Joshua Chard, a second- and third-grade looping teacher at East End Community School, has been named 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year. East End staff and students and state and local education officials celebrated Chard’s selection at that school on Wednesday morning, Oct. 11. He received multiple standing ovations from students and staff.
This is the third time in the past four years that a Portland Public Schools teacher has achieved this honor. Matt Bernstein, a humanities teacher at Casco Bay High School, is the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year, and Cindy Soule, the district’s literacy coordinator, was the 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year.
“Joshua Chard’s selection as the 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year is a testament not only to him as a remarkable educator but also is continued evidence of the high caliber of the educators we are fortunate to have at the Portland Public Schools,” said Superintendent Ryan Scallon. “We are incredibly proud of Joshua and very grateful for his dedication to student success, which he demonstrates daily in his teaching.”
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.
Next, in August, Chard and three other teachers from around the state made it to the finalist stage.
Chard emerged as the top choice after further vetting, which included a daylong site visit to the finalists’ schools by a state review panel. Read about a day with Chard and his class HERE.
Wednesday’s ceremony featured praise and recognition for the honoree.
“Joshua Chard embodies the qualities that make Maine teachers amazing, and we’re thrilled to honor him as Maine’s 2024 Teacher of the Year,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “Today we celebrate Joshua’s passion for teaching, his love for his students and public education, and his ability to make each and every person feel welcome and like they belong. Colleagues, parents, and community members describe Joshua as kind, loving, passionate, generous, and someone who finds joy in the uniqueness of each human.”
East End Principal Boyd Marley said, “East End Community School is proud of Joshua Chard. He is an example of the excellent teaching and learning that happens every day at EECS, in the Portland Public Schools and across Maine.”
Throughout the selection process, Chard has said recognition of him reflects on his fellow educators and the district. He also gave a special shout-out to his students, known around the school as “Chardlings.”
“This recognition is about my amazing students as much as it is about me,” he said. “How lucky am I to get to be inspired by these hilarious, insightful, motivated, and empathetic humans every day? They make me want to be the best teacher I can be because they deserve it and they demand it of me. I am feeling so blessed and so seen today.”
East End is one of the district’s most culturally diverse schools. To help begin Wednesday’s ceremony, a group of “Chardlings” led the other students in a West African song and dance and it concluded with students thanking everyone for attending in a variety of languages.
Chard, who joined the Portland Public Schools in 1996, believes designing and implementing curriculum for young learners always starts through a culturally responsive lens. He says joyful relationships are at the heart of everything he does in his classroom and feels inspired every day by the honor of lifting up and celebrating his diverse learners.
Chard cited his fifth-grade teacher as having a major influence on him. “She taught me that I was smart, talented and that I deserved to be loved just for being me,” he said. “I am the person I am because of teachers like her.”
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 at East End and Deering, 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.
As 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year, Chard now will become the most visible exemplar of the teaching profession in the state. He’ll be invited to serve on various committees, participate in many programs and events, and speak on a number of occasions.
Matt Bernstein, the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year, also spoke at the ceremony. “Joshua Chard is a phenomenal, passionate, and dedicated teacher who inspires those around him – both students and colleagues,” Bernstein said. “He masterfully blends high expectations for students with the creation of warm and joyous classroom environments so that all students are supported to learn, grow, and thrive. I am beyond excited that more folks will have the opportunity to hear from Joshua moving forward and I am tremendously grateful to him for representing Maine as the 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year.”
Bernstein said that Chard’s selection also showcases East End Community School, which Bernstein praised as “a school that encapsulates the true meaning of community.” He said that just by walking into the school, he could feel its “warmth, joy and a zest for learning.”
The three other finalists for 2024 Teacher of the Year were: 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.
Other Portland Public Schools teachers honored in the past decade by the Maine Teacher of the Year Program are 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 Teacher of the Year program is administered by Educate Maine, a business-led advocacy organization, in partnership with the Maine Department of Education, the Maine State Board of Education, and the Maine County and State Teachers and County of the Year Association. Funding for the program is generously provided by Bangor Savings Bank, Dead River, Geiger, Hannaford, Maine Lottery, Pratt and Whitney, the Silvernail Family, and Unum.
Pictured from left are East End Community School Principal Boyd Marley, 2024 Teacher of the Year Joshua Chard, EECS Assistant Principal Kelly Thornhill and Superintendent Ryan Scallon. Marley, Thornhill and Scallon spoke at the Oct. 11 ceremony honoring Chard.
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.