BATH — At the time of what Nicole Levesque considered the worst school year ending ever – due to not being able to see her third-grade students in the classroom, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic – the Fisher Mitchell school teacher got a much-needed pick-me-up.

Nicole Levesque, a third grade teacher at the Fisher Mitchell School in Bath, received the “Golden Apple” award for June from the radio station 99.9 The Wolf. Contributed

Nominated by Melissa Marquis, a parent of one of Levesque’s students, Levesque received the June “Golden Apple” award, a distinction bestowed each month by Portland-area country radio station 99.9 The Wolf.

“I just started crying,” Levesque said. She had felt “so alone” as a teacher, unable to connect with students, parents and fellow staff in the traditional sense. While she has realized her value as a teacher, she hadn’t felt that worth after schools closed, with her instruction limited to online remote learning.

The award was therefore “unbelievable, and it was really touching,” Levesque said: a validation of her ability to teach, even though she’s been unable to do it the way she would like the past few months.

“I take the job so seriously, so when I feel like I’m not doing it to the capacity that I should be, I don’t feel good about that,” Levesque said.

Marquis, a Bath mother of two, called nominating Levesque “an easy decision.”

“As an educator she exceeds all expectations,” she said. “Her classroom is warm and inviting. Filled wall to wall with books, cozy lighting, essential oil diffusers and more – all of which set her apart. But what truly shines is her ever-present smile and eagerness to teach her students. Nicole’s passion is teaching, and it shows in all aspects.”

Marquis praised Levesque’s “strong ability to meet students wherever they’re at, and tailor their goals and expectations to their particular needs,” adding she “also has superior communication skills which, as a parent, means so much. We loved her emails and newsletters, complete with photos detailing what’s happening in the classroom and beyond.”

Levesque formed and facilitates an after-school book club at Fisher Mitchell, said Marquis, who recalled being “heartbroken” when COVID-19 closed schools in March. Still, Levesque “truly rose to the challenge,” Marquis said, through “providing clear and thorough resources as well as offering flexibility and understanding.”

She called the teacher “our biggest cheerleader, offering encouragement right up until the day school ended. She’s an absolute gift to Fisher Mitchell and the entire (Regional School Unit 1) community.”

Levesque, who has two children ages 4 and 6, just finished her 15th year teaching. She started in Bath, from which she recently moved to Bristol, in 2017.

“The kids are the No. 1 motivating factor” that has sustained her interest in the profession, said Levesque, who has always taught third or fourth grade. “I love watching kids discover things and learn things for the first time. … Teaching a kid to divide, when you’re the first person to do that, and they’re so proud – those are exciting moments.”

Levesque considers her students an extended family. The one time each week that she could chat with them live “was definitely the highlight,” she said. “I would get off the call just beaming at how sweet they were, and how excited they were to talk to each other. I just missed seeing them face to face.”

Michelle Taylor, one of the morning show co-hosts at The Wolf, said 160 Maine educators have been honored in the past 16 years. Winners receive a bouquet of flowers, a limo ride for a day to and from school, and dinner for two.

“We read through each nomination, and we choose our winners based on the passionate descriptions and detailed content that we are provided by the people who have taken the time to nominate an educator,” Taylor said.

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