Alumni Spotlight: Leigh Alley ’02

This month our Alumni Spotlight shines on Leigh Alley of Jonesport, Maine, who earned a B.A. in English from the University of Maine at Machias in 2002 and went on to earn four graduate degrees — most recently a doctorate in education from University of New England. Alley is the executive director of the Maine Affiliate of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), and was recently awarded the 2020 Affiliate Honor for Excellence in Professional Learning by the global ASCD.

Tell us a little bit about what you are doing now.  

I’m the executive director of Maine ASCD — an affiliate of ASCD, an international organization for educators with affiliates in 130 countries.  We empower Maine educators serving in any role and in any context to achieve excellence in learning, teaching, and leadership so that schoolchildren are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged — the tenets of Whole Child Education, our mission.  I’m a member of the part-time faculty at the University of Maine at Augusta, where I design and teach courses on subjects such as social-emotional learning and trauma-sensitive practice. I’m also a private consultant, and I travel throughout the nation speaking on topics of transformative leadership.  Ultimately, in all of those roles, I’m a “teacher-teacher,” as my children like to call me.

What is the most valuable thing you learned while at UMM?

It was never any one thing; it was everything.  We carry our teachers’ lessons everywhere, always.  So often I open my mouth or put my fingertips to my keyboard and what comes out is something David Rosen taught me…or Rob Froese, or Cindy Huggins, or Marcus LiBrizzi, or Andrew Mullen, or the late Greg Henderson.  The real lesson, I suppose, is that love and learning live on.  

Do you have any advice for current students at UMM?

There’s no substitute for a critical thinking partner, and we never stop needing one.  My time at UMM gave me many capable mentors — professors and peers alike. Make it a priority to get a mentor and to be a mentor.  We can’t grow without them.  

How did your time at UMM prepare you for what you are doing now?

UMM strengthened my lifelong stay-here-go-anywhere mentality.  I was the valedictorian of my high school class and attended UMM on a full scholarship.  I declined full scholarships from a number of really prestigious schools to do that. I’ve always known there could be nothing more fulfilling for me than staying here and serving my home community of Washington County, a place I love as much as I’ve loved any person.  My undergraduate advisor promised me in our first meeting that UMM would give me a world-class education, and it did. My B.A. and four graduate degrees later, I’m still making my home and my living in the community that I love while serving educators here and in the wider world.  It humbles me to teach teachers. Education is the “vocation of vocations” — the calling that enables every other calling. UMM prepared me to answer mine, and I’m grateful.

How has UMM made a positive impact on your life?  

Education is meant to give learners roots and wings.  UMM did that for me. It’s still doing that for me.