MACHIAS – Washington Academy teacher Kailee Colbeth, a graduate of the University of Maine at Machias, is one of eight semi-finalists being considered for the distinction of being the 2019 Maine Teacher of the Year. “I’m still sort of in shock,” said Colbeth. “Being a teacher is my job, and I do it every day. It’s taken a little while to get used to the idea that I do something special.”
In April, Colbeth was selected as Washington County Teacher of the Year. At the beginning of June, she learned she had made it to the semi-finals. The three finalists will be announced in August, with the winner being identified in October. The Maine Teacher of the Year will begin their term in January 2019 and will also go on to compete at the national level.
Colbeth graduated from the University of Maine at Machias in 2011 with a degree in secondary math education. She is currently enrolled at the University of Maine, working on her MA in curriculum design and construction. “UMM made it possible for me to earn my degree while I was working full time,” says Colbeth. “The professors there were really flexible because they understood my needs as a nontraditional student. It’s a really wonderful quality about UMM.”
“Kailee was always great at making math interesting and relevant,” says Daniel Qualls, Associate Professor of Education at UMM. “I remember her showing a class how to do something on a graphing calculator, and the whole class went, ‘oooooh’ as if they were watching a fireworks display. I’m sure her passion and skill for teaching has only grown since then.”
When asked why she thought she was nominated, she shared, “I work to make personal relationships with my students and that really makes a difference. I also have a specific view about math education: I don’t think anyone is inherently bad at math. Students have confidence issues with math, and I give them a boost they might need.”
She also noted that Washington Academy has a large international program, and she has created a very culturally accepting classroom. “It’s taken a little while for it to sink in,” she says, “that I might do things that I could share with other teachers that would help. But I think I do.”
“Maine Teacher of the Year is a program of the Maine Department of Education and is administered by Educate Maine, a business-led organization working to advance educational attainment and readiness for work among all Mainers,” reads the Maine Teacher of the Year website. “It is made possible by the support of the Maine State Board of Education and the Maine State Teacher of the Year Association, and funding by our longtime sponsors: Bangor Savings Bank (Lead), Dead River, Geiger and Hannaford.”