Dr. Paige Fournier teaches a lesson at Freeport Middle School. Contributed / Page Fournier

Paige Fournier, a special education teacher at Freeport Middle School, has had a good year in spite of the pandemic’s impact.

“We’ve had more positive than negative,” said Fournier, a 17-year educator.

She came to know her students better, she said, as she worked with them early on to navigate remote learning from home. The staff was brought closer as they dealt with technology challenges, she said. And last week, Fournier accepted the Cumberland County Teacher of the Year award at a virtual ceremony.

“She is just an amazing teacher,” said principal Raymond Grogan, who nominated Fournier for the honor. “She is very dedicated and her kids connect so well with her.”

Maine County Teachers of the Year “serve as ambassadors for teachers, students, and quality education state-wide throughout the year,” according to the Maine Department of Education. The recipients are the finalists for the annual Maine Teacher of the Year award, which will be announced next month.

“You have a platform,” Fournier said about the benefits of receiving the award.

Many of Fournier’s students in grades 6-8 have had full-time, in-person instruction since January because of their learning needs.

One of Fournier’s proudest moments in the classroom this year, she said, was working with her eighth graders on lessons based on the award-winning memoir, “When Stars are Scattered,” whose co-author grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp.

“In a moment of political polarization in the U.S. I wanted to teach them how to think globally,” Fournier said.

The author, Omar Mohamed, visited Fournier’s students via Zoom and answered their questions about the book and his life. Mohamed runs a nonprofit in Kenya that brings school supplies to students, she said, and the class is helping to raise funds through a bottle drive over Memorial Day weekend.

“We want to get an iPad for a classroom in Kenya to connect with us,” she said.

During the school day and sometimes after, Fournier also runs groups to promote open, honest discussion about whatever the students might be struggling with.

“Our classroom is a safe space where you can share anything,” she said.

She also holds an afterschool homework club.

The days run smoothly because of the team she works with, which includes three educational technicians and other part-time employees, she said.

“Her classroom is a family and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it,” said educational technician Jennifer Hayward.

“Words fall short to explain just how much she does for her students and our community at Freeport Middle School. She recently implemented a farm collaboration that supplies produce to our BackPack Program, which helps food insecure families on the weekends,” Hayward said.

“She does a great job at connecting her kids to the community,” said Grogan.

If she wins the statewide award, Fournier said would be excited about affecting changes and talking with policy makers on a national scale, all while amplifying student voices.


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