the people he worked with and I should email them. I did, and before I knew what was happening, I was on a plane to Shanghai, China.

Ron Maxwell in his classroom in Shanghai, China. (photo courtesy of Ron Maxwell)

Bernie was right about everything. Teaching in mainland China was an exciting adventure in a land truly foreign to me on many levels. One that challenged my craft in unforeseen ways and rewarded me in ways I cannot explain. I am going to share with you three things I brought away from my latest adventure, teaching in China.

1) Teaching in China was familiar and challenging to my understanding of the craft of teaching. I worried about how well it would go and prepared for months beforehand, but in the moment I stood in front of the class in China I realized that children are children wherever you find them. I realized that, for all the worry that they would be an unknown, I was looking at the same general personality types that I had seen for years in the States and that it was going to be all right.  My ideas, techniques, and mannerisms that worked to motivate and inspire my Maine students worked in China.

The challenge came in that I no longer had my greatest tool, the command of the native language of my students. Now, I consider a common language with my students a teacher’s greatest and most “taken-for-granted” tool. I never realized how important it was until it was not there for me to fall back on. All the clever banter I thought I had was useless. All the Disney references I cultivated over the years were not there (except for “just keep swimming,” which worked). My students in China distilled my technique for me, forcing me to speak directly and obviously and to draw or show whenever possible. Being forced to do those things that are good teaching is making me a better teacher.

A street in Shenzhen, China. (photo courtesy of Ron Maxwell)

2) Being immersed in a foreign culture is a good experience.  When I wanted to buy sugar at the local store the clerk looked at me and bruskly said, “No English,” while walking away. So, I went back to the WiFi of my room and looked up sugar in my dictionary, played the word several times, wrote it down and went back to the store. I showed the writing to the same clerk and made an attempt at saying sugar. The effect was magical as the disinterested man of before disappeared to be replaced by someone who was so pleased by my attempt to be understood that he took me to a bag of crystals I had walked by earlier. He did laugh at my pronunciation and corrected it for me, but it started a working relationship that I came to consider a “home” in this world I did not know. Every day I tried a new phrase or word, and every day he would patiently correct while smiling. I won’t claim proficiency, but now I can manage a couple of phrases that sound vaguely correct, though I do still get corrected with a smile some of the time.

I never felt lonely, because the many teachers I worked with in China formed a group that did things together and had adventures during the off hours in a camaraderie that was another “home” in China. The wandering together led to wandering alone and I found myself walking and smiling and buying things while speaking terrible Chinese and enjoying learning everything. Giving something to someone else in China can be done as a polite gesture by using both hands. Walking in the wrong lane, the bike lane, for example, leads to being honked at by scooters. Not the brash cussing out that I heard from car horns in the States, but a gentle tap or two that reminded me of where I should not be. Being forced to learn a new culture is making me more appreciative of the similarities between our cultures and more at ease in learning a new one.

Dinner is being served for Ron Maxwell during his teaching stint in China. (photo courtesy of Ron Maxwell)

3) The challenge of navigating a foreign culture places you at the mercy of strangers, which teaches humility and patience. Teaching in the same school for 20 years leaves one with a sense of security that can lead to pride. Everything is predictable and known. Procedures are simple because of practice. When I sat at breakfast on my first day in China I was completely captivated. Everything was new and I understood none of it. On the left of the room were steam tables filled with magical smells of exotic food. On the right were tables where people sat in various and unfathomable groupings. The language that flowed musically in my ears meant nothing to me: I had looked and thought about Chinese but I knew next to nothing. All my ears heard was the magic of tones which combined to make breakfast music. But to get there I had needed a kind greeter who took my breakfast card and pointed me toward a stack of plates and chopsticks with an open hand wave, a small head bow, and a smile.

Being helped reminds one, both of what one doesn’t know and what a blessing it is to be shown the right way to do things. It wasn’t until I was balancing plates that I realized there were no empty tables. The challenge became that I had to find a seat with complete strangers. Imagine my joy when none of those who I joined moved or forbade my sitting. I was greeted with smiles and nods of welcome. That reception was not unique. I cannot recount the number of times a kind stranger assisted me while I was overseas. In many different places, I humbly accepted help in day to day life from complete strangers. Humility is a difficult lesson to learn, and it took time and repeated exposures.

The second part of the lesson came on return to the States where I was at home. I started to see the same lesson from the other side and was able to assist others. It is very easy to be proud and demand, both when you are at home and when you are a visitor. Seeing this interaction from both sides has made me better. Seeing it at middle age brings thoughts of how young and old interact and can look after each other.

I have now gone to China twice in a calendar year, with the first being to Shanghai during last summer break and the most recent to Shenzhen during Christmas break. I enjoyed both experiences in more ways than I can recount. I did come home willingly both times, but I am still new to travel and 20-plus years of marriage has me rootbound in Maine.  I will go back every summer session the MAST Stem Academy will have me because the experience is worth it for my own growth and for the joy that each trip brings. If you are a science teacher and need a new challenge to your ability and notions and complacency, I can suggest a place in China you can grow. I will be your Bernie.

Erskine Academy announces School calendar change April 2019

(photo credit: Erskine Academy)

Parents and students should be advised of a change to Erskine Academy’s school calendar. Due to excessive snow days, Friday, April 12, will now be an early release day for all Erskine Academy students. Students will be dismissed at 11:30 a.m.

