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PPS Educator Maine 2021 Teacher of Year!

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PPS Educator Maine 2021 Teacher of Year!
Posted on 10/08/2020
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Cindy Soule, a fourth-grade teacher at the Gerald E. Talbot Community School and the 2020 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, has been selected as the Maine 2021 Teacher of the Year.

Talbot School staff and students celebrated Soule’s win at a surprise virtual school assembly on Thursday morning, Oct. 8. Because of the pandemic, the event was held outside, with participants wearing masks and staying physically distant. Only a small cohort of students in Soule’s and other teachers’ fourth-grade classes attended the ceremony outside the building, with the rest of the students safely live-streaming the event inside their classrooms. The event featured a vehicle parade, a presentation of the 2021 Teacher of the Year plaque, and words of praise and recognition for the honoree.

“I’m delighted that Cindy Soule has won Maine’s top teaching award, but I’m not surprised – because she truly is an exceptional teacher,” said Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana. “The People goal in the Portland Promise, our strategic plan, commits us to attracting and retaining the best and the brightest. Cindy is a prime example of the outstanding educators at the Portland Public Schools.”

Talbot School Principal Ann Hanna said, “I’m so thrilled for Cindy. She’s tremendously deserving of this honor.  It’s also very exciting for Talbot School. Cindy serves on our school’s Leadership Team and mentors new teachers in literacy instruction. Winning this award is another way she will lead, by inspiring us all to become exemplary educators.”

Others present at the event included 2020 Teacher of the Year Heather Whitaker, a Gorham Middle School teacher;  Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin; Jason Judd, the Executive Director of Educate Maine; representatives from the Maine State Board of Education, other officials and other sponsoring organizations.

Soule was among the 16 teachers – one from each of Maine’s counties – to win a Maine County Teacher of the Year award this past May. Those teachers were then in the running for 2021 Teacher of the Year.

In August, Educate Maine, the Maine Department of Education, the Maine State Board of Education and the Maine State Teacher of the Year Association announced that the group of 16 county candidates had been narrowed down to three State Finalists: Soule; Alison Babb-Brott, of Knox County; and Heather Webster, of Lincoln County.

A review panel then conducted school site “visits” and interviews of the three finalists before selecting Soule as the state’s top teacher for 2021.

The Maine Teacher of the Year website says, “Cindy Soule creates a learning community that disrupts the opportunity gap. For twenty of her twenty-one years of teaching, she has been committed to one of Maine’s most diverse schools, the Gerald E. Talbot Community School, in Portland. Soule fosters a dynamic learning environment that inspires curiosity and citizenship in her fourth-grade students.”

Soule said, “To be named as 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year is a source of immense pride. I am so thrilled to be able to share the amazing learning community that has been cultivated at my school, the Gerald E. Talbot Community School. I recognize that although I was selected as the Maine Teacher of the Year, it is really an acknowledgement of my entire learning community, because the work and accomplishments in my classroom are a reflection of what is happening not only at Talbot School but also across all of Portland's public schools.”

She added, “I am also incredibly proud to share the ways in which the Gerald E. Talbot Community School carries on the legacy of Mr. Talbot by recognizing that our diversity is a strength and that all students can rise to meet high expectations and rigor. Talbot school is an incredibly special place, and for over 20 years I have been fortunate to be a part of this community.  I also look forward to advocating for educators and representing the dedication and commitment of teachers across our state!”

As Maine Teacher of the Year, Soule will become the most visible exemplar of the teaching profession in the state. She’ll be invited to serve on various committees, participate in many programs and events, and speak on a number of occasions in Maine. She also is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year.

Soule has taught at Talbot (formerly Riverton Elementary School) for 20 years. She holds a master’s degree in special education from the University of Southern Maine and a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Maine, Orono. She taught for a year in the Auburn School Department before joining the Portland Public Schools.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,750 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students – 35 percent – come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. About 53 percent of the district’s students are white and 47 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced school lunch.

Photos: (Above) Cindy Soule, 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year. (Below) (From left) Superintendent Xavier Botana; Cindy Soule, fourth-grade teacher at Talbot Community School; and Talbot Principal Ann Hanna at an Oct. 8 celebration at Talbot School of Soule being named 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year.
XavierBotana, Cindy Soule and Ann Hanna