GORHAM — Gorham High School technology teacher Adam Parvanta had no idea he was about to be surprised with a national award and $25,000 Wednesday morning as he was helping students arrange video cameras in the school gymnasium.

The staff at the school told Parvanta the setup was in preparation for a visit from Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin, but they didn’t fill him in on the reason for her visit – that he was about to be given a Milken Educator Award for teaching excellence.

The crowd reacts after Gorham High School teacher Adam Parvanta was named a Milken Educator Award winner Wednesday during a surprise assembly at the school. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

The awards, given annually to 40 teachers around the country, recognize early to mid-career educators for their achievements and the promise of what they are likely to accomplish in the future. They also come with an unrestricted cash prize.

“My first reaction was I didn’t even know if I was awake,” said Parvanta, who has been teaching for about 10 years, the last seven in the Gorham School District. “Everyone started screaming. I heard my name and was like, ‘Oh, that’s definitely me.’ ”

Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley, Makin and other officials and educators, including past Milken recipients from Maine, were on hand Wednesday along with a gymnasium packed with cheering students and colleagues to congratulate Parvanta.

“Adam is able to celebrate every individual in our school and the school as a whole in a way that builds confidence for people,” said Gorham High School Principal Brian Jandreau.

“I’ve seen kids go from being very shy kids to being the most confident kids who are able to communicate in the digital world to share their message. That’s the hallmark of a good educator – someone who can take a student and give them the confidence and the skills to be confident individuals who can share their voice.”

Gorham High School teacher Adam Parvanta reacts after being named a Milken Educator Award winner during a surprise assembly at the school Wednesday. Parvanta, a technology mentor, is the first winner in Maine since 2015. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Parvanta teaches digital media and video to students at the high school and also works on digital storytelling projects district-wide as a technology integrator.

He uses video to capture events ranging from sports to theater productions and has worked with seniors to create “resume” videos to submit with their college applications. He also helps students and teachers incorporate technology into the classroom through multimedia slideshows and infographics.

“He’s always been a great teacher and very easy to talk to,” said Griffin Loranger, a junior. “I love any class I have with him.”

Parvanta said he will likely spend the award money on new video equipment for the high school since a lot of what is currently used is his own personal equipment.

“I want (the students) to have experience with more and better equipment because hopefully it will spark some interest and maybe put them in a career field where they could use that full-time,” he said.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” were established over 30 years ago and are based on research that shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement.

The last Maine educator to be recognized was Saco Middle School teacher Michaela Lamarre, who received the award in 2015.

The Milken Award is the latest in recent accolades for the Gorham School Department. Earlier this month, Gorham Middle School teacher Heather Whitaker was named the 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year.

On Wednesday the Maine School Management Association also named Assistant Superintendent Chris Record the 2020 Assistant Superintendent of the Year.

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