FALMOUTH – Richard Meserve, a special education teacher at The REAL School, received his $25,000 Milken Educator Award on Saturday in California.

Meserve, who lives in Falmouth, was one of 54 teachers from across the United States who were honored during a ceremony at the Sheraton Delfina Hotel in Santa Monica.

Called the “Kid Whisperer” by his peers, Meserve was recognized for his teaching expertise and his unwavering love for students at the regional alternative school, which is part of the Windham school district.

“He has improved attendance, academic performance, credit standing and, most certainly, the confidence of his students,” said Bonnie Somers, spokeswoman for the Milken Family Foundation, which has given $60 million to more than 2,400 educators since 1987.

Meserve’s teaching style includes working in small groups, altering instruction to accommodate various learning abilities and providing opportunities for real-world lessons, such as a service-learning trip to New Orleans.

Meserve is Maine’s only award recipient for the 2009-10 school year. He was nominated by a panel appointed by the state Department of Education, and learned he had won during a surprise assembly in October at the school on Mackworth Island in Falmouth. Sixty-eight Maine teachers have won Milken awards since 1990.

The awards ceremony is a highlight of the annual Milken Educator Forum, which joins top teachers with education reform leaders to share successful strategies to strengthen public schools. Meserve attended the forum with his wife, Jennifer, who is a second-grade teacher at Falmouth’s Lunt School.

“It was an incredible experience,” he said Monday. “The forum is a collection of dedicated educators from across the world. To be included with these people is humbling and gratifying. It inspires me to push myself and the profession forward.”

Meserve said he has used the money to establish a college fund for his three daughters, pay orthodontics bills and buy an old boat so his family can “dub around Casco Bay.”

This is the second major award that Meserve has won recently. Last July, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission gave him a medal and a $5,000 reward for saving a 9-year-old girl from drowning in July 2008.

The girl was swimming with a short surfboard off Higgins Beach in Scarborough when currents carried her out past dangerous rocks. Meserve swam out with a broken section of a surfboard and guided her safely back to shore.

The REAL School serves 30 to 40 students in grades 7 through 12 who have severe behavioral, emotional and/or learning disabilities.

The school recently became the first program of its kind to be reviewed and approved by the state Department of Education in its effort to encourage innovation and reduce dropout rates.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]