Joshua Chard, a second- and third-grade looping teacher at East End Community School, is among four finalists in the running for 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year! A decision on which of the four teachers will receive that honor is expected in October.
In May, Chard, who also is the drama director at Deering High School, was named 2023 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 July, he became one of eight County Teachers of the Year named as semifinalists for 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year. Now Chard is among four teachers in that group to make it to the finalist stage.
The three other finalists are: sixth-grade writing and social studies teacher Edith Berger from Lincoln County; fifth-grade science teacher Lacey Todd from Oxford County; and high school science teacher Colleen Maker from Washington County. They and Chard will move forward in the Teacher of the Year process.
“Colleen, Edith, Joshua, and Lacey are all extraordinary educators who care deeply about their students, schools, and communities,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin said in a statement. “They lift up everyone around them, are passionate about their profession, and are true champions of all students and schools in Maine. These four finalists represent the best qualities of Maine’s amazing educators, and I congratulate them on this very well-deserved honor,”
Portland Public Schools Superintendent Ryan Scallon said Chard is an asset to the district.
“Mr. Chard was one of the first staff I met after joining the Portland Public Schools in July,” Scallon said. “He joined a listening session I held to share how we can continue to provide our students with fantastic instruction and extracurricular activities. I have since learned from leaders, peers and families in his classes and drama extracurriculars that Mr. Chard provides fantastic instruction and activities for our students. We are fortunate to have him as an advocate, a teacher, and a leader.”
East End Principal Boyd Marley said, “East End Community School students, families and staff couldn't be more proud of Mr. Chard. He is the consummate professional and an excellent example of the amazing teachers in the Portland Public Schools.”
Chard said this honor reflects on other teachers, students and the district. “As I look ahead to the start of a new school year, I am so excited to think about what this recognition means for my students, my schools, and my district,” he said, “I now have the opportunity to give voice to all of the amazing things that happen quietly in classrooms across Portland every day. This honor belongs to the teachers who taught me, to the amazing professionals I have worked with throughout my career, and the brilliant, insightful, empathetic students who inspire me every day. Portland Public Schools has been my professional home since 1996. How lucky am I?”
Chard’s approach to designing and implementing curriculum for young learners always starts through a culturally responsive lens. Joyful relationships are at the heart of everything Chard does in his classroom and he is inspired every day by the honor of lifting up and celebrating his diverse learners.
Chard holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a concentration in theater from the University of Southern Maine, and a master’s degree in education with a K-6 literacy focus from the University of New England, and a certificate in K-6 standards-based mathematics from The American College of Education. He also certified as a K-12 teacher of English to speakers of other languages.
Chard is proud to teach in two of the most culturally diverse schools north of Boston. During his 31-year career, he has been an educational technician, has taught fourth and fifth grade, and has been an instructional coach with a focus on mathematics. He has passionately dedicated his entire career to working in high-needs, urban schools and is excited to have a platform to share the amazing work that is happening there. Outside of school, Chard can be found participating in local theater as an actor and director and exploring Maine’s beaches and lighthouses with his husband and their grandsons.
Chard is one of six Portland Public Schools teachers recognized by the Maine Teacher of the Year program within the past decade.
Those teachers are Casco Bay High School social studies teacher Matt Bernstein, the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year and the 2022 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year; Cindy Soule, the district’s literacy coach, who was the 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year and the 2020 Cumberland County 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.
Bernstein praised Chard and the three other finalists. “Congratulations to these four wonderful teachers! The hard work, dedication, and love they put into all they do and the commitment they show to their communities, schools, and students is inspiring,” said the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year. “I am grateful to these four educators for representing the incredible work that happens in classrooms and schools all over Maine. I am tremendously proud of them. It is an honor to know them and learn from them.”
According to the Maine Teacher of the Year program, a member of their community nominated each educator for their exemplary service in education and dedication to their students. They were selected by a distinguished panel of teachers, principals, and business community members from a pool of hundreds of other nominated teachers in their communities. The Maine Department of Education, Educate Maine, the Maine State Board of Education, and the Maine County and State Teacher of the Year Association made the announcement about the finalists.
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.