Casco Bay High School social studies teacher Matt Bernstein is among four finalists in the running for 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year! A decision on who will receive that honor is expected this fall.
In May, Bernstein was named 2022 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year. He was one of 16 teachers – one from each of Maine’s counties – to be selected for that honor. Then, in June, he became one of eight County Teachers of the Year named as semifinalists for 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year. Now Bernstein is one of four to make it to the finalist stage.
The other three finalists are Heather Anderson of Caribou Community School, the 2022 Aroostook County Teacher of the year; Ashley Bryant of Sacopee Valley Middle School, the 2022 Oxford County Teacher of the Year; and Emily Albee of Hampden Academy, the 2022 Penobscot County Teacher of the Year.
“We are thrilled (but not surprised) that Mr. Bernstein is now a finalist for Maine State Teacher of the Year,” said Casco Bay Principal Derek Pierce. “The state of Maine is figuring out what the Casco Bay High School community has long known: Mr. Bernstein is one of the planet's greatest educators (and humans).”
“Congratulations to Matt!” Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana said. “We are extremely proud of him for advancing to the finalist phase of this highly competitive selection process. As we begin a new school year, Matt’s achievement helps underscore the high quality and caliber of our teaching staff at the Portland Public Schools.”
Bernstein and the other three finalists were chosen based on the results of their combined scores from a “Presentations, Panels and Portfolios” session this summer, according to Dolly Sullivan, program director and state coordinator of the Maine Teacher of the Year Program. At that session, held in July, semifinalists had to give a mock keynote speech, participate in an expert panel discussion on the topics classroom instruction, education policy and teacher leadership. Additionally, they had to submit a portfolio that is based on the National Teacher of the Year application.
Sullivan noted that the selection process for Maine Teacher of the Year is rigorous. “Teachers participate in a year-long professional learning journey with the support of their cohort and the program partners: Educate Maine, Maine Department of Education, Maine State Board of Education and the Maine County and State Teacher of the Year Association,” she said. “As we say, this is not a ‘crown and sash’ pageant.”
Bernstein and the other finalists still will continue to serve as 2022 County Teachers of the Year, with the added role and responsibility of 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year selection process. The next step for the finalists is a daylong site visit to their schools by a state review panel.
Bernstein credits his supportive community for helping him achieve this honor. “I'm extremely humbled and grateful for this recognition and, even more so, for the opportunity to work with inspiring colleagues, families, and students and for the guidance I've received throughout my career from so many in my community,” he said. “The recognition I am receiving currently is only possible because of how much others have done, and continue to do, to support me and because I have the gift of working with incredible students.”
Bernstein has been teaching Humanities at Casco Bay for eight years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Bowdoin College. He previously taught world history and U.S. history at The Greene School, an EL Education school in West Greenwich, Rhode Island.
Bernstein was nominated for Cumberland County Teacher of the Year by former student Yusur Jasim, a member of the Casco Bay Class of 2021, who now attends Bowdoin College. They wrote that he inspired them to become a teacher. “He showed me how much a teacher can impact a student's life,” Jasim wrote in their nomination letter. “My goal right now is to be someone else's Mr. Bernstein when I become a teacher.”
The Maine Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year Program is administered through a collaborative partnership with Educate Maine.
The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 51 percent of the district’s students are white and 49 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.