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EECS Educator County Teacher of Year!

Joshua Chard, a teacher at East End Community School (EECS), has been named the Cumberland County Teacher of the Year for 2023. That is not only a well-earned honor for the veteran educator, but it also puts him in the running to be the 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year.

Chard was among 16 teachers – one from each of Maine’s counties – honored at a 2 p.m. ceremony today, Thursday, May 11, at the State Capitol in Augusta as part of the annual Maine County Teachers of the Year awards. Governor Janet Mills, Maine Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta, and Casco Bay High School teacher Matt Bernstein,  the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year, were among those in attendance.

Bernstein was the 2022 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, so the selection of Chard makes the second year in a row that a Portland Public Schools teacher has been chosen for the County Teacher of the Year honor. Interim Co-Superintendents Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend said that is a testament to the high quality of the district’s teachers.

“We’re very proud of Joshua and Matt for these tremendous achievements,” Townsend and Nalli said. “The People goal in our Portland Promise, our strategic plan, commits us to striving to attract and retain excellent educators. Joshua and Matt are prime examples of the high caliber of teaching here at the Portland Public Schools.”

EECS Principal Boyd Marley said the recognition of Chard, a looping teacher who teaches grades 2 and 3, is well deserved. “Joshua Chard is a veteran educator who is respected by families, students and all of his colleagues,” Marley said. “He is a dynamic teacher who focuses on delivering curriculum in rich and engaging practices. He holds his students to high expectations and scaffolds and supports students in meeting those expectations in both a firm but nurturing way.”

As part of the Maine Teacher of the Year Program, more than 500 hundred teachers across Maine were nominated this year by a member of their school community. Through a rigorous process, one teacher from each county was selected as the County Teacher of the Year by a panel of teachers, principals, and business community members within the county.

Maine County Teachers of the Year serve as ambassadors for teachers, students, and quality education state-wide throughout the year. Throughout the summer, they will continue to participate in an intensive selection process for the 2024 Maine State Teacher of the Year. 

Joshua Chard is well-suited to be an ambassador for education, Marley said. He said Chard “embodies our school’s mission of ‘empowering students of the world, for the world.’ That empowerment starts with educators such as Joshua Chard.”

Chard, who has been an educator for more than three decades, said, “I am humbled by this recognition. There are amazing things happening every day in classrooms across Cumberland County, and I am honored that what I do is being recognized as being representative of the quality instruction happening in those classrooms every day. I am especially excited to have a platform to talk about diverse, urban schools and to be a voice for the outstanding things happening there.”

He explained that urban schools “are often discussed through a deficits-based lens. While there are certainly unique challenges that high-needs schools face, I want to amplify all of the things that make our urban schools amazing. I want people to see my schools through the same assets-based or strengths-based lens that I use when approaching my work.”

At EECS, one of the city’s most diverse schools, “our biggest asset is diverse learners coming together to form amazing learning communities, resulting in a greater global awareness and increased empathy for students and teachers alike,” Chard said.

He began working for the district as an educational technician in 1992, at Reiche and the former Jack elementary schools. His first teaching position was in 1996 at Talbot Community School (formerly Riverton Elementary School). He has taught at EECS since that school opened in 2006. Chard also serves as the drama director at Deering High School. “I am very proud of how that program is growing,” Chard said.

Thursday’s event streamed live on the Maine Department of Education’s YouTube Channel, where a recording of the video will be posted.

Other Portland Public Schools teachers honored in the past decade by the Maine Teacher of the Year Program are Cindy Soule, a literacy coach at Talbot Community School who was 2020 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year and 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year; Brooke Teller, the district’s STEM coordinator, who was the 2017 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year; Talya Edlund, assistant principal at Lyseth Elementary School, who was the 2016 Maine Teacher of the Year and 2015 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year; and Karen MacDonald, a King Middle School teacher, now retired, who was the 2014 Maine Teacher of the Year.

The Maine Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year Program is administered through a collaborative partnership with Educate Maine.

Photos: Photo above of EECS teacher Joshua Chard is shown courtesy of Linwood Leland.

Photo below depicts EECS Joshua Chard at the May 11 County Teacher of the Year ceremony in Augusta with Maine Senator Jill Duson, who represents Portland.

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.  49.8 percent of the district’s students are white and 50.2 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.