Cindy Soule, a fourth-grade teacher at Talbot Community School, is the 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year. Courtesy / Portland Public Schools

PORTLAND — After close to 20 years of teaching, there’s still no place that Cindy Soule would rather be than in a classroom.

“I couldn’t imagine my life not as a teacher,” said Soule, who teaches at the preK-5 Gerald E. Talbot Community School and who last week was named the Maine Teacher of the Year for 2021, the state’s highest honor for a teacher.

Portland School Superintendent Xavier Botana shares remarks about Teacher of the Year Cindy Soule, left, during a surprise ceremony at Talbot Community School Oct. 8. Courtesy / Portland Public Schools

Her young students inspire and motivate her, she said.

“How they feel about themselves reflects on how I feel about myself as a teacher,” Soule said. “They are at the heart and center of everything I do. My students are really engaging. They love learning.”

Talbot Principal Ann Hanna said Soule “is highly deserving of this honor, and Talbot School is proud to have her recognized for her hard work and dedication to our students.”

Superintendent Xavier Botana said he was “delighted” but not surprised that Soule won the award.

“She truly is an exceptional teacher,” he said.

Soule, who has taught at the school since 2001, is “dedicated to her profession, and is someone who strives to keep learning new ways to connect with her students,” Hanna said.

Three years ago when Portland teachers were asked to use “inquiry-based learning as a way to engage students by tapping into children’s natural curiosity about the world around them,” Soule rose to the occasion, Hanna said.

More recently, Soule didn’t miss a beat when the school had to transition to remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hanna said.

“Cindy has proven herself to be an expert in designing quality blended learning instruction that keeps students motivated,” Hanna said. “She takes advantage of outdoor learning opportunities on the days her students are at school. She designs follow-up assignments for them to complete at home on their remote days that build on the in-school experiences.”

“Her students have been observing the trees around our school, trying to figure out why the tree roots are exposed and sticking up out of the ground. On remote days,  the students are reading articles and watching videos that explain how rain causes soil to wash away. Students then use what they are learning about erosion to produce their own slideshow to explain the phenomenon to others.”

As the state’s Teacher of the Year, Soule will spend part of 2021 serving as an advocate for education across the state and will represent Maine in the National Teacher of the Year Program.

She plans to work on ways to improve elementary school science instruction in Maine and support the work the state’s county teachers of the year feel is important, she said.

This is the second time in the last six years that a teacher from Talbot Community School, formerly Riverton Elementary, has won the award. Talya Edlund, now an RSU 5 math instructional coach in Freeport, won the award in 2016.

“It’s exciting for not just me, but my school as well,” Soule said, crediting the support she has received from her fellow Talbot staff members, students and students’ families.

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