The Portland Board of Public Education and Superintendent Xavier Botana recently recognized two outstanding Deering High School staff members – Pamela Bessey, the school’s Jobs for Maine’s Graduates Expanded Learning Opportunities Coordinator; and Gretchen Scales, a Jobs for Maine’s Graduates specialist.
Jobs for Maine's Graduates or JMG is a statewide, private nonprofit that works within Maine's public schools to help students reach their fullest potential. JMG provides students with the skills and resources they need to graduate from high school ready to succeed in postsecondary education and careers. JMG is funded through a Nellie Mae Education Foundation grant.
The recognition took place at the board's March 7 meeting. Botana said both Bessey and Gretchen are invaluable members of the DHS team.
“Pam and Gretchen provide a wide range of services to Deering students and staff that are truly amazing,” he said.
“I’ll start with Pam Bessey. Pam’s primary job is to provide connections between Deering and the community. This is evident in so many ways, whether it be job shadowing, volunteer opportunities, or inviting guest speakers to classrooms.
Then there are the bigger events that Pam creates. For example, she has spearheaded planning for multiple years for the Career and College Expo for students from Deering, Portland, and Casco Bay high schools, held at the University of Southern Maine. She also started a Financial Literacy Fair at Deering, organizing all aspects of it.
This year she is helping to organize college visits for all sophomores. She also is developing a curriculum for interviewing during Deering Coaching, which is an advisor/advisee program at Deering for all juniors. Additionally, for the third year, she is organizing Rotary volunteers to perform interviews in Deering Coaching. This year this event will be followed by a summer job fair.
Pam works closely with Deering’s ninth-grade teachers. She not only listens and provides input in the planning stages, but also is an integral part of the implementation of the curriculum. She makes many connections between teachers and the community.
Pam plays a key role in the senior capstones at Deering. She helps to make connections within the community so students have places to complete their experiences and she supports them through their educative experiences.
She also has been the advisor for the President’s Council for a number of years now. In this capacity she runs elections, meets with members weekly and oversees Spirit Week and the pep rally that follows. Under her guidance, students created and distributed an optional teacher evaluation students complete in their classes.
Pam also is a huge part of the Global Issues curriculum. Students in class are required to perform six hours of community service and Pam works to organize these opportunities. She models the spirit of community involvement by often attending the events with students.
Additionally, Pam works to bring in guest speakers, such as a tax expert to talk to the personal finance class. She also creates numerous field trip opportunities throughout the school and assists in such ways as being a chaperone.”
Botana added, “Let me also tell you about Gretchen Scales, whose commitment to her JMG students goes well beyond the classroom walls.
On any given day, Gretchen can be found with her students volunteering at the Preble Street soup kitchen, the Ronald McDonald House or any number of other volunteer organizations. She is frequently seen supporting students on the sidelines of various athletic and drama events, and constantly encouraging them to persevere and succeed in their classes.
She works tirelessly to expose her students to experiences outside of the classroom or bring in classroom speakers to share their professional knowledge. For example, during the class unit on leadership and JMG Career Association elections, she organized visits from Mayor Ethan Strimling and City Councilors Justin Costa and Anne Haskell. She also took her class on a scavenger hunt of Portland downtown businesses to learn from the business owners what is expected of their employees and the many different job opportunities in the tourism industry.
Last fall, UNUM recognized the leadership skills Gretchen was instilling in her students and invited her class to lead a team-building workshop for staff development. Her tenacious support of a student’s senior capstone project shadowing realtors helped the student start her career with a real estate company.
Gretchen’s ceaseless energy and positive outlook inspire students and Deering faculty members. She is always ready and willing to pitch in to make Deering a better place to learn and work. Last year, the JMG class, under Gretchen’s guidance, wrote a successful Portland Education Foundation grant to create the Ramily Market, which provides food, clothing and toiletries to Deering students coping with food insecurity or lacking basic necessities.
Each JMG student leaves Gretchen’s classroom with pride, direction, and a clearer sense of what he or she wants out of life and how to achieve it.”
Botana concluded by saying, “We are most grateful to JMG and to Gretchen and Pam for all that you do. We are very fortunate to have you in our schools and we congratulate you both for this well-deserved recognition!”