JOHN DEVER, who teachers history at Mt. Ararat High School, is Sagadahoc County Teacher of the Year and is still in the running for Maine Teacher of the Year thanks to a nomination by a student.

JOHN DEVER, who teachers history at Mt. Ararat High School, is Sagadahoc County Teacher of the Year and is still in the running for Maine Teacher of the Year thanks to a nomination by a student.


Mt. Ararat High School social studies teacher John Dever isn’t below dressing as a Pilgrim as a way to educate students about history. That spirit may have contributed to his recent selection as the teacher of the year for Sagadahoc County.

Dever is now competing in an intensive selection process for Maine Teacher of the Year in October 2018, a program of the Maine Department of Education administered by Educate Maine.

Dever’s path to Mt. Ararat involved mostly untraditional teaching experiences. After graduating from college with a teaching certificate in 1988, Dever worked as an education technician and then assistant teacher at an alternative high school for students with severe emotional disabilities.

After he earned his graduate degree in 1992, he again struggled to find a traditional teaching job.

Then the self-described history nerd answered a help wanted ad: “Time Travelers Wanted.”

It was for a position at the living history museum of Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts as a costumed interpreter. He worked there for eight years in what he considered a non-traditional teaching role.

“Really the object of what you’re trying to accomplish is to help teach people about this culture of people who settled in New England in the early 17th century and how that culture interacted with the native culture and the culture back home,” he said.

In 2000, Dever married and moved to Maine where his wife has family ties. He got his first real traditional teaching position at Mt. Ararat High School where he teaches Advanced Placement European History as well as four sections of Academic U.S. History.

Sophomore Hyden Libby nominated Dever, who has had to write essays reflecting on education and his teaching techniques.

Dever’s work is not done and he should find out next week if he makes the next cut. It’s been a worthwhile endeavor to think about how he does what he does.

So what may have spurred a nomination from a student?

“I think that kids know that I’m genuinely interested in what they have to say,” Dever said. “And once they realize that, they get more engaged, and to me, that’s the whole story. If you can get a kid engaged, you can get them to do anything. If they’re not engaged, you can get them to comply and you can get them maybe to test well, but they’re not going to really learn something unless they want to learn it.”

Dever tailors lessons to his students. For example, some learn well from his lectures and others say his lectures are too long if he talks for 10 minutes.

“How do I reach them?” Dever said. “That is going to be a combination of saying ‘OK, this is something that doesn’t work well for you right now. We’re going to help you improve your stamina so that you can focus and take notes and learn from this style because this is a format you’re going to be exposed to throughout your life. But in the meantime, we’re going to mix it up.’”

Talking about education

Thrilled about the well-wishes from students past and present, the nomination has also given Dever an opportunity to talk about education.

“I really hope that people in the building see this as something that is acknowledging all of the work we’ve done here,” he said.

He credits his colleagues for making him a better teacher along with all his past experiences. The growth mindset teachers want for students, they also want for themselves.

“I hope that I’ll keep being a better teacher every year until they wheel me on out of here,” he said.

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