Beane receives a scholarship from Husson University

Husson University announced today that Fairfield, ME resident, Mallory Beane, will receive a $3,000 Provost’s Leadership Scholarship for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Beane is a first-year student who is currently enrolled in Husson’s Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science/Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

Shakespeare presented by homeschoolers

Contributed photo

Southern Maine Association of Shakespearean Homeschoolers (SMASH) presents The Tempest by William Shakespeare. It will be performed in historic Cumston Hall at Monmouth Theater on Thursday, March 28, at 6:30 p.m., Friday, March 29, at 6:30 p.m., and a matinee Saturday, March 30, at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, please visit smashmaine.jimdo.com.

Winslow’s unified basketball team enjoying season

Winslow varsity Unified Basketball team and staff all stars. Front, left to right, Cameron Fredette and Noah Gagne. Kneeling, James Mason, Crystal St. Onge, Sage Vance, Melissa Hanley, Katie St. Amand, Grace Paradis, Jocelyn Pooler, Ashton Ervin, Jenna Rodrigue, Julianne Lapierre, Ashley Quirion and Tammy Quirion. Seated, Philip Edwards, Ronnie Mason, Savanna Vigue, Alexis Lint, Cheyenne Raymond, Lilly Harvey, Jessica Levesque, Carly Anderson, Lisa LeClair (coach) and Josh Gordon. Back, Kit Potelle (coach), Riley Loftus, Lori Loftus (coach), Gayle Martin, Darrin Wood, Joe Pfingst, Kenny Hodges, Owen Schuchardt, Tyler Tibbetts, Justice Picard, Isaac Sturtevant, Stefanie Fletcher, Ellen Stewart, Kelly Daigneault, Crystal Pomerleau, Jason Briggs, Art Meneses, Dina St. Amand, Heather Tompkins and Mike Sandoval. (Photo by Mel Gagnon)

Lori Loftus, varsity Unified Basketball coach and special education teacher at Winslow High School, is working towards becoming a Special Olympics Unified Champion School.

Winslow High School participated in a ‘Fans in the Stands’ event which filled the gym with the Winslow Community to watch Winslow schools’ staff members play basketball against the Winslow High School Varsity Unified Team. Earlier in the day, during the school’s winter carnival events, students and staff watched as the varsity girls and boys basketball teams took on the Winslow High School varsity Unified Team. The Unified team won both games.

Local students inducted into NHS at “Virtual” High School

Maine Connections Academy (MCA), the state’s first distance-learning charter school, announces 14 students who have been newly inducted into the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society (NHS). Locally, that list includes Lindsey Childs, an 11th grader from Palermo, and Madison Blodgett, a 10th grader from Norridgewock.

To be considered for NHS membership, students submitted a formal application and narrative, outlining their qualifications. Lindsey and Madison and the other MCA students were selected based on high academic standing, as well as demonstrated excellence in the areas of service, leadership and quality of character. They will be expected to work as a team as they participate in chapter meetings and complete a variety of service projects to benefit their communities.

Jessica Remmes-Davis is the National Honor Society Chapter Advisor at MCA. “I’m very proud of these students,” she said. “They show that going to a virtual school does not limit their opportunities to exhibit their qualities of scholarship and leadership.”

The National Honor Society (NHS) is the nation’s premier organization established to recognize outstanding high school students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, service, leadership, and character.

Kathleen McCowan performed in Muhlenberg College’s fall dance showcase “Moving Stories”

A spectacular evening of ballet, contemporary dance, tap, and jazz, “Moving Stories” showcased exciting new dance works November 8-10, 2018 at Muhlenberg College’s Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The works featured more than 60 students from the department’s dance program, among the most highly regarded programs of its kind. Kathleen McCowan, of Winslow, was one of the dancers in the program.

Braden Soule receives principals award

Braden Soule

Braden Soule, of Fairfield, a senior at Erskine Academy, in South China, has been selected to receive the 2019 Principals Award, Headmaster Michael McQuarrie announced recently. The award, sponsored by the Maine Principals Association, is given in recognition of a high school senior’s academic excellence, outstanding school citizenship, and leadership.

Soule is a consistent high-honors student in a highly-competitive program that includes all classes taken at the honors or accelerated level and numerous Advanced Placement courses and Concurrent Enrollment classes with nearby colleges. He has received recognition and accolades for his standout accomplishments in the classroom, athletics, and several hundred hours of community service.

“Braden has earned and enjoys universal acceptance in the school community. He is an exemplary student and fine representative of Erskine Academy and young people in general, and personifies the school’s core values of scholarship, leadership, stewardship and relationships,” noted Headmaster McQuarrie when making the award.

Soule, Mc­Quar­­rie, and other award winners and their principals will attend an Honors Luncheon at Jeff’s Catering, in Brewer, on Saturday, April 6, 2019, at 12:30 p.m.

The Honors Lun­cheon recognizes these outstanding students with the presentation of an individual plaque and the awarding of five $1,000 scholarships in the names of Horace O. McGowan and Richard W. Tyler; both were former Maine principals and executive directors of the association. In addition, five $1,000 scholarships will be presented through the efforts of the MPA Scholarship Golf Tournament.

The Principals Award is presented in more than 100 Maine public and private high schools by member principals of the MPA, the professional association that represents Maine’s school administrators.

VCS JMG members pages for a day 2019

Members of the Vassalboro Community School Jobs for Maine Graduates served as pages for the day on February 19, in the Maine State Legislature. They later visited with Gov. Janet Mills, center. (Photo courtesy Victor Esposito)