Aidan Blum Levine is only 19, but his first introduction to coding was so long ago he doesn’t even remember.

In early elementary school, he used basic coding to make his own games, then moved on to websites. By the time he graduated from Deering High School last spring, he had developed multiple web apps, including one created with his computer science teacher that is now used in local schools to improve communication between teachers, students and parents.

Aiden Blum Levine tutors Henry Townsend-O’Neill at the Open Bench Project in Portland. Photo courtesy of Aidan Blum Levine

That app, ReachMyTeach, could spread to more schools thanks to a significant financial investment from Faria Education Group, a company that supports education systems and services in schools in 155 countries. Jeffrey Borland, the Deering teacher who created the app with Levine, said they are not able to disclose the amount of that investment because it is confidential.

Levine’s ability to build a game-changing app came as no surprise to the people who have worked with him and seen his passion for coding.

“I’m in awe of him,” Borland said.

Levine, now a first-year student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, grew up in Somerville, Massachusetts, before moving to Portland 10 years ago. He said he’s always loved both coding and making electronics, but the coding part didn’t come easy at first.


“I thought coding was cool and I tried to learn it for five years, but I didn’t get anywhere until it eventually just clicked in my head,” he said. “It took a bit to really get to the point that I was passionate about it, but I’m glad I stuck with it.”

Levine’s passion for computer science grew as he attended fun summer camps at Open Bench Project, a shared learn/work space in Portland, shortly after he moved to the city. During those camps, he built an arcade cabinet and worked with others on a Rube Goldberg machine, a chain-reaction contraption that accomplishes a single task in an indirect or overly complicated way.

For the past few years, Levine has helped teach those camps to younger kids who share his passion. Kids gravitate to Levine, who is curious, willing to dig into projects and is always learning, said Jake Ryan, the founder and director of Open Bench.

“He’s kind and generous of his time. He’s a great kid to have around the shop,” Ryan said.

Borland, the Deering teacher, first taught Levine in an AP statistics class when Levine was in eighth grade. The teacher immediately recognized his student’s programming skills and over the next five years helped him connect with college professors. Borland also encouraged him to tackle projects to improve his skills.

“I think what I do best in this world is programming. Aidan does laps around me,” said Borland, who does freelance computer work. “I’ve never seen anyone like him in all of my years as a teacher. He’s on a different level, but he’s humble about it.”


Borland may have immediately recognized Levine’s talent, but Levine said he had “a pretty steep learning curve” to learn how to develop web apps.

“I had tried to make some over long periods of time and had a lot of bad ones,” he said. ” With each one, I would find another thing to learn.”

While in high school, Levine created the Winditions, a website that features user-collected conditions for winter sports. When the pandemic hit and his sister was trying to adjust to remote middle school, Levine built an app called “Oops! I Forgot!” that syncs data from Google Classroom, alarms, calendars and reminders into a single platform to help students stay organized.

Late last winter, Borland was thinking about ways to improve how Portland school staff communicate with students and parents, particularly when it comes to families where English is not the primary language spoken at home. He approached Levine about helping with the project, and within three weeks ReachMyTeach was born.

The web-based app is relatively simple and functions similarly to Gmail. It allows users to send text or email messages to an individual student or parent, multiple people or an entire class. The messages are automatically translated to the home language of the family if it is not English. Parents can respond in their preferred language.

ReachMyTeach is now being used in Portland Public Schools and in South Portland’s middle and high schools.


“It’s a complete game-changer in terms of communicating with families,” said Rebecca Stern, principal of Memorial Middle School in South Portland.

Stern said the “miraculous program” drastically cuts down on the process of contacting parents. It has been particularly useful this year as South Portland schools welcome a large number of English language learner students, many of whom arrived as asylum seekers from African countries. Many of their families do not speak English, but are able to easily text with teachers about their children, she said.

Kelly Thornhill sees those same benefits at East End Community School in Portland, where she is the assistant principal. At a time when there is a lot on teachers’ plates, the app makes it more efficient and easier to communicate with parents, she said. She believes it works so well for Portland schools because it was designed by a local student and teacher.

“It’s really designed for our students and our families,” she said.

The launch of the app in Portland schools last fall was particularly useful for school nurses like Lizzie Nalli at Deering. Having the ability to message parents quickly drastically cut down on the amount of time she spent sending messages while contact tracing and reminding students about pool testing.

Levine and Borland regularly talk to staff about how the app is working and make adjustments, like adding read receipts and other features teachers request.


“It’s just amazing because they’re so responsive and they’re developing the software. All of a sudden they’ve tweaked it and there’s another thing that makes it work even better,” Nalli said. “I’ve never used any sort of program where I knew the software developers and they continuously make it work better.”

With the Faria partnership in place, Levine and Borland expect they will be able to continue to improve the app and expand its use to more schools in the United States and other countries. The company will help with aspects of app development that Levine and Borland are less experienced with, including marketing.

Levine, who lives on campus at MIT, said his focus right now is on polishing up the app and launching it in other schools. He plans to return this summer to Open Bench to help with camps and, at some point, needs to decide on a major.

“I’m a little indecisive. I’ve done a lot of computer science stuff, so that would be the most straightforward path,” he said. “But I’m not sure I want to do that as a career. I enjoy it as a hobby.”

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