Gordon Corbett and Karen Morrison at Morrison’s 35th Yarmouth High School reunion. Courtesy/ Marina Herman

NORTH YARMOUTH — Gordon L. Corbett, who died Dec. 19, has left behind a legacy as a caring teacher, musician and mentor, according to two of his former students.

Corbett, who died of cancer, taught sixth grade science at Yarmouth Middle School for 25 years and made a lasting impact on a number of students. Among them were Karen Morrison and Caroline Patrie, who were in Corbett’s class during the 1977-78 academic year.  

“Mr. Corbett knew how to listen, observe and adapt to what his students were interested in and took time to build relationships with people and really taught to our hearts,” Patrie said. “He cared about what he was teaching and we all knew it.”  

Patrie went on to become a chemist and now works as a science teacher at Portland High School.  

“I believe that the seeds of education were planted in me in sixth grade with Mr. Corbett,” Patrie said. “He taught me how to be relational but professional with students and to hold them to high expectations.” 

A Waterville native, Corbett earned a degree in education at the University of Maine at Machias in 1968. In 1979, he was named Yarmouth Teacher of the Year and in 1980 he was awarded Teacher of the Year for the state of Maine.

Corbett met his wife Ruth Estabrook at a guitar class, according to his Dec. 27 obituary in the Portland Press Herald, and although neither of them ever ended up learning to play, Corbett maintained a passion for music and the arts. 

Patrie recalled often playing guitar during recess with a couple of her friends, and one day Corbett approached them with an idea to get a band together. 

According to Morrison, who also joined the group, Corbett ended up gathering 15-20 sixth graders that called themselves “The Honey Bears,” named after the song “The Three Little Bears” by Louis Armstrong. They performed around town and played in the 1978 Yarmouth Clam Festival parade. 

“We went around to local nursing homes and local schools and performed for pretty much the whole year,” Morrison said. “We just had a blast.” 

Corbett was also one of two candidates from Maine to be considered for the ill-fated Teacher-in-Space Program by NASA in 1985, which was canceled following the Challenger shuttle disaster. Corbett wasn’t selected for the program, but he brought the excitement back to the community by starting “Orbit with Corbett,” putting on shows about outer space for schools and local organizations.

Morrison brought her sons to one of his “Orbit with Corbett” shows and they continued to stay in touch. When Morrison’s son played violin in the Maine Youth Orchestra throughout middle school and high school, Corbett went to every concert. One day, Corbett gave Morrison’s son a violin that had been in his family since the late 1800s, because neither of his daughters played and he wanted it to go to good use, Morrison said. 

“He made you feel like you were the only one in the world in that you were so special to him, which is how he made everyone feel,” Morrison said.

